Monthly Archives: October 2013

Classical Conversations Cycle 2 Week 9

CC Week 9

We got to go to our local children’s science center this week. To be honest, I wasn’t actually thinking in advance about how well their “Space” section fit in with what we were covering in CC, but it sure worked out perfectly! It was very cool to see the relative size of the planets on a larger scale and see lots of facts about them, the sun and the stars. It was just an excellent tie-in to the science grammar we’re covering in CC . . . reinforcing and adding to those memory pegs!

Science Grammar

Our cup overrunneth with ways to expand on this week’s Science Grammar! I’ll keep my suggestions to a minimum since there really is SO much stuff out there on the planets.

We were lucky enough a year or so ago to stumble upon a solar system mobile kit at a thrift store for about $3. It’s a lot like the one below (and yet, old enough that it included Pluto as a planet). My husband and son had SO much fun painting it and putting it together. It hung in his room until it got knocked down, but it’s still on display hanging down in the kids’ basement “play area” (or the dungeon, as I sometimes like to refer to it). The glow-in-the-dark paint in our thrift store kit had pretty much dried up. It was the only thing in the kit not in brand new condition. But the “glow” is a MUST with one of these, so whether you buy one, or just create one yourself (I doubt that it would be that hard to do . . . I just am much more likely to put it together from a kit!), be sure and get one with glow-in-the-dark paint, or plan to pick up a bottle separately!

Product Details

About that same time, we checked this book out from the library and my son LOVED it. We renewed it as many times as we were allowed (meaning we had it for over 2 months!) and have checked it out once or twice since then.

This video is a good overview of the Solar System, probably best for younger children (8 and under):

This video is very simple and just shows the rotation of the planets around the Sun, but it’s very interesting to see the different speed at which each moves:

Most of us are probably using a song in our CC communities to help our kids remember the names of the planets, but there are several versions out there on youtube:

And then here is one more book:

A Child's Introduction to the Night Sky   -             By: Michael Driscoll

I realized that there are a lot of Solar System puzzles out there, and I was thinking we would add one to our collection around here. The one below looks like exactly what I’d like – planet names, relative size, and in the proper

order, but I don’t love this price. If you happen to see one that’s a better price, let me know!

Product Details



This week, I created a Skip Counting Maze for the 15s. You can download it by clicking on the image to the right.

Also, posting the skip counting numbers on the stairs was a GREAT success and I’ve been trying to figure out somewhere else that I can post the 15’s this week, just to shake things up a bit. We’ll go back to the stairs for either the Squares or the Cubes in a future week, but for this week I’m actually going to tape down the 15s in my kitchen in a hopscotch pattern. My kids LOVE hopscotch.  I’ve tried using hopscotch in my CC class in the past, but it usually either 1) takes to long to let everyone have a turn or 2) the kids get a little too crazy with it. I think here at home we might be able to control it a little better (and if we don’t, it won’t make our “class” run too long!).


There is a wonderful video that shows Versailles at the following link. There’s also a good biography to read. If you let the video play on through, there are actually 6 videos about Louis XIV (each separated from the next by and ad). Or, you can click the link on the right under the video that says “watch more videos” and pick and choose which of the 6 you’d like to watch.  WARNING: The second video, “Louis XIV-Marriage” contains some discussion that may not be appropriate for children. You’ll definitely want to preview it first.

There are also good videos at that same website about Peter the Great and Henry VIII, but since the Age of Absolute Monarchs is largely known for how the monarchs abused their power, were promiscuous and used violence as a means to an end, you will definitely want to preview these first! If you have young children, they probably work better as a 2 minute history refresher for you as a parent, rather than as something you’ll want to watch with them. Your call. I’m thinking in my house we’ll wait until we get to the Challenge level to get into some of these details.

It’s HARD to find books and videos to expand on this particular history sentence for younger kids! Here are a couple that do actually look good for Elementary age kiddos:

Product Details   

Tin Whistle (Music Theory)

Last week, I gave you a few Apps for reviewing the notes.  This week, I’d like to give you a cute online game for doing that. I think I got better at note recognition by playing this one!


Music Theory GamesAlso, I LOVED the idea of the relay game from this pin on my Tin Whistle Pinterest Board so much, that I made up my own (you can download it by clicking the image on the right).  We haven’t played it in class yet, but hopefully we will sometime this next week, and in the meantime, we’ll be playing it at home. It’s a wonderful reinforcement of both the Tin Whistle section of CC and of what my children have been learning in their piano class, as well.  Actually, that reminds me of a game my children’s piano teacher has been playing with them that dovetails with Tin Whistle beautifully: “Beethoven, May I?”  She has the children line up on one side of the room. Either she plays Beethoven and one of them does. Beethoven stands across the room from the players. Each player mush ask Beethoven if they may move a quarter note (1 step), a half note (2 steps), a whole note (4 steps), an eighth note (1/2 a step), or some combination of those. The goal is to be the first to reach Beethoven. We’ve played this at home in our kitchen where we have square tiles and it works wonderfully! Each square is a quarter note, so we all know exactly how far to step. My children have LOVED it! The especially love when I play as a contestant and one of them gets to be Beethoven and rig the game so that only the kids win. It gives me a chance to try and beat them with more complicated combinations of notes, which just gives them more opportunities to think about the note value (and what an excellent math lesson, too!). Kudos to their piano teacher for a great game. I highly recommend it!

And now, I’ll leave you with one last picture from our trip to the science center. I have absolutely NO idea what these poses have to do with the arch they built, but I am pretty sure it will end up someday in an internet photo collection that causes people to laugh and wonder what kind of family these poor children were from.

Crazy Kids

This post is linked to:
Half-a-Hundred Acre Wood


Organizing Paperwork

Organizing Paperwork

Some time last year, I got SO tired of my counters always looking like this:

Paperwork pilesThe amount of paperwork that comes into this house is just insane! I try to follow all the paperwork management rules: touch it once if possible, immediately toss whatever we don’t need, etc. but there is just a certain amount of paperwork that we need to hang onto, either for a short while or for the long-haul.

After thinking it over for a little while, I decided to create a system of file folders and to use one of the doors closest to the counter that is usually the “Hot Spot” for all this paperwork clutter.  This particular door actually goes down to our basement. It’s open most of the time when it’s just the four of us, but if we’re having a party or have more guests in, it’s also an easy door to close and conceal what is behind it.

plastic wall pocket

So, I went to the local office supply store and bought myself some plastic wall pockets; one for each of the major categories of paperwork I felt like I was dealing with. Then, I came home and used some fabric remnants I already had on hand and some Modge Podge (you could use matte or gloss, whichever you prefer) and I covered each box with the fabric. It really didn’t take long at all.  My tips would be: 1) make sure you cut your fabric large enough to wrap around the box, and 2) work slowly and make sure you get the bubbles out.

Organizing Paperwork

It worked best for me to cover the box in stages, so I would do the front, let it dry, then come back and work on the sides, etc. Letting it dry before doing the next step made it easier to pull the fabric taut and get everything smooth.

After the boxes were covered and dry, I added a label (mine are from Staples’ Martha Stewart collection of office supplies). I liked the way the red went with my fabric. You could just as easily print up your own.

Then, I hung them on the door by screwing through the fabric and the pre-drilled holes in the boxes.

Voila! The paperwork definitely didn’t disappear, but it got a lot more manageable, and my counter (mostly) stays clear.

Now . . . next I need to tell you about my plan for eliminating the paperwork altogether! Stay tuned . . .

This post is linked up to:
works for me wednesday at we are that family One Project at a Time Link party - ABFOL Weekend Bloggy Reading  Tending the Home Tuesdays


Menu Plan 10/28/2013

Menu Plan Header

Just your average crazy week around here coming up!

A reminder – if it’s marked as “NEW” we haven’t tried it before. Assuming things go according to plan (snort!) this week, you can check back over the weekend for a review of the ones that we enjoyed and plan to make again.


Gluten Free Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Muffins

Salmon Patties

Pot Roast, Parmesan Cabbage (NEW), Roasted Carrots


Leftovers from GF Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Muffins

Flat Bread Sandwiches or Wraps

Slow Cooker Quinoa Chicken and Chili (NEW!)


Baked Oatmeal, Mini Quiches

Hummus, GF Pita, Carrots, Apples and Bananas

Fall Festival at Church


Leftover Baked Oatmeal

Gluten Free Tortillas (NEW), Refried Beans and Cheese

Oven Baked Samon, Baked Zucchini (NEW)


Oat Flour Pumpkin Muffins (NEW)

Hummus, GF Pita, Carrots and Apples

Creamy Shrimp and Pasta


Leftover Oat Flour Pumpkin Muffins

Leftovers from the week or Out

Black Beans and Rice (NEW)


Lizy’s Special Oatmeal


Breakfast for Dinner


Snacks for the week

Homemade: Super Swim Bars (Granola Bars), Roasted Pumpkin/Squash Seeds, Almonds and Chocolate Chips, Smoothies, Popcorn, Apples/PB/Granola Sandwiches

Storebought: Fruit PouchesFreeze-dried FruitGranola BarsGluten Free Pretzels


If you’re looking for a menu plan template, you are welcome to download this one by clicking on the image below. It’s in Word, so you can edit to your heart’s content.

This Week's Menu


This post linked to:


Week in Review

Week in review

Wow! We had a great week this past week, but it sure blew by in a hurry!

On Friday, my husband, a friend, and a passel of kids headed to the Maker Faire in Atlanta. A Maker Faire, if you don’t know (and I’d never even heard of a Maker Faire at this time last year), is Fair . . .  for “Makers.”  So glad I could clear that up for you.

No, seriously, “Makers” are people who make things. It’s about that simple. It might be techy stuff or it might be crafty or artsy stuff (robot sculptures, anyone?), but it’s about all those folks coming together to share what they’re making and to help others learn along the way. It’s VERY hands on and the kids had a ball! Not that I was there with them . . .

Conversation with my husband earlier this year:
Him - "I'd like to take the kids to Atlanta for the Maker Faire in October."
Me - "You mean I'll be alone in the house for 24 hours or so?"
Him - "Yes"
Me - "Why have you not been taking them to the Maker Faire for years? And, by the way, what is a Maker Faire?"

. . . So, like I said, I wasn’t there with them, but my husband tells me that all the Makers that had booths set up were wonderful and more than willing to let the kids try and do stuff. They made LED badges, cool cars, launched rockets, rode hover crafts, and walked on water (well, cornstarch and water), and just generally had a blast! I’m actually not sure if I want them to go without me next year or not. We shall see which wins out – my desire to work on things at home uninterrupted or my desire to see and experience really cool things with my kids.  It’s a good thing for them to get to spend quality time with just one parent . . . right?? Right??

Maker Faire

And now, on to other things! We tried out two new-to-us recipes this past week or two that were DELICIOUS and I wanted to pass them along to you as you are making plans for feeding your own families this next week.  These were great and are definitely going into the menu rotation. They were also perfect for fall!

  1. Chicken Carbonara from Holistic Squid:  This might just be my favorite recipe ever for using Spaghetti Squash! It was delicious and not at all difficult to pull together, especially if you have leftover chicken from earlier in the week handy. We were out of bacon (WHAT? How does that happen? That should not be allowed.), so I substituted some ham that we had on hand and it was still delicious. I’m sure with bacon it would of been even better. Of course it would have been better. EVERYTHING is better with bacon. (This was on our Menu here.)
  2. Squash and applesSlow Cooked Cider Pork Chops with Pumpkin and Apples from my Humble Kitchen: The recipe ingredients scream Fall. The recipe smell screams Fall. The recipe taste screams FAll. This is a perfect Fall recipe. Everyone in our house loved it and it made the house smell wonderful all day long! It’s not the fastest slow cooker recipe to throw together because of the browning of the pork chops and the slicing of the apple and the pumpkin (we used butternut squash), so it may not be the recipe you want to throw together when you’re leaving the house in a panic in the morning, but if you’ve got 30 minutes to do the prep, this recipe is WELL worth it. (This was on our Menu here.)

And with that, I bid you adieu! I hope you all have a wonderful upcoming week full of the people you love and the things you love to do!


Creating Classical Conversations Playlists in iTunes

classical conversations music itunes

As more and more of us switch to some sort of smart phone or tablet, there are more of us who would like to have our CC music on these gadgets.  I’ve talked to several moms this year who would like some guidance on how to organize their CC music on iTunes, or who would like to create weekly playlists of the songs that apply to that week so they can concentrate their review.

The following is how I keep my music organized. There may be better ways to do it, and I am ALWAYS open to suggestions. So, if you’ve got any thoughts or suggestions, please leave them in the comments, because I would value the input!

In creating this tutorial, I’m going to assume that the music that you want to use is already imported into iTunes and just needs to be organized and used! (If you need help with the importing piece, let me know in the comments and I’ll add that info)


Step One:

If you haven’t already, it’s helpful to put all of your CC information into an Album. This isn’t as big of a deal if you are importing the songs from the CC CD, because it automatically groups them into an album. If you’re importing from CC Connected (C3) or elsewhere, you’ll have to create your albums manually. I prefer to have the albums you’re going to see below, but how you organize yours into albums is entirely up to you. It’s not necessary to put the music into albums in order to organize it into playlists, I just think it makes it easier.

To help me organize my songs into playlists, I find it helpful to operate in the “SONGS” view of iTunes and to include the “Date Added” field. You can do that by right-clicking on the bar that contains all of the field names and making sure there is a check box by “Date Added.” That allows me to sort my music by the Date Added, so I can easily find and edit all the songs I import from CC Connected at one time, and any songs I import individually later are also easily located.

iTunes Date Added

Step Two:

Once I’ve sorted my songs so that I can easily see them, to group them into an album, I select the songs I want on the album and then right-click. Select the “Get Info” option on the menu. You’ll probably get a warning about editing multiple items at once. Just click “OK.”

iTunes Get Info

Populate the “Artist,” “Album Artist”  and “Album” field with the information that you like.  My preference is to have 3 albums that I work from during a single cycle. It’s just my preference. You can sort them any way that works for you.  My albums are as follows:

  • CC Cycle 2 Subject CD 2013-2014: Official CC songs for this particular Cycle.  I like to include the year since there will probably be some changes to some of these songs with the next edition of the Foundations Guide. It just helps me keep it all straight and make sure I have the correct songs for us to listen to.
  • CC Timeline: Since these songs should be the same for all 3 Cycles covered under this edition of the Foundations Guide, I group them together. That’s easier for me, since I download my songs from CC3 instead of a CD. It reminds me that I don’t have to download the Timeline song every year.
  • CC Cycle 2 Homemade CD: This should probably have a better name, but basically these are the unofficial songs I use for CC. In our Community, we are blessed to have a very talented artist who uses her gifts to create songs for all of the grammar that CC does not. Our Community creates a single CD of her songs each year and we all get a copy.  However, the concept for organization is the same if you want to download individual music from CC Connected (C3) performed by many of the other talented and creative CC moms out there. Just select them, right click and change the info so that they’re all grouped in iTunes in a single album (you can always call the artist “Various” if you don’t want to individually denote each artist).
Create album iTunesStep 3:

Once all the songs are organized into albums, it’s VERY easy to create a playlist to contain just the songs you want it to for the week. From the menu, select “File”, “New”, and “Playlist.”

New Playlist iTunes

Assuming you’re using an updated version of iTunes, your new playlist will appear on the right-hand side of the screen and you’ll be able to name it as you choose by clicking on “Playlist” at the top. At this point, I prefer to switch over to the “ALBUMS” view of iTunes. Click on the Album of your choice and start dragging and dropping the songs you want to include onto the playlist.

Add to iTunes PlaylistOnce the songs that you want are on the playlist, you can reorder them just by dragging and dropping.

Here are a few Playlist Tips:
  • I think shorter titles seem to work better, because they’re easier to see.
  • If you’re using the iCloud to store and sync your songs (if you aren’t or you don’t know what this is, just ignore this part), iCloud doesn’t seem to like Playlist folders, so avoid them altogether (I haven’t include anything in the steps above about folders for this very reason).
  • If iTunes cannot locate the original file for some reason (you’ve moved it, or you aren’t connected to the drive that it’s on, etc.), it will not let you put it on a Playlist. You’ll need to resolve that issue before you can create/use your playlists.

Organize itunesPART TWO

While we’re talking about iTunes and organizing for CC, I’m going to include two other tips, which may be more relevant for people in my CC Community than for others out there. Our “unofficial” CC CD, which I mentioned above, contains all of the songs for a given week on a single track. This is not a problem, but it can sometimes be helpful to either 1) know where a particular portion of a song starts or 2) know how to shorten a song so that it will play just a portion that you want to hit really hard in your review (this can also be helpful if you want to cut off the narrative piece at the beginning of some of the Official CC Songs, just to make your playlists flow more smoothly from song to song).  So, we’ll call this the “totally optional and possibly useless unless this has been on your mind” portion of the CC iTunes tutorial.

Renaming a Song

Each week when I’m preparing for class, I listen to my “unofficial” CC song. While I’m listening, I click on the song title to edit it and pay attention to where each grammar subject starts. Then, while I’m listening, I change the name of the song to show me the name of the week and where each subject begins (keep it short or it’s hard to see on an iPhone/iPod/etc.). It’s very helpful in class and at home to be able to fast forward or rewind to approximately the right spot. And, this means that it’s 1) possible to teach subjects in a different order than they are presented on the track and 2) repeat the portion of the song that you want more easily when you want to do so.

Edit Song Title iTunes

Changing a song to play only a portion

There are times when it’s handy to be able to play only a portion of a song from the unofficial CC CD. For example in an instance when you want to focus on reviewing a particular subject, like Science or … (argh!!!) … English Pronouns. This is more complicated than the above steps, but absolutely do-able.

First, IF YOU WANT TO KEEP THE ORIGINAL TO PLAY AS IT IS, you need to create a duplicate of the song itself. And that duplicate needs to go somewhere besides it’s original folder. So, you want to select the song in iTunes and right-click it to pull up the menu. Choose “Show in Windows Explorer,” which will then open the file on your computer where the song is stored.

Show in Windows Explorer


Once it opens up in Explorer, you’ll want to copy the file and paste it somewhere else. For example, I created a separate file folder for “English Cy2” just to hold those challenging Pronoun songs (Not that the songs are challenging, but keeping the pronouns straight in my head sure has been!).

After you’ve pasted the song to the new spot, go back into iTunes. Choose “File” and “Add File to Library” and go find the song where you pasted it. Click on the song and then hit “Open.” This will import the song into iTunes again. (If you have any trouble with it not importing at this point, go back to the copied file in Explorer. Right-click and choose “Properties.” Edit the name of the file on the first tab and the name of the album of the second tab. The go back to iTunes and import again.).

This is where it’s handy to 1) Switch back to the “SONGS” view and 2) Use that “Date Added” field to sort by, so you can easily locate this song. Once you’ve found the song, you’ll want to right-click and choose “Info.” From there, I like to change three things:

  1. On the “Info” tab: the name of the song, so that it reflects just the part of the song that will be playing.
  2. On the “Info” tab: the album, if you want to change it. I like to keep these English songs together in a separate album, for example, but that’s up to you.
  3. On the “Options” tab: tell the song where to start and stop so that it will only play the portion of the song you want to hear.

itunes Start/Stop

After that, you can drill and review just those pieces of the songs to your hearts content!

New Album iTunes

Whew! This post is some sort of record for me, both in text and pictures! I do honestly hope you found it to contain at least some tiny portions of useful information! If you did, please share it with other CC folks that might also find it useful. If you didn’t find it useful, and you run into me on the street, I give you permission to lie to me and tell me that it was the best thing you’ve read in recent memory. My ego needs the boost.  Thanks in advance.

This post is linked to:
Half-a-Hundred Acre Wood

3 Ingredient Dinner in a Flash


Okay, so you know how there are those days were absolutely nothing goes as planned and suddenly you look up and realize that in order to actually feed your family before it’s time to put the kiddos to bed that you really should have started dinner an hour ago? What? That never happens to you? Well, it happens to me.


Waaaay more than I care to admit, actually. So, I won’t. I’ll just tell you that this is one of those recipes that you can throw together in a pinch with ingredients you tend to have around and no one will really know that you cannot manage your time well, and should, frankly, not be entrusted with the care and feeding of others. At all.

Dinner in a hurryEggs in Tomato Sauce

Serves 4

8 eggs
24 ounces of Spaghetti or Marinara sauce (homemade or store bought)

4 Tablespoons of Parmesan Cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Reserve 1 cup (8 oz) of the sauce
  3. Into 4 individual oven-proof bowls or ramekins, evenly divide the remaining 2 cups (16 oz) of sauce.
  4. Crack 2 eggs into each bowl.
  5. Spoon reserved sauce evenly over the eggs.
  6. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of cheese over each dish.
  7. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

This is also delicious with a little feta and fresh basil, if you’re interested in adding an ingredient or two, but they aren’t required to make it delicious. Goes well with with crusty bread (if you eat that sort of thing) and a side salad or steamed broccoli if you’d like to balance things out with something green.

I’ll admit, part of the reason that I like this recipe is that it takes advantage of something we have an abundance of . . . eggs! Our backyard flock of 5 is producing all the eggs we could possibly eat, plus some. Right this minute, there are nearly 4 dozen in my fridge, so I am ALL about a recipe that puts some to good use!

Eggs for dinner

Classical Conversations Cycle 2 Week 8

Skip Counting

We’re back from our Fall Break and going strong. Or rather, we’re working our way up to “going strong.” It takes a week or so to get back in the swing of things. But the cycle of CC waits for no man, so we’d better get our act together. The break for the winter holidays will be quickly upon us.


Skip Counting 14'sI created a little skip counting “booklet” that we used in class. You are welcome to download it by clicking on the image to the right. The idea is that the child works their way from the “1” block, which has the most information to the “7” block, which they must complete from memory. After completing 1-4 on the back side of the sheet, fold the sheet to make a booklet.


This also means that the child has been able to see plenty of “hints” as they go, but by the time they flip the booklet over to complete the “7” block, they’re really just going entirely from memory. 7 is also the number of times that CC recommends you repeat information in order to store it in your child’s short-term memory, so this works out well in that regard, too!

We’ve also added the 14s to our stairs. The kids were singing them this morning together (and even trying them backwards) as they went up and down.


Untitled-1Man! Getting all these pronoun lists straight in our heads has been a BEAR! Here’s a reminder that you are welcome to download the Pronoun Platypus file folder game I posted a couple of weeks ago. In addition, we’re going to try something a little bit different and come up with a “trigger” or reminder for each one.  Here’s what I’m thinking:

  • Nominative Pronouns: “I nominate you . . . “
  • Objective Pronouns: “Bring me the object” or “You bring me the object” (if the later doesn’t cause confusion about the pronoun order.)
  • Possessive Pronouns: “Slow down, clown! The S’s on those possessive pronouns are ALL mine!” (note: all the possessive pronouns end with an “s” except for “mine”)
  • Possessive Adjectives: “Do you want my bandage to go on that possessive adjective to cover up where it’s missing its S?” (note: none of the possessive adjectives have an “s” except for “its”)
  • Reflexive Pronouns: “I love to look at this reflection of myself in the mirror!”

I don’t know. Maybe that helps. Maybe it doesn’t. If you’ve got better (or just different) suggestions, PLEASE leave them in the comments. I would love to hear them!!

Science Grammar

There is a printable at this website, which is sponsored in part by NASA, that shows the parts of the sun.


Several of the people in our history sentences are included in the Animated Hero Classics series, some of which can be found on YouTube:


There are a TON of books out there on most of these explorers, but here are a couple of good ones:

We’re adding this one to our book collection. It covers a handful of the explorers discussed in our History sentences and Timeline. It’s target audience is older than my 5 and 7 year-old, but I figure we’ll be pulling it out in years to come, as well.

Explorers who got lost


If you’re looking for something a little lighter, these are not about the explorers in this week’s history sentence, but they are easier (and often amusing) reads:

 You wouldn't want to sail with Christopher Columbus! Marco Polo

And then there’s this one that is actually on topic with this week’s history sentence:



And on YouTube, there are a couple of good videos to supplement our History sentence.

This one does a nice overview of the Age European Exploration and shows the Treaty of Tordesillas (although it doesn’t name it). At the end, it talks about current exploration in Antarctica and Mars (you can stop it when it gets to 3:00 if you don’t want to hear about the possibility of Life on Mars).

This video is about Magellan’s voyage (through the Straight of Magellan) and is a nice overview:


Tin Whistle (Music Theory)

Here is an adorable video that is an ode to the treble clef:

The group that did the video above has put out a whole series of videos that are wonderful tie-ins with our Tin Whistle study.  If you want to see more of them, they’re pinned on my Pinterest Board for Tin Whistle.

There are also a couple of apps that are handy to reinforce the names of the notes:

One is called Note Brainer. It’s free. Free is good.

This is a cute game called “Note Squish.” Think “Whackamole” for music theory.

Another one is called Piano Monkey. We’ve had it for a year or so because our piano teacher recommended it. It’s a pretty basic app, but it is great for teaching note recognition on the staff and on the piano.


A little background: This is our family’s fourth year to participate in a Classical Conversations (CC) community. We participate in the Foundations portion of the program, which is designed for children ages 4 to about 11. The Foundations program lasts for 24 weeks each year. Each week the children cover 7 different grammar subjects (Timeline, History, Math, Science, English, Latin, and Geography), do a short (2-3 minutes) presentation, participate in one or more Science experiments and cover some area of Fine Arts.  It’s a VERY busy morning!

This post is linked to:
Half-a-Hundred Acre Wood

Hey, I am actually enjoying this blogging thing, but sometimes it feels like I’m talking to myself. If there’s anybody out there, would you mind hitting one of these buttons so I’ll know? And if you’ve got some ideas of your own you think would be helpful in our CC review, please share them in the comments below!


Laundry Organization and Child Labor

Laundry Organization

There are days when I think it would be SO much easier if I just did all the picking up and cleaning, table setting and clearing, and general chore duties around here myself. If I went that route, there would be the following advantages:

  1. It would be done.
  2. It would be done like I want it to be done.
  3. It would be done when I want it to be done.
  4. I can’t bark orders/nag incessantly at myself.

On the other hand, the following things occur to me that outweigh my desire to just get things done now, quickly, and well:

  1. My children are capable . . . often of MUCH more than I give them credit for.
  2. My children are growing up into adults who will eventually have to care for themselves.
  3. My children are here. Almost all the time. They make messes. Almost constantly. Those messes must be cleaned up. I have other things to do. Frankly, I have my own messes to clean up.

Which brings me to the matter at hand – Laundry. The never ending, monotonous cycle of sort, wash, dry, fold, put away, wear, get dirty, repeat. This was challenging enough to deal with when there were just two of us. It became exponentially more challenging during the crazy infant and toddler stages. Now days, it really shouldn’t be so bad. And yet, it is. And did I mention that I have other things to do?

At least twice during the summer, our clean laundry situation got so out of hand that my brilliant husband declared it a “Laundry Party!” We played loud music and gathered together around the mountains of laundry. He threw the kids their clothing as he got to it in the piles and told them to fold it. They did. My 5 year-old asked for guidance. We gave it. He executed with his best effort. It was AMAZING. We folded mountains of laundry in an hour or two and had it all put away. Have I mentioned that my husband is brilliant?

By the second time this happened, I realized a few things:

  1. My kids can actually fold their own clothes and put them away (the later part I already knew. They’ve been putting away some of their things, like socks, underwear, and PJs for a year or two). Now, the clothing is definitely not folded like I like it. Nothing is matched into outfits and placed neatly in a drawer. But things are folded AND put away . . . generally in the right area.
  2. I like things folded and put away. I like it more than I like things folded neatly and matched into outfits.

And so, we began a new laundry system at our house that has now been in place and operational for a few weeks.  I LOVE it!

Laundry Hamper Bag

Here are the basics:

  1. Everyone got their own hamper.  Before this, we used a community hamper in our upstairs hallway. I chose these hampers on Amazon because of their reviews. Our bedrooms are upstairs, our washer and dryer are in the basement, and two steep flights of stairs separate the two. I have a tremendous fear of someone falling down our stairs, so I’m fairly particular about what I ask the kiddos to carry up and down them. Based on the reviews, these bags can be dragged and take a beating. So far, I’m impressed. They’ve done great and the kids can manage them quite well. (I actually LOVE the way these bags are used at this blog, but that set-up just doesn’t work in our home at all.)
  2. Laundry sorterI rearranged the sorting area in the basement to make it more kid-friendly. Before, we had those rolling-type sorting carts. They worked fine, but whenever I asked the kids to help put laundry in the washer, they had to practically stand on their heads to reach the stuff on the bottom, and they weren’t always successful. Plus, I just really didn’t like the way they looked or worked myself, and they were starting to break down and need replacing anyway. So, I ordered two sets of these bins from Amazon.
  3. I set up three containers (using bins we already had) in the laundry area – one for each child, and one for everything else.
  4. I got small bags at Ikea that the kids could put their folded laundry in to carry it back upstairs.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Each child has two laundry days each week, either Monday/Thursday or Tuesday/Friday.
  2. On their laundry day, laundry is one of their morning chores. They carry their hamper downstairs and sort their laundry.
  3. They take whatever is in the dryer and distribute to the bin for whomever it belongs to.
  4. They fold whatever is in their own bin.
  5. The move whatever is in the washer into the dryer and start the dryer.
  6. They choose either Lights or Darks, based on whichever laundry bin has the most laundry. I created magnets and put them on the washer and dryer with the instructions for operating them, but those really weren’t necessary after the first week of the new system.
    Laundry Instructions
  7. They put the detergent in (We make our own and it just goes in with the laundry itself, not into the compartment on our front loader. This was my son’s one disappointment with the new system . . . he really wanted to get to do something with the drawer) and start the washer accordingly. They use the delay function on the washer so that the laundry gets washed in the wee hours of the morning, so it can be ready and waiting for the next day.
  8. They take their clothes (and empty hamper) upstairs and put them away.

It takes all of 15-20 minutes. After the first week, they have really only had 3 or 4 days worth of clothing to fold and put away at a time, so it hasn’t felt like a terrible burden to them at all. A bonus is that they now really think about whether or not something should really go into the hamper for a wash. Before, anytime my daughter changed clothes (which could happen 2 or 3 times a day) it was just easier for her to toss stuff in the hamper rather than put things back in her drawer if they could be worn again. It’s fine now if she does that, but she bears the consequences, not me.  And I can just fold laundry that’s in the bin for me whenever I’m down in that area of the house.

And now, since the kids are using the washer and dryer on THEIR laundry days, I’m more motivated than ever to get the rest of the laundry that needs to be taken care of done on MY laundry days, which are now Wednesday (If I have time. We have busy Wednesdays with our Classical Conversations Community), Saturday and Sunday. This might mean that I do 2 or 3 loads over the weekend, which is more than I would normally do on a weekend, but the whole system has been working so well that I truly do not mind at all.

And, while we’re on the subject of child labor, I think this method for “attacking” the bathrooms with your children, from Red and Honey, is BRILLIANT! I’m definitely trying this next!


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Menu Plan 10/22/2013

Menu Plan Monday

Whew, last week was hectic! We made a few changes to the menu along the way. I tried a cauliflower crust pizza on Saturday night.  That was NOT a winner of a recipe for us, so I won’t be including it here! You can thank me later.

I’m going to start posting reviews of the new recipes that we try, so I’ll mark here the ones that are new, just so that you’ll know that they’re not something we’ve tried before. If you want to check back on Saturday or Sunday, I’ll post a review of what we thought . . . and whether they’ll be showing up on the meal rotation in the future!


Lizy’s Special Oatmeal

PB&J and Leftovers

Breakfast Hashbrown Casserole (NEW), Eggs, Gluten Free Biscuits


Leftovers from dinner: GF Biscuits, Hashbrown Casserole

Grilled Zucchini Pizza Slices, Baked Sweet Potatoes

Slow Cooked Cider Pork Chops with Pumpkin and Apples (Edit: Recipe Reviewed HERE), Green Beans


Baked Oatmeal, Mini Quiches

Sunbutter and Honey Sandwiches, Apples and Bananas

Community Dinner at Church


Leftover Baked Oatmeal

Gluten Free Tortillas (NEW), Refried Beans and Cheese

Pot Roast, Carrots and Broccoli


Gluten Free Pancakes

Pasta and Side Salad


Snacks for the week

Homemade: Super Swim Bars (Granola Bars), Roasted Pumpkin/Squash Seeds, Almonds and Chocolate Chips, Smoothies, Popcorn

Storebought: Fruit PouchesFreeze-dried FruitGranola BarsGluten Free Pretzels


If you’re looking for a menu plan template, you are welcome to download this one by clicking on the image below. It’s in Word, so you can edit to your heart’s content.

This Week's Menu


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Easy Halloween Decorating Ideas

Halloween Wall Gallery

So . . . this will, under absolutely no circumstances, become a home decor blog. Why? Because that is not my gift. I enjoy well appointed homes, and on occasion I do something around mine that I think is almost not embarrassing, but it’s only on occasion and only ALMOST not embarrassing.

Fall, though, I LOVE! And, honestly, I’m not sure you can really go wrong with Fall decor in general.  I also really, really enjoy fun Halloween decor. Halloween isn’t my favorite holiday, but I do truly enjoy the festive feeling of dressing up, and, especially in our current neighborhood, I get very excited about the community spirit of the night itself. We are SO fortunate to live somewhere that family and friends gather together around our neighborhood and enjoy each other’s company on that night. Several of our neighbors host hayrides through the neighborhood, s’mores roasting in backyards abounds, and we’ve even been known to set up hay bales and a big screen and show “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” for our children and their friends after we get back from Trick or Treating. Honestly, I just love it! I don’t even mind the “Big Kids” that come looking for candy. After all, you can’t really blame a kid who just wants to hang on to something fun from childhood, can you? Don’t we really all want to do that?

Since I know that Halloween can be a controversial topic among Christians, I thought I’d post this link to the What’s in the Bible blog. What’s in the Bible, in case you aren’t familiar with it, is the latest venture of Phil Vischer, the creator of Veggie Tales.  I very much enjoyed the balance in this particular post on the topic of Halloween.

NOW, back to my two favorite Halloween decorating items from this year!

Halloween Apothecary JarFIRST, the EASIEST of all . . .

What you need –

  • Fake spiders (mine came from the clearance rack at Pier 1 last year)
  • Spanish Moss
  • An empty glass jar




I love this, because it combines our family’s love of reading with decorating for Halloween.  A couple of years ago, we checked out this absolutely charming book from the local library –

Ghosts in the House by Kazuno Kahara

It is just lovely. It was the New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book of 2008, it’s easy to see why. It only uses three colors and the lino-cut art is just simple and beautiful.  The story is charming, too! A girl (and her cat) move to a new house. She discovers that it’s full of ghosts. But, surprise, she’s a witch! So she catches them all, washes them in the washing machine and then puts them all to good use as curtains, table cloths, and bed linens.  It’s just absolutely charming on SO many levels. When we finished reading it for the first time, I looked at my daughter and said, “We should cut this up and put Halloween Wall Galleryit in our frames downstairs for Halloween! Wouldn’t it look great, there?” She was only about 4 and well-trained in the care and feeding of precious library books, so she did not AT ALL agree with my plan to desecrate a library book. She was somewhat mollified when I explained that I planned to purchase a copy for that purpose.

The process was obviously simple – take the book apart, lay choose the pages that best captured what I wanted on the wall (in terms of the art and the story), lay the glass from my frames on top of the pages and use and Exacto knife to cut the pages to size. Super simple . . . my favorite type of project.

Now we love getting it out every year, re-visiting the charming story, and then we get to hang it on the wall as something we can enjoy every day for a few weeks each year!

If you happen to love the artwork in Ghosts in the House as much as I do, there is a a simple art project at this blog that was based on the book:

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