Friday, August 29, 2014

Book Review :: Riley Mae and the Sole Fire Safari by Jill Osborne

Riley Mae and the Sole Fire Safari is the third book in The Good News Shoes series (Faithgirlz!) by Jill Osborne. Riley Mae and the Swiftriver crew are back again - and this time they are headed off to Africa!

See my reviews for the first two books here:
As this is the third book in the series, I would recommend reading Riley Mae and the Rock Shocker Trek and Riley Mae and the Ready Eddy Rapids before reading Riley Mae and the Sole Fire Safari so that you are able to easily follow along with the plot, but even without doing so the author does provide some short explanations for many of the points that might be confusing to someone who had only started with this book.

I have been looking forward to reading Riley Mae and the Sole Fire Safari since I finished the first two books a few months ago - but I had to try and hide it from my 10 year old daughter so she wouldn't read it before I could read and review it. :o)

Riley Mae and the Sole Fire Safari follows Riley Mae and the Swiftriver crew and their experiences in Africa. Riley Mae turns 13 in this book, and along with that is a little more talk about boys/relationships than I remember in the previous books, but it was not overwhelming. I appreciated that in this book, Riley Mae is looking toward her calling in life - in my opinion it could be a great spark to get readers thinking about what God may call them to do with their life. There are also topics in this book that get readers to think about what is affecting others in the world (such as education, safety, and clean water issues) - I was glad to see the author include these subjects. Even though the topics in Riley Mae and the Sole Fire Safari are a bit deeper than the previous books, there is no lack of fun and adventure. 

I've enjoyed the previous Riley Mae books and Riley Mae and the Sole Fire Safari is no different. My 10 year old daughter enjoys them all, too. I recommend them all.

And here is what my daughter had to say: "Do you know when the next one comes out? I hope there is going to be another one! I really liked it. I think I like Riley Mae and the Sole Fire Safari better than the other books. I think it's really cool that Riley Mae gets to go to Africa. I like how it kind of teaches you about Africa. I think other kids will like to read it, too." 
FTC Declaration: The publisher has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book or advanced reading copy through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. This does not change the fact that I will give my honest opinion in my reviews.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Let's Talk About Homeschooling :: Part 3 - Changing It Up (& Homeschooling on a Budget)

(If you've missed my first two posts about homeschooling, you can find them here.)
Today's post is all about "changing it up". One of the great things about homeschooling is that (in general) - you have a lot of options available for covering the basics. It doesn't all have to be textbooks and workbooks and "school at home".

Here are some of my tips:

Want to do something different from (boring) workbooks?
  • Check out Life of Fred for math.
  • Also, look into Wrap Ups, Math Dice, flash cards, and other non-written forms of math.
  • Teach fractions in the kitchen. (Bonus: You can make something yummy while you learn.)
  • Add in the Liberty's Kids and Carmen Sandiego DVDs or a game like Great States for a little variety in history/social studies/geography. 
  • Use The Bible Experience to enhance your history (and to give your voice a little break from reading aloud). 
Should the kids sit at desks all day?

No way. (Unless they really love it.)
My kids sit on the couch, on the floor, on their bed, in a tree, on a swing, and all over the place while they do their school work.

Need to do your homeschooling on-the-cheap?
  • Get a "Comprehensive Curriculum" book - they include a variety of subjects.
  • Check out Khan Academy - it's a bunch of free online lessons for a variety of subjects and there are practice questions and quizzes to go with the videos. 
  • For basic math drills you can print off worksheets from - it's free and you can customize the worksheets for what you want your child(ren) to be working on.
  • For teaching phonics/reading skills - try
  • Use your local library (or libraries). They are there for you to use and have a lot of great resources.
  • If you have an electronic reading device (Nook, Kindle, etc.), many libraries allow you to check out books on your devices. Talk to your local library to see if this is an option for you.

That's all I've got for today, but please - share your favorite tips and tricks for changing it up in your homeschooling. 
I'd love to hear them!

Stay tuned for future blog posts about homeschooling
I am even planning to address that one question that may be burning in your mind:
Will my kids be weird if I homeschool them?
Disclaimer: Any information and links provided are my personal preference or suggestions. In no way is any of this meant to be taken as (or in place of) legal advice. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Thanks Card

I've got to admit: a lot of times when I create a card - it just ends up in a box...piled on top all of the other cards I've made...and it stays there until I have too many and then I give them away to someone who will actually use them. 
Sad, but true. 
I know I have heard of many other cardmakers who are the same - make a card just to do something creative, but then it just sits there. 

Sometimes, though - I will make a card with a specific purpose in mind...and actually give it to the intended recipient(s)!

This was such a card:
To create this card I started by putting strips of floral masking tape on a piece of cardstock, then I die cut it for my sentiment. I just love that Thanks die! I am going to get a lot of use out of that one.
And of course I love anything to do with mason jars - I don't know why they are so cute...but they are. I die cut the base of the jar from a vellum that has some sparkles in it, then die cut the lid from a silvery cardstock.
I then finished it off by tying the top of the jar with twine and adhering everything to the card base. It's a card that came together fairly quickly and I am pleased with the result.

Thanks for stopping by today!
Cardstock: Discount Cardstock (Brilliant White 130#, Green);
Vellum: Discount Cardstock (Sparkle Vellum);
Tape: Scotch (Floral Masking Tape);
Dies: Serendipity Stamps (Thanks Die); Papertrey Ink (Pint Jar Die, Jar & Lid Die);
Twine: The Twinery (Solid Pink Sorbet);
Tools: Fiskars (Trimmer, Scissors); Scor-Pal (Scoring Board);

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Book Review :: Goodnight, Ark by Laura Sassi, illustrated by Jane Chapman

Goodnight, Ark is a children's picture book, written in rhyme. This book by Laura Sassi is a fun, fictional story about the animals on board Noah's ark.
Goodnight, Ark is both fun and funny, and I can see this becoming one of our favorites. A few pages are written with the anticipation on one page and the completed rhyme on the next page, giving a good chance for your young ones to join in with their guesses. 

Although the title may lead you to believe otherwise, Goodnight, Ark is not a Goodnight Moon-style book (where you are saying "goodnight" to something on each page). Rather, Goodnight, Ark is a story about the animals on board the ark who are getting scared as they try to go to sleep with the storm raging. I appreciated that the story includes animals which are not typically mentioned, such as boars and quail. (Just incase it needs to be stated explicitly - this is a fictional story, not a biblical account.)

The illustrations in Goodnight, Ark are fabulous. Illustrator Jane Chapman has done a wonderful job of creating images that are attractive and fun, giving the reader a lot to look at. (I watched my son's eyes darting around the pages, looking at all the detail.) The colors are a touch more muted than you might find in many other children's books, which I appreciate. Each illustration covers a full two-page spread.

Overall, I recommend Goodnight, Ark and think it would be a great addition to any family's bookshelf. 
FTC Declaration: The publisher has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book or advanced reading copy. This does not change the fact that I will give my honest opinion in my reviews.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Book Review :: Jonah and the Great Big Fish by Rhonda Gowler Greene, illustrated by Margaret Spengler

Jonah and the Great Big Fish is a children's picture book by Rhonda Gowler Greene, written in rhyme. The story is taken from the book of Jonah.

Although the story is taken from the biblical account of Jonah, it does not follow the story all the way through, but rather ends at the point where Jonah obeys God's command to go to Nineveh. I think the ending as is keeps the focus on obedience to God, but obviously in your discussions with your children you will want to expand into the whole story and discuss the repentant hearts of the Ninevites.
There were a few things I really appreciated about this book and a couple small things that I am unsure of. I appreciated the overall focus of obedience in this book. I was also glad to see the book refer to a big fish rather than a whale.

When I first read the book, I was unsure what I thought of the wording where God tells Jonah to tell the Ninevites that "they need to repent". From my very un-expert opinion of the biblical account, it seems that God does not ask for repentance, but rather tells Jonah to tell the Ninevites that Ninevah will be overturned. Also, I wish the wording was a little different where Jonah is praying from inside the great fish - it almost sounds like Jonah is praying for three days before God even hears his prayers. That to me is one thing that I will be sure to discuss further with my children when reading this book - God always hears our prayers and knows them even before we pray them, but it may be awhile before we can "hear" His response.

The illustrations by Margaret Spengler are great - it appears to be airbrushed, which gives it a very "soft" feel. The colors are beautiful and the illustrations fill each full two-page spread.

Overall, this is a cute book with a great message to read with your young ones.
FTC Declaration: The publisher has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book or advanced reading copy. This does not change the fact that I will give my honest opinion in my reviews.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Twinery/Pretty Little Studio {Blog Hop}

The Introduction:
If you are hopping along with us today: You should have come here from The Twinery's blog. If you did, you are in the right place! Welcome!
If you aren't already a follower, I'd love to have you follow my blog!
If you are on Facebook, please "like" Ink Blots by TRD.

If you are one of my regular readers: Thanks for coming back! I love having you! Please join along in the hop - you can start at the Pretty Little Studio blog.

The Hop Order:

The Prizes:
The Twinery is giving away a fabulous Striped Twine Sampler ($65 retail value):
Pretty Little Studio is giving away a fantastic prize as well – check out The Twinery's blog and the Pretty Little Studio blog to find out how you can enter to win one of these great prizes. 

The Projects:
When I saw Pretty Little Studio's Baby Jack collection, I couldn't wait to dive right in! I love the colors, patterns, and adorable images. I had hoped to use this collection to create a variety of projects for my precious baby nephew, Roscoe, but unfortunately that won't be happening. I do plan to make a remembrance book with this collection and some of my favorite pictures of him, though.

For today's project, I created a card and gift tag set:
There are a lot of options of The Twinery's twine that I could have used with this collection - it pairs well with some of the bolder colors as well as many of the softer colors. I surrounded myself with a variety of coordinating colors: Caribbean, Marigold, Mandarin, Seaweed, Cantaloupe, and Flax - but I eventually decided to pair it with The Twinery's Buttercream twine. (The Twinery's Buttercream twine is one of my all-time most used colors. I love it!)

For the gift tag, I paired The Twinery's Buttercream twine with a variety of Pretty Little Studio products from the Baby Jack collection: vellum, bingo tags, patterned paper, and stickers.
For the card, I decided to try my hand at a shaker card. The shaker area is backed with vellum and has some confetti mix behind the plastic window. (I used some of the Pretty Little Studio packaging as the plastic for the window.)
I added some patterned paper (again from the Baby Jack collection) and The Twinery's Buttercream twine to the front of the card - then finished it all off with that cute die cut. 

Thanks for stopping by today!

The Next Stop:
Lisa Spiegel

Twine: The Twinery (Buttercream); 
Patterned Paper: Pretty Little Studio (Baby Jack Collection - Baby Chase, Baby Henry);
Vellum: Pretty Little Studio (Baby Jack Collection - Baby Aiden);
Stickers: Pretty Little Studio (Baby Jack Collection - Baby Ryan Wood Stars);
Sequins/Confetti: Pretty Little Studio (Baby Jack Collection - Baby Sam Mint Confetti Mix);
Embellishments: Pretty Little Studio (Baby Jack Collection - Baby Owen Bingo Tags);
Die Cuts: Pretty Little Studio (Baby Jack Collection - Baby Joshua);
Cardstock: Discount Cardstock (Brilliant White 110#); 
Tools: Fiskars (Trimmer, Scissors); Scor-Pal (Scoring Board);

Monday, August 11, 2014

Book Review :: My Happy Pumpkin (God's Love Shining Through Me) by Crystal Bowman, illustrated by Claudine Gevry

My Happy Pumpkin by Crystal Bowman is a children's board book, written in rhyme.  The board book is shaped (cut out around the pumpkins and flower on the cover). 
The story is sweet - following a father and son as they plant, pick, carve, and light a pumpkin. The author emphasizes obedience as a way to show our love to God and as a way to show God's love and light shining through us (which ties in with the story of the lit up pumpkin). 

Because some may be curious - I thought I should mention that nowhere in the book does it specifically mention Halloween or depict any scary/Halloween images. It does, however, show a carved (jack-o'-lantern style) pumpkin.

Also, I thought it was worth mentioning that the book does mention God washing away the sins of the child (spoken by the child). I know there are differing ideas on sins and children, so I thought it would be best to point that out for those who might be curious.

The illustrations are cute and colorful and each image covers a two-page spread. The cute mouse shown on the cover pops up on almost every page - I like repetitive images like that in children's books so that I can prompt the child I am reading with to find the image on each page. 

All in all, I think My Happy Pumpkin is a cute book with an overall good message. Although I don't think it will be one of our top favorites, I will still enjoy reading this with little ones. 
FTC Declaration: The publisher has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book or advanced reading copy through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. This does not change the fact that I will give my honest opinion in my reviews.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Book Review :: The Blessings of Friendship Treasury by Mary Engelbreit

The Blessings of Friendship Treasury by Mary Engelbreit is a sweet, beautifully illustrated book about friendship. 

Now - just so my review comes across with proper background: I do enjoy Mary Engelbreit's illustrations but I am not one of her big fans with her decorations and art all over my home. (Actually, this book is the first Mary Engelbreit thing I own, I believe.) Also, I have never really understood the idea of friendship books. I love my friends, but I have never thought about buying a book about friendship for one of them. 

With that being said, I truly enjoyed this book. I really enjoyed the variety of quotes in The Blessings of Friendship Treasury. There is a good mix of short and long quotes, and I also am appreciative of the Bible quotes that were included. (It even has "Hug O' War" by Shel Silverstein.)

On the back of the dust jacket, The Blessings of Friendship Treasury is referenced as a Juvenile Nonfiction book for ages 4-8. I am not sure I agree with the classification, but that doesn't change the fact that I enjoyed this book. I did feel that the content of this book would be more appreciated by adults (and perhaps some older children), but the illustrations will surely be enjoyed by any age.

Obviously, this book is by Mary the illustrations are fantastic. There are so many pages that would make a great framed piece of art - it may be worth getting an extra copy just to cut up and frame. 

I would have liked to see a bit more diversity in the illustrations in regard to ethnicities (and physical conditions). Out of the people depicted in the illustrations throughout the book, 90% are white while only 10% are other ethnicities (mostly black). (That does not include the front cover illustration.) For those who may be curious, there are some males depicted, but the majority of the people in the illustrations are female (at least 80%). There is one illustration with a girl in a wheelchair.

Overall, this is a fantastic book and would be great as gifts for friends - both as a book and as individual framed pieces of art.
FTC Declaration: The publisher has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book or advanced reading copy. This does not change the fact that I will give my honest opinion in my reviews.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Let's Talk About Homeschooling :: Part 2 - A Typical Day (Scheduling & Curriculum) want to know what a typical day of homeschooling is like?
So do I.
I am not sure the words "typical" and "homeschool" even belong in a sentence together. There are probably as many different ways to accomplish your homeschooling as there are children in homeschooling families. And then some. And even when a family does get in the groove, their days are still probably all slightly (or majorly) different from each other.

What I can tell you in this post is what works (or what hasn't worked) for us. It is one of many various opinions and ideas floating out on the internet...but I am happy to share, because some of it may be helpful to you and your family.

As I mentioned in my first post, I had many ideas when I started researching homeschooling, and many of those are now just a memory. I still have a lot of ideas...things that may or may not make it into our family's version of homeschooling. We shall see.

I think it may be easiest to work my way through this post if I just start at the beginning...
(And at this point, it is easiest to talk both about our scheduling and the curriculum we use. I hope you've got time, because this is going to be a long one.)

Remember that 12-year plan I mentioned? Here is the basic breakdown of what I had planned to use with our kids:
For History, Art, Writing, Bible, Church History, and Geography: Tapestry of Grace
For Music: Rod & Staff
For Grammar: Growing With Grammar
For Spelling: Apples & Apples 2
For Vocabulary: Vocabulary from Classical Roots
For Reading: Pathway Readers & Workbooks
For Logic (in 7th grade and above): Fallacy Detective and Thinking Toolbox
For Math: Singapore Math
For Science: Singapore Science (for K-1) & Apologia Science

We were going to spend no more than $1318 in any one year (for three kids, I didn't think that was so bad as a combined total), with an average of $915 per year. All together, we were going to be able to homeschool our three kids - all the way from kindergarten through high school - for $11,017.15. (Yes, that 15 cents is important.)

For the most part, we started off with that plan.
We broke up our subjects and spread them across the days of the week and went to work on our schooling.

But as of right now...we don't have plans to use any of that original plan (except the Fallacy Detective and Thinking Toolbox...those are still on the horizon).

I have had a lot of people ask me specifically about what I think about Tapestry of Grace (ToG), so I am going to say a little bit about that here:
I was using Tapestry of Grace because I thought it would save a lot of time with how much they combine, but when I got it they still offer so many options that I had to sit down and figure out what portions we would do and what we would leave out (they tell you right off the bat it is too much to do it all), but by the time I was doing that I would get burnt out in wanting to do it because I had to figure things out each week. (Which is what I thought I was paying hundreds of dollars for with their curriculum.) What I do like about Tapestry is the books they use. Since a big thing for me is doing history chronologically (which is what ToG does) so that was a big draw for me...but it turns out I can just look at what books they would use for a certain learning level/time period and buy the books.

I've now gone a much cheaper route and we are using the Mystery of History book as our base history - and if we want to read extra books, we get the ones off our bookshelf (or from the library or from a bookstore or an online retailer) that go with that time period/country that we are reading about. The Mystery of History was a pretty affordable book (around $20) and it has activities for three different age ranges after each of the sections we read, so we can use it again as the kids get older.
I know a lot of people also use the Story of the World (SotW) as their base history text, so if you are interested in doing something similar history-wise then I'd suggest you check out that one, too.

Right now we also combine science...and honestly we don't use a curriculum. What I ended up doing is taking the basic 'timeline' of the Apologia science (just to give us something to go by). I liked that they went in order of the days of creation, so I just ordered some books about the universe, planets, sun/stars, air, light, etc. to start and we will move into plants/animals/humans as we go along.

For math, I am not sure I am the one you would want to follow, but we haven't been using just one curriculum at a time.
In the earlier years I had done Singapore Math, but the kids got bored so easily with doing the same book over and over (and so did I), that I decided to mix things up.
So now...we do a random mix of things. We have the Life of Fred books that the kids go through. In addition to Life of Fred, the kids each have an additional math book that they work through. Some days I may also print the kids off a worksheet (from They also do wrap-ups every day to keep the basics solidly in mind. Generally, I've found that my kids complained the most when they had to write out all the problems and answers, so I tried to avoid it as much as possible. Not that they should be able to complain and get out of something, but I mainly wanted the math basics to be in their brain solidly, so I don't mind taking a break here and there on the paperwork as long as the facts are sinking in.

So, that is the short version which brings us up to today where we are using:
For History, Bible, Church History, and Geography: Mystery of History and various additional books
Also for Geography: Maps, Charts, Graphs, & Diagrams and maps on the walls of our home
For Grammar, Spelling, Vocabulary, and Writing: Language Smarts and/or Language Mechanic
Also for Writing: Cursive Handwriting (Power Practice), Complete Writing Lesson for the Middle Grades, and various writing activites
Also for Vocabulary: Word Roots
For Reading: Reading Detective and all the books we can get our hands on
For Logic: Building Thinking Skills and Mind Benders
For Math: Life of Fred, Mathematical Reasoning and/or 180 Days of Math, Wrap-Ups, and life experiences
For Science: Various books and explorations
For Art: Paper, pencils, paint, tape, scissors, play foam, stamps, ink, yarn, twine, various art books, and whatever else we feel like. :o)

You can see from the list that we don't always stick to just one curriculum per subject and we enjoy using a variety of resources. I do have a schedule for each child which breaks the day down into 30 minute increments (with one task per time slot). (This is kind of my version of a very simplified take on the workbox method. Very simplified.) It has helped us stay on track, but even with a schedule we still leave room for adjustment (and even a little bit of fun!). I am not sure if we will stick with our current schedules or if we will find something new...but either way, we will just roll with it.

In my next post about homeschooling, I plan to address a few ways that you can "mix it up" - one of the many perks of homeschooling.

Stay tuned!
Disclaimer: Any information and links provided are my personal preference or suggestions. In no way is any of this meant to be taken as (or in place of) legal advice. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Twine-Stitched Burlap Canvas {The Twinery}

{I'm sharing on The Twinery Blog today - see my post here.}
With the recent heartbreaking news that has come to my family with my baby nephew's passing, I have felt the need to create - but I haven't felt very inspired. That is a difficult crossroads to maneuver, so I have tried doing some simple things that don't take a whole lot of focus, but still fulfill the need to be creative. 

Enter what I am going to call the "Lazy Girl's Cross Stitch":
I had a burlap canvas sitting around that I hadn't used yet, and thought it would be a great surface for a little twine-stitching. Instead of doing the 'x' pattern of a traditional cross stitch, I went the lazy route and just did a series of long horizontal stitches with The Twinery's Solid Charcoal twine. After doing the horizontal stitches I wanted a little more coverage, so I then went over those with a series of long vertical stitches. 
I just free-handed the heart, but I am sure it would have gone even faster if I had used some sort of pattern. Even without a pattern, I was able to complete this project easily in under 30 minutes. (This would even be easy enough to do in a car on a road trip - if you aren't driving, of course.)

Once I had the heart finished, I used two strands of The Twinery's Solid Charcoal twine to finish it off with a double bow.
So, there you have it - a simple, quick project using minimal supplies and a cute final result.

Thanks for stopping by today!
{And don't forget - today is the last day to enter to win the great giveaways on the Poppystamps blog hop and the Serendipity Stamps blog hop

You won't want to miss them!}
Twine: The Twinery (Solid Charcoal); 
Other: (Burlap Canvas);