Favorite Book: Art Detective: Spot the Difference by Doris Kutschbach.


Our night-time schedule is different now. I used to put both boys to bed at the same time after one reading. Now, our older son wishes to go to bed earlier than our younger son. The little fella is not ready to accept the single reading for both as the final show, so after we all read together, I read with just him. Except, I don’t really want to read another chapter book after just reading one (we read LOADS enough as it is.) I found this fabulous book and he and I worked together for a couple of weeks.

Art Detective: Spot the Difference by Doris Kutschbach uses famous pieces of art juxtaposed. One is the original, one has several “mistakes.” We had to look back and forth over and over at both pieces to find the errors. For a boy who loved Where’s Waldo and a tired mom, this book was just the ticket!

I’ve found the most fun way to expose the boys to great works of art is to engage them with a game or questions, both requiring searching the art for an opinion or answer. In this way we noticed funny animal poses and shy faces, weird historical artifacts and fabulous fabrics. We started sharing our opinions on the art, what we liked and didn’t, unprompted. But most importantly, it was fun and I find that’s a great note to head off to slumberland.


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We follow Ambleside Online, which is a literature based curriculum. I read to the boys daily. I’ve found it’s helpful to get audiobooks to help me out at times. My throat can only do so much, and since a few of the books are classic literature, it’s pretty easy to get them from the library. Not only that, audiobooks have helped pass the time in the car, for long rides, but also just to the grocery store. When the kids start getting whiny, I press that play button as a saving grace.

Is it cheating? I don’t think so, in fact I appreciate it as a strong option in my arsenal of “how to keep them busy.” They are used to hearing and learning via being read to. Now I can join in and listen along or they can listen to someone else for a change.

Audiobooks conjure a special feeling for me, like being in the 1940’s and huddling around a radio for a beloved program or perhaps even longer ago, as someone on the prairie listening to stories around the campfire. Readers can add an extra element to the story, like an accent, that definitely enhances the experience. So, we are audiobook readers, too, and proud of it.

Here are some titles we’ve enjoyed in no specific order.

Leaving the Bellweathers by Kristin Clark Venuti, read by Michael Page

Follow a wacky family’s daily adventures through the eyes of their butler who cannot wait for his term to expire. The reader’s voice is humorously uppity.

Island of the Blue Dolphin by Scott O’Dell, read by Tantoo Cardinal

Discover an island through a native girl who when tragedy comes she must brave each day alone. The reader’s Indian accent makes this story almost sound like a biography.

Little House in the Big Woods (or any Little House title) by Laura Ingalls Wilder, read by Cherry Jones

Enjoy the not-so-mundane details of daily life in a log cabin like baking, syrup-making, and fetching water. Cherry Jone’s voice feels like she is your grandmother rocking in a chair recounting tales of old.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (or any Harry Potter) by J.K. Rowling, read by Jim Dale

Does Harry Potter need an introduction? The reader’s English accent adds life to the setting.

The Incredible Journey by Sheila Branford, read by Megan Follows

Similar to the movie, with minor details changed, this story follows mighty brave animals through the Canadian wilderness.

The 39 Clues Series by multiple authors, read by David Pittu

Amy and Dan are good old friends over here. We read every 39 Clues title. To get through the books faster, because we just had to know what was going to happen!, we’d read at night and play audio during the day.

Pie by Sarah Weeks, read by Kate Rudd

We loved this mysterious adventure of a girl trying to figure out the absurdities of the town while the townspeople awkwardly try to snag a missing pie recipe for their own gain.

Favorite Book: Modern Art Adventures by Maja Pitamic and Jill Laidlaw.



It seems I’m a bit out of the habit of posting, which I hate. We are still moving in, we are still sorting and doing holidays and working and it’s time-consuming. However, I love this little space to savor our fun times and I can’t let it go. I’ve decided to make myself do a weekly post on the books we are currently enjoying, which should lubricate the wheels and get me posting about our other nonsense soon enough. The local library system has books flowing in and out of here like tidal waves. Man alive, I love the library so why not post about our favorite books?

We have done three unique projects out of the lovely book Modern Art Adventures by Maja Pitamic and Jill Laidlaw. I have a handful more selected the boys will create as well. This book is full of versatility, exploring art projects by movements. The book uses mostly items we have on hand, which makes diving in quite accessible. The boys have painted, collaged, and created a silhouette so far. Our next projects will involve tape and more paint.

I found the book by searching the author Maja Pitamic. She created a fabulous Montessori game book we adored when the kiddos were young. I’m thrilled she’s gone on to create this art book. I will continue to check out her wonderful titles.

Quickly, I just want to give a shout out the library. The fact that I can get my hands on such current and engaging materials is such a privilege I am especially thankful for as a homeschooling family. Now that we have a house with space to create and store materials it’s been my privilege to scour the library again.

(p.s. Post up some fabulous art books you love in the comments so we can check them out.)



Yarn Along: Ghost of the Fireground and My First Socks.




Joining in at the Small Things blog for Yarn Along today.

Knitting: I am knitting my very first pair of socks. I decided to do a ribbed pair so if they weren’t quite the right size, they’d either stretch larger or grab tighter. If that doesn’t work, I always have smaller feet (my boys’) and larger ones (Dear Husband) that I can pretend I made them for. I decided to stick with the square dpn’s this time, because I feel comfortable with them. One new thing at a time, I suppose. I am going to be knitting an afterthought heel very soon.

Also, I’m quite excited that I finished the cabled blanket I started last…. June. I decided to go for a knit blanket last summer because the pattern was just so lovely. My older son claimed it last September. I thought perhaps it would be done for him by Christmas. Ha, not to be. But, alas, I kept on chugging and am doubly happy as he still wanted it come this June. Now, I’m past the fear of starting a blanket. Perhaps June is my try new knits month? Weird. Anyhow, little fella thinks this is all particularly unfair as I never knit him a blanket, so we’ve settled on a pattern and as soon as these socks are done, I’ll dive into that one. He is incredibly motivating, so the socks should be done quickly!

Reading: Ghosts of the Fireground by Peter M. Leschak. I know each area has their natural pitfalls, tornadoes, flooding, drought, earthquakes, hurricanes, etc. So when I grabbed this book I was startled to read about the historical fire larger than the Great Chicago Fire that took place in Peshtigo, WI. Being in California, I usually attribute the fires to their dryness, but holy cow, safe little WI had 1200 fire deaths the SAME TIME as the Great Chicago fire. Chicago was more famous, so they stole the headlines. This book is amazing. It weaves a modern firefighter and his seminary school reflections with the historical story of a Priest who survived the Peshtigo disaster. I’m floored by the things I read, both modern and historical in this book. Firefighting is something I respect, but know almost nothing beyond cliches about. I’m so glad I accidentally found this book.

The Illustrated Compendium of Amazing Animal Facts, A Book Review.





Did you know that a crocodile can go three years without eating? And a tarantula two years? This and many other questions have been thrown my way recently because I handed the boys a copy of The Illustrated Compendium of Amazing Animal Facts by Maja Safstrom. Full of fascinating tidbits and fantastic black and white illustrations, this little book has become the “let’s quiz mom” resource.

Ms. Safstrom makes chickens look sassy, ostriches peaceful, kangaroos thoughtful, and sloths positively radiant. The art alone makes paging through a pleasure, but coupled with serious animal info makes one feel downright smart. A short book, but with plenty of amazing trivia bait, this little number is perfect for the fellas (and their mother who is learning from them). With little space on our shelves, it’s great to have a 50% art-50% fascinating facts title to review and learn something new from time and again. Ms. Safstrom states she hopes to teach something new and inspire animal love. She succeeded in our case.

This little book seems destined for gifting at any age. It’s no DK animal guide, it’s not meant to be poured over for hours. Instead, it’s sweet, smart, and thoughtful. It’s kept us busy for a few minutes at night before dinners.

(This book was provided by Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Yarn Along: 1000 Places to See and Spirogyra Mitts



Joining in at the Small Things blog for Yarn Along today.

Knitting: My fingerless mitts are five years old and I’ve loaned them to the boys so often, they are pretty beat up. I decided to use some yarn stash and make a new pair for myself. I used Spirogyra, a sort of shell like pattern with a thumb piece too. I held two strands of yarn together to get the white/tan blend. They fit wonderfully. I love having the thumb piece. My other pair just left an open hole for the thumb. Plus, I think this pair is a bit more “womanly” which I like.

Reading: I picked up 1000 Places to See Before You Die by Patricia Shultz for us to thumb through while traveling. I was hoping we’d get some ideas. It’s well organized by clustering the states together geographically. A lot of the places we’ve been to or new of, but I did find out about Cody, WY which looks very interesting! It reads that the Buffalo Bill museum is the Smithsonian of the West. I just love reading about new places, envisioning them, and seeing them in person. Have you ever been to Cody? What fabulous places have you been that we need to see?

Yarn Along: Cabled Blanket and Percy Jackson.



Joining the Yarn Along today at the Small Things blog.

Knitting: I’m progressing quite well on my Cascade Eco Blanket. I’m finding the pattern has the perfect blend of mindless and “pay attention” knitting. That’s kept my interest quite well. I adore the yarn but am finding I keep needing one more skein. I hope when it blocks it isn’t some gargantuan giant-sized blanket, but I guess that wouldn’t be so bad.

Reading: I rotate in Phillippa Gregory’s historical fictions about past royalty and am currently reading The Virgin’s Lover. It’s about Queen Elizabeth and Robert Dudley, who is married to another woman, but wooing the Queen. I read so many of her titles and love them fiercely, but I don’t want to bore you, so I included Rick Riordan’s second Percy Jackson book, The Sea of Monsters. I’m reading this one to the boys at night, and we all look forward to it. Every night I hear, “Can you read just a little bit more?” I’m not sure when I’ll stop reading to them at night, but I do know we aren’t ready for that yet. I find I love reading their titles just as much as my titles and I’m not ready to give them up.

Life Changing Magic: A Journal.


This past summer I listened to Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. It worked for me. Six months later our drawers are still organized. I haven’t fallen into old habits. Life after cleaning out our home is less stressful because there is less clutter to sift through and frankly just manage every day. Truthfully, I have more pride in our space. Our house doesn’t feel so heavy anymore. Plus, now I think much harder about what I bring in the house. I’m so thankful Marie Kondo shared her fastidious passion.

Ask the rest of the family and you may hear another thing. The changes for the rest of the family have been difficult. I do harp on them more than I usually would about putting their items away (or even in the trash can. What is that? Why is actual trash not put in the trash can?) However, I’m not ashamed that I have to ask them, instead I’m empowered. I cite the reasons for putting trash in the trash can, or toys in a bag, or clean clothes and blankets NOT on the floor. I don’t just give up and sigh.

Now Marie Kondo offers up a simple, beautiful little journal that I’ve used since January the first. Life Changing Magic: A Journal is a blank slate. When I started flipping through it, I’ll admit I was disappointed. It is substantial in size and meant to last three years, but I was hoping for a little more meat inside. I wanted little pictures of folded shirts in a drawer or little mentions of “if you don’t like a gift you’ve received, pass it on, it’s okay.” Then I started realizing what the intentions of this journal truly are. This journal is for AFTER you’ve completed your journey, after you are delivered from “stuff” and have your systems in place. This journal is to help you hone in on the little daily things you like to help you create a future you envision.

I must admit, this book reminds me of Go Ahead and Like It but in a much less crafty, newspaper clipping sort of way. Both focus on bringing your attention to the things you enjoy. I think that is a fabulous idea, but I’m not sure you need this journal to do it. Any sweet notebook would do. Then again, Marie Kondo’s journal does spark extra joy for me because of the Kondo connection and design, and that makes it a keeper for me.


(I received this book from Blogging for Books for an honest review.)

Owls by Matt Sewell.


The most charming birds indeed, certainly a most charming book. The eye candy in this book is fabulous. Each page has a sweet illustrated owl with factual information about it. Yes, I lost track of time when I cracked it open! Sewell’s attention to each bird is fascinating (top right corner photo is my favorite – the Eurasion Pygmy Owl). His passion recognizable. Each picture made me want to flip to see the next, page by single page, slowly, savoringly.

But more than just the art, this is a valuable reference book for many years to come. One I will keep on the shelf and pull down again and again, it is timeless. It comes complete with a checklist in back to mark off the birds as we spot them. It’s a great handheld size too.

Matt Sewell’s site is full of illustrations to drool over. (He also has a similar book of woodland birds.) For any passionate naturalists out there, Owls is a book worth getting your hands on.

(P.S….I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review.)

Learning to See Creatively by Bryan Peterson.


So, I just finished up this inspiring title, Learning to See Creatively by Bryan Peterson. The focus is how to open up the possibilities of your camera by more thoroughly exploring your subject instead of the average photography book. Elements of design, lighting, composition, cropping, and more are discussed and shown in use. Mr. Peterson’s enthusiasm and excellent descriptions makes it seem obtainable and fun. With tons of photos included, it’s exciting to see the variety of shots he feels anyone can make.

I was happy to see he suggests on site editing over Photoshop (which I don’t own anyways, although don’t fear at the end there is a section on it). I felt vindicated that he says to “create” photos by editing items in (something I do). Finally, I was inspired to try to do things a little differently or examine my subject a little while longer after I thought I got the shot I wanted.

Bryan Peterson is well steeped in photography with loads of titles to prove it. He demonstrates his ability to teach through this title as well. Thanks sir!

Even if you don’t shoot photos manually, there is a ton to learn from this book.

(I received this book from Blogging for Books for this honest review.)