Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Cataloging Your Home Library

My family loves books.  My husband loves to read.  My kids love to read (well be read to and look at pictures).  I like to read (you got that right, I didn't say LOVE & that was on purpose).  I have an incredibly soft spot for old classics and children's books.  If I have money and a good book in front of me, its VERY hard for me to resist (even harder for my husband to resist)!  So we've got a good little library growing, which I love.  The only problem is now that its getting bigger, I know that I have books, I just don't know how to find or organize them.  I might need a book on a certain subject, but I don't know what I have, then a month after I needed them, they all pop up.  Quite frustrating.

So today (just like 1/2 hour ago actually...I'm really excited about it!) I came across this really cool site.  Its called Delicious Monster.  I always seem to be a little behind the times, so you've probably heard of it or something like it, but I haven't.  You simply hold the barcode on your book up to the web cam, the program scans it, recognizes it, and catalogs it!  Its as easy as that!  It does DVDs and CDs, too, as well as all of your digital media (digital books, movies, iTunes, etc).  Once I have all of my library cataloged, I can go back and search by subject, title, author and know just what I have.  Im so excited about this!  And my kids think its so cool so zi can actually get them to do all the scanning for me...moo-wa-ha-ha!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Seafood Boil

This weekend we had our first annual Seafood Boil here at the house.  I seriously need to sleep for a week to recover from these last few weeks (remember, just the week before my son had his Willy Wonka party and we had 18 people staying at our house!).  I'm wiped out!  Originally we had invited a group of people (30-50 people) from church, but unbeknownst to us it was announced to EVERYONE that they were invited.  If everyone would have come, that'd be like 200+ people.  Luckily since it was last minute, we had a decent turn out of about 100.  Ya, we kinda freaked out inside, freaked out a little more, then somehow with some AWESOME help, it all pulled together wonderfully!  An AWESOME couple totally pulled through for us and did SO much work...the shopping, brought in some extra bbq's, manned the bbq's and worked their tales off!  The best comment of the day for me was when he commented to me, "Sorry we ever doubted you, this is SOOO good!  I'm gonna go home and make this!"  Mission accomplished! :-)

  • 4 lbs seafood (you can add whatever you want!  We tried tiger prawns, whole dungenous crab, king crab legs, clams, mussels, and a seafood medley of calamari, clams, and shrimp.  By far the biggest hits were the tiger prawns, followed by the king crab legs, then dungenous crab.  Next time we do it, I think we'll just stick to those 3)
  • 2 lbs kielbasa, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 4 lbs red potatoes
  • 6 ears sweet corn on the cob, halved, frozen or fresh (figure 1/2 to 1 cob per person)
  • 1 to 2 boxes Zatarain's crab boil (you should be able to find it in the spice section of the grocery store by all of the Creole seasonings)
You'll also need:
  • 1 large stock pot, 10-12 quarts (best if it has a strainer in it...makes things easier in the end)
  • 1 large slotted spoon or a large metal strainer
Prepare all of your ingredients (cut anything that needs to be cut, etc so its all ready when it comes time to put them in the pot).  

Fill your pot about 1/2 full of water and bring to a boil (can do on a bbq, stove top, whatever). 

Add Zatarain's crab boil (we used the kind in a bag, so you just throw the bag in) and red potatoes.  Cook for about 10-15 minutes.

Add sausage and sweet corn and cook for another 5-10 minutes.

Add seafood and cook for about 5 minutes (or until the seafood is done, but be sure not to overcook it!).  

Poor out the water / strain the food (either with a strainer or ladle it out with a slotted spoon).  Arrange food on a serving platter or pour out onto newspaper laid out on tables.


Serves about 12 (or 6 REALLY hungry guests)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Fruit Dip (aka Creamy Goodness)

This is ALWAYS a crowd pleaser!  Its so good and goes great with all types of fruit.  Some of our faves are strawberries, pineapple, & cantaloupe.  I most recently served this at my son's Willy Wonka party in the creamy mushroom.  Mmm, my favorite!

  • 1 (7 ounce) jar Kraft marshmallow creme
  • 3 Tbsp orange juice
  • 1 Tbsp orange rind, grated
  • 1 (8 ounce) pkg cream cheese, softened
Mix together with beater until smooth.  Serve with cut up fruit of your choice.

Willy Wonka Party

Last weekend we celebrated my oldest sons birthday with a big birthday bash.  I'm all about themes...for Halloween we always go with a family theme, for birthdays we go with a theme.  It makes things more fun.  And I must note that since I only do a birthday party (well a big one with friends) every 3 years (1 boy a year), I go a little nutso.  I go WAY above and beyond.  I'm just crazy like that.  Its just too much fun for me!  I have to remind my husband that if I actually had money to spend, he'd better watch out!

The theme for this party was Willy Wonka.  You can say my family is a little obsessed with Willy Wonka...the original, Gene Wilder version, that is...the GOOD one.  REALLY is there even a comparison?  It's just so clever!  We've read Charlie & the Chocolate Factory for our night time reading.  My boys watch the movie pretty much once a week.  We quote it on a regular basis.  It's just so good!  Really what is NOT to love about it (other then the creepy boat ride in the tunnel)?

I just had SO much FUN putting this all together and so much MORE FUN watching all of the kids enjoy it!

Here's the invites (modeled after the Wonka bars in the movie):

I printed them out, then wrapped them around a real Scrumdiddlyumptious bar (found them at Target).  Here's what the backs looked like:

Inside each wrapper was a golden ticket (this image is B&W, but it was printed on gold paper):

I'm SOOO bummed that I don't have a good working camera right now.  So all I have to share with you are from my husband's iPhone, which only takes good pictures when in perfect sunlight!  So most all of these are blurry or grainy.  I'm REALLY bummed!

The day of the party we actually had 18 family members staying at our house.  I really wanted the "Chocolate Factory" to be a surprise to everyone, so I had to barricade the living room so no one would go in.

As the kids arrived, we had them wait downstairs for our VERY SPECIAL BIRTHDAY GUEST.  

Can you guess who it might be?

Why it's Mr. Willy Wonka himself!! (aka my husband)

The first order of business was to have each child sign Wonka's contract.

Cue "Pure Imagination" and now it's time to introduce the Chocolate Factory!  Sooo Exciting!
My son's expression and excitement was worth every minute of work and every late night I spent getting ready for his party!

Ladies and gentlemen, introducing the Chocolate Factory!

Here's a closer look:

There was Wonka Vision, with Mike TeeVee Dinners, Fizzy Lifting Drink Testing Room, Willy Wonka & an Oompa Loompa portrait, the candy man's Candy Shop, a candy tree, and the goose that lays the golden chocolate eggs!  Phew!

But what would a proper chocolate factory be without a


No other factory in the world mixes its chocolate by waterfall. 
But it's the only way if you want it just right. 


I don't blaim Augustus Gloop in the slightest.  I would have done the same thing in his position!

The chocolate waterfall ended in a scrumptious fountain of silky milk chocolate...

...flowing into a chocolate river scattered with delicious treats.  

My personal favorite (from the movie AND the party)...the mushroom filled with creamy goodness!  My 4-year-old was so upset when I dipped a strawberry in it.  He told me "No Mom, you're supposed to scoop it up with your hand, just like the movie!"  Mmm, wouldn't I have LOVED to do that, but somehow I refrained.

My lil' sis made the cutest Wonka cupcakes EVER!  And they were SO delicious!  You seriously would never be able to guess that they were gluten-free, dairy-free!

For activities, we played a golden chocolate goose relay (the kids raced to get the golden egg and run back to their spot first), pop Violet Beauregarde (which we didn't actually play since a few of the kids were a little more than bothered by popping balloons), 

Wonka Trivia, and creating your own Everlasting Gobstopper in the Inventing Room.

I think the biggest hit of the party was watching everyone pose as Willy Wonka & his Oompa Loompa pal!

Such a fun, fun party!  

Thanks to everyone who came and enjoyed everything.  And thanks to my son most of all for having a birthday and loving Willy Wonka as much as I do!

{Click here to download all of my Wonka printables...beware its a BIG file.}

2011/2012 Curriculum: Preschool

Last year I dabbled here and there with a few things for my preschooler.  All summer he's been begging me to "do school" with him and since he only has 1 more year left until kindergarten, I thought I should do just that.  I'm really taking advantage of his enthusiasm to learn, so hopefully it'll keep up throughout the school year!

Language Arts

Preschool Boot Camp - My mom gave this to my preschooler and he LOVES it!  It teaches pre-reading fundamentals & motor skills (tracing, letter copying, etc) and his an ABC workbook, dry-erase mats, an ABC puzzle, & ABC Bingo.

  • Phonics Pathways - I may or may not use this this year.  I haven't decided yet.
  • Chicka Chicka Boom Boom - I'll be using this as an introductory unit to the alphabet.  Then he'll learn about a letter a week.
  • Alphabet flashcards - Found these at the dollar store ages ago when my oldest was a toddler.  I laminated them so they'd last longer.
  • A+ Alphabet Bingo - found in the $1 section at Target.
  • Magnet Letters
  • A+ Alphabet Puzzle Pairs - Also found in Target's $1 bins!
  • Starfall
  • Scrabble Apple - This is great for all ages!  My preschooler likes to sort the letters and my older son likes to do his spelling with them.
  • Spelling Fun Wooden Puzzle
  • Magnetic Learning Let's Learn Our First Words (Priddy Books)
  • Super Why! The Power to Read Software - Our preschooler LOVES Super Why (in fact he was Alpha Pig & our baby was Super Why for Halloween this last year!), which has really gotten him excited about the alphabet, reading, and spelling.  Our family likes the Alpha Pig ABC song much better then the traditional one! :-)

We'll be doing science alongside his brother (just more at his level), so many of the resources are the same.

History will also be done alongside his brother, so we'll be using much of the same books here too.

Art & Music
Not quite sure what we're going to use here yet.  He'll be learning about instruments and we'll be doing a lot of singing and listening to classical music.  But may or may not be learning art/music history just yet.  We'll see what his brother ends up doing in school.
    PE & Health
    We'll be getting a family pool pass, as well as learning about the food guide pyramid & healthy eating.  

    • DK (Let's Explore Science) Me and My Body - We found this used bookstore in the mall that everything is $1.  You really have to dig through it, but they've got some cool stuff.  I really had to set a limit for myself and the kids!
    In addition to the above items, I plan on doing some mini units as well.

    2011/2012 Curriculum: 2nd/3rd Grade

    As I mentioned previously, I'm making some MAJOR changes to our classroom this year!  No more killing myself trying to come up with my own lesson plans.  That stuffs for the birds (obviously the birds are much more organized, creative, and better at time management then I am)!  I'm trying some new stuff this year that hopefully will make my life a WHOLE lot less hectic!  This year my son will be attending a classical hybrid charter school.  I will be his primary teacher, but he will attend school 2 days a week where they will teach him History & Science, with a little of everything else on the side.  We're REALLY excited for it!  In addition to teaching for me 2 days a week, they also provide me with the curriculum I need at home.  They give us a curriculum catalog, along with points (equal to an amount of money) we can use throughout the year to purchase the resources we need at home.  If we don't like a particular thing we are using, we can order something new with the extra points we have.  It's a REALLY cool setup!  We totally benefit.  "Technically" my son should be going into 3rd grade, but with his continued struggles in reading, this last year we focused more on reading and not enough in other subjects, so he's a little behind.  He decided he wanted to repeat 2nd grade, so we'll be wizzing through 2nd grade math, and quickly moving on to 3rd grade stuff.  This is the part of homeschooling that is so wonderful!  So here's what we've got planned for this year (by "we" I really mean "I," just to clarify):

    Language Arts




    • Phonics Pathways - This was the one good thing we used this past year.  I have a child who really struggles to read.  This has really help things be a little more clear for him.  I've learned a lot of new things as well (either I wasn't paying attention, or my good ol' public school education missed a lot of stuff).  So we will be using this a lot for review!

      • Explode the Code - We're sticking with Books 1 & 1 1/2, as well as the Teacher's Guide/Key for books 1 & 2
      Spelling & Vocabulary: 



      •  Math Mammoth: 2-A & 2-B - Before I knew my son was going to attend the charter school, I went looking for an affordable math curriculum that had good reviews.  I came across Math Mammoth over and over again.  I didn't really find any negative reviews on it.  For the complete Grade 2 package, it cost me under $30!  And it was downloadable, so if I find I like it, I can use it for my younger children as they get older.  I figure its worth a shot.  If we don't like it, then I figure we can always get something through the school!
      Since my son's school will be providing Science, I won't be doing the bulk of it, but rather supplementing, so this isn't exactly all I would get if I were doing it all myself.  This year the focus of science is on Biology (plants, animals, & the human body).  Most of these books I already had in our home library already.

      Again, the school will be providing most of this, so we'll just be supplementing.  This year they'll be focusing on Ancient history.

      • Story of the World: Vol. 1 - I'm really excited about this!  This book is written so simply for children (and adults) to understand.  My husband, who majored in history and is quite the history buff, has been reading it.  He's a BIG sceptic when it comes to history books, especially those that "dumb down."  He's been really impressed thus far.  I myself have only had the time to make it through the first 2 chapters, but from what I've read, its wonderful!  I love how they explain what history is and why it is important.  Can't wait to dig into this!


      • Maps, Charts, & Graphs: B - This is one of the supplemental materials the school is providing.  I'm planning on focusing on neighborhoods as far as reading maps, charts, & graphs is concerned, but we're also going to focus on the countries that we'll be learning about in our history studies.

      I haven't quite decided what program I'm going to use just yet.  I think I'm going to stick to a free online one for now.  Here are a few of the ones I'm looking at:
      Practical Skills
      I know that scouting isn't a typical school subject, but my son just started the scouting program a few months ago and is REALLY into it.  So I decided to incorporate it into his schooling with the thought that this might be a good motivator.  If he does his math or language arts, then he gets to do some scouting before he moves on to more language arts, etc.  We'll see if it works, but either way he's going to be working on it to pass some things off. 

      Art & Music
      This will also be taught at my sons school, so I'll be supplementing where I feel it is needed.

      • How to Draw Aquarium Animals - We picked this up at Monterey Bay Aquarium this summer.  Thought it would be a good activity to use as a "break" subject.
      I haven't really decided what I'm going to do here.  I don't know if I'll add more then our normal family scripture stories at night or our morning family scripture reading.  Right now we're reading a story each night from this book:

      I'd like to coordinate our History lessons with scripture reading if I can organize myself to do so.  Since we'll be learning about the Ancients, I'm thinking I may use these books:

      PE & Health
      I haven't really decided what exactly I'm going to do here.  For part of PE we're going to get family passes at the local pool (they're only $50 for the entire family for a full year!).  We're also going to be doing a unit on the food guide pyramid & healthy eating.