Monday, June 23, 2014

Manuscript & Cursive - our summer project

I'm kind of a stickler for handwriting. I think it teaches more than just letter recognition and formation but organization and planning - and I'm not alone! This article talks about some differences in brain patterns associated with manuscript, cursive and typing (favorite quote: "When the children composed text by hand, they not only consistently produced more words more quickly than they did on a keyboard, but expressed more ideas."). This article talks about how taking notes by hand is a kinesthetic learning activity which requires cognitive processing verses on a laptop where students tend to take notes verbetum. And this article talks about the benefits of cursive (spoiler: functional specialization that leads to efficiency). There's more but these are a good place to start.

I have 3 kids in public schools here in Virginia and only one of them ever spent time learning cursive (ok - the youngest is just going into 2nd grade). That one had a 3rd grade teacher who is much older. I looked into whether is was still included in the curriculum and it is - it's under English SOL 2.10 and 3.8 but since it's not tested, very little time is spent on it. Studies say that most classrooms (nationwide) devote an average of 1 hour per week to handwriting. I remember spending 15 to 30 minutes each day on handwriting AND my papers always got handwriting grades - I don't know if this was the case with my peers as I went to Catholic schools and hubby went to DOD schools.

So, this summer, I decided that we should work hard on cursive since they weren't getting it in school. I bought 3rd grade lined paper and a cursive handwriting book (from the makers of Handwriting Without Tears - it's not as formal as the cursive I learned and is very - um - vertical - rather than italicized but it's also taught in a verbal manner (for example, "magic c, up like a helicopter, keep going, slide down the pole, bump the line and travel away" is lower case d) which works for my kids, especially my son. I do a week's worth of lettering with dates on the specially lined paper and put it in the workbook for them to do in the morning before they can do what they want.

I recently made this solid elf hat for a neighbor! Visit Hamburke's on Etsy for more styles and colors

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Yes Day - a success!

Several years ago at a Scholastic Book Fair, one of my children chose this book: Yes Day by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

They read it and wanted to have a Yes Day of their very own. So we had one - ice cream for breakfast, their cousin over for the day, some now-forgotten activity that I would typically have said no to without quite a bit of planning, a lot of junk/fast food, a late afternoon trip to the pool and staying up "late" (my kids idea of late is not equivalent to others experience - I think it was 8:30). I picked the day after school got out b/c it seemed like a fun way to kick off the summer and gave them a mini-break between school and summer vacation (who doesn't need something to make transitions fun?). And thus began our summer vacation kick off tradition!

This year was no different except that I turned the tables on them and asked them to tell me in advance what they wanted - they planned breakfast, lunch and dinner, they decided they wanted to go to the pool with friends and invited them and they even shopped for it (I paid, of course).  I love that we have moved to a community where it's safe to lets my kids run around independently and have the confidence to plan something like this.

So on to the rest of summer - summer bridge workbooks, summer reading list, some minor household chores and LEARN TO COOK! Maybe with this:

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Water, Water Everywhere but not a drop that I'm drinking

I need to drink more water. I know I feel so much better when I do but I got out of the habit (again). Recently, I noticed that I was taking some ibprofen before bed and in the morning for a dull headache. I've been kind of lethargic and unmotivated. I've been losing my train of thought, forgetting things and being unable to judge length of time passed (I'm not all that great at this to begin with). I've been hungry and no matter when I eat, it's not satisfying. And I've been going thru the $20/tub of lotion at break-neck pace.

One day last week, I did drink a lot of water and had an epiphany - I wasn't drinking during the day! I found that I wasn't even finishing my first 16 oz cup (that's about 1/2 a L - I bought these huge cups 3 or so years ago specifically to drink more water). A little background - I don't buy juice or soda for the house and I don't drink alcohol regularly so my drink choices around the house are water or 1% milk. I'd have my mug of coffee in the morning over breakfast with my husband and then pour a glass of water from the Brita pitcher in the fridge. It would proceed to "sweat" next to me while I drank sips here and there but the majority would still be there 6 hours later when the kids got home from school. Sometimes, I'd have a mug of hot decaf tea in the evenings too.

So I posted on my facebook timeline also joking that I should set alarms (since I am constantly using that feature on my phone). Among the suggestions to find my favorite bottled water to put water bottles in the fridge to ecofriendly reusable bottle alternatives (honestly, guys - having water available isn't the issue, it's actually drinking the cup sitting next to me), one friend said "There's an App for that..." So here I am reviewing water drinking  iPhone apps. There are 2 kinds of drinking water apps - the track your water consumption apps and the find free drinking water apps. I'm looking only at the track consumption apps today.

The one that kept coming up in searches first is Waterlogged Drink More Water, Track Daily Water Intake, Get Hydration Reminders by Daily Water, Inc. It has a nice user interface. The home page tells you your daily goal (which you can easily change by tapping it) and how far you have to go to meet that goal both visually (a water bottle or glass that fills). The scientist in my loves that you can easily switch to metric (which I have). You record when you drink something either by the 16.9oz/500mL bottle or 8oz/250mL glass (1/4, 1/2, 3/4, full) or by entering a volume. You can see what time you logged the drinks by clicking "Edit Drinks" and see a graph of daily water consumption to compare days. It's integratable with FitBit (which I don't have). But the one thing that is missing from the free version of the app is reminders. With the free version, you can set a single "time reminder" (such as everyday at 10:30) to remind you to drink but to set more, you need to upgrade (I can't figure out the price - lifetime subscription is $2.99, unlock reminders is $3.99 so I do have to purchase both?).

The second app that shows up in searches is Daily Water Free by Maxwell Software. There are some things that I like better - the ability to set you serving size, free notification settings - but I don't generally like the home page. It's a grid of 9 glasses (unchanged if you change your goal) which toggle checked (for drank) or unchecked and I'm sure I'll accidentally check or uncheck something. And there are ads that hide your goal too. The other thing that's difficult is that you can only set a single serving size and it's all or nothing unlike Waterlogged where you can enter a volume or choose a portion of a serving. You also can't see what time you logged your serving.

Day 1's results: 2500 mL consumed and I remembered what we needed at the store last night (bread for sandwiches and milk) and made banana bread this morning after drinking my first 500 mL of water this morning.

I'm going to try these out for a couple more days before I move on to App#3...AppCrawlr - you are my best friend!

ShopTalk - these cutie booties are available in an assortment of colors and appliques.

UPDATE: Week 1's progress via Waterlogged (I think I'm going to figure out what each price point means). It's before 10am on June 11, so I'm doing good so far today.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


So I was up late one night and saw Kristen Bell promoting both Disney's Frozen and the Veronica Mars movie! It's on Amazon Prime Instant Video and I'm hooked and it turns out, I missed way more than I thought of the series - 22 episodes per season and 3 seasons... oops! Well, I'm thru season 1 and 1/2 thru season 2 (Duncan just left).  When the kids are at school, I can watch on the big screen while I work but when they're home, I'm on earphones on the laptop. I can work while I watch on the screen but the headphone cord gets in my way!

Last week was Spring Break for my kids. We went swimming at the neighborhood indoor pool, bowling (with my daughter's boyfriend - when did she even grow up that much?) and on a Family Scavenger Hunt at Maymont Park in Richmond. I also made a new product - my first for sale garment - a Christening gown!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Bunny ears crochet pattern

I had the opportunity to make a fuzzy bunny hat for a photographer recently. I found some really great bulky fuzzy yarn (Yarn Bee Cameo) - it's soft, it has fluff and fuzz - it's great's super bulky (6)...I love sport weight yarn and often use it (with a size larger hook) when worsted weight is called for. It's light and lacy. But bulky and then some? Yes, it works up faster but it's just so big! No problem though, I'll have to find a pattern that calls for bulky yarn. um... yeah... so...

Well, a beanie hat isn't hard to make. I loosely followed Red Heart's Bunny Hat pattern for the beanie - I love the dc row amid the primarily sc rows. Granted, the pattern was written for a worsted weight (4) so I had to make modifications - I switched to my largest hook (M) and cut down on number of rows. but even then the ears didn't really work - they were too stiff with the bulky yarn.

I went looking for another pattern. I couldn't really find one that would work with bulky yarn or gave me the look I was going for so I made up my own!

Inner ear (crochet 2)
with sport or worsted weight yarn (I did white with the pink hat and cream with the tan hat) and a I hook, leave a longer tail and ch 21.
R1: sc in the second ch from hook, sc 18; in the last ch, 5sc. working on the other side of the ch, sc 19 to the end, do not join, ch1 turn (43)
R2: sc in the same sc as the ch1, sc 18, 2sc in each of the 5 turning stitches, sc 19, ch1 turn (48)
R3: sc in the same sc as the ch1, sc 7, hdc 3, dc 10, hdc, 2sc, sc-ch-sc, 2sc, hdc, dc 10, hdc 3, sc 9, ch1 turn (52 including sc-ch-sc)
R4: slst in the first stitch, slst 5, sc 19, in the ch1 space, sc-ch-sc, ,sc 19, slst 6, bind off leaving long tail (53 inclusing sc-ch-sc).
using the longer starting tail, sew up any gap made by crocheting on both sides of the ch.

Fuzzy Outer Ear (crochet 2)
using the super bulky yarn and the M hook, ch 13.
R1: sc in the second ch from the hook, sc 10, sc 5 in the last ch, working on the other side of the ch, sc 11, ch1 turn (27)
R2: sc in the same stitch as the ch 1, sc 10, 2sc in each of the 5 turning stitches, sc 11, ch1 turn (32)
R3: sc in the same stitch as the ch 1, sc 10, hdc, dc, 2dc, dc, 2dc, dc-ch1-dc, 2dc, dc, 2dc, dc, hdc, sc 10, ch turn (38 including dc-ch-dc) do not bind off
weave in the starting tail

*here come the tricky part - joining the inner and outer ears together. You'll notice that they aren't the same size and don't have the same number of finishing stitches and that the M hook will not fit in the I hook space. I switch to a J hook. I use 3 removable stitch markers (safety pins) to hold them together temporarily. The first one is placed in the ch space at the turn for both inner and outer ear. The other 2 attach to the top of the ear for both parts of the ears. As the next row is worked, there's a bit of "easing in" that goes on - the stitches with stitch markers are the only ones that have to match up.
R4: holding both part of the ear together, insert the hook with the fuzzy working yarn still looped under the first slst of the inner ear and thru the same stitch as the ch1 of the outer ear, draw a loop through both pieces and make a sc. Do the same for the rest of the slst and the sc on the inner ear (24 st) to the next stitch marker - some of the outer ear stitches will have 2 stitches in each stitch but not all of them (this is the easing in part). In the ch spaces, sc-ch-sc. sc in each of the inner ear sc attaching it to the outer ear - remember, some of the outer ear stitches will hold 2 of the sc - use your best judgement. bind off leaving a long tail.

tuck the starting tail of the inner ear between the layers and use the long tail of the inner ear to sew the top closed with a whip stitch, I knot it and weave in ends. Using long tail of the fuzzy yarn, sew the ears on the hat where and how you like them. Weave in the ends of the fuzzy yarn, put hat on a baby - adorable!

Hopping Down The Bunny Trail fuzzy bunny hat at

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Sewing with Kids

Last week, Joann's Fabrics had a McCall's Pattern sales - 5 for $7 and with pattern prices creeping up to $20 a pop, I JUMPED on this! I picked out some patterns that I could possibly do with my girls (I'd do them with my son too if he had any interest whatsoever but it's not Legos so he doesn't care). My 12 year old learned to sew in Home Ec this year and has asked for a cape pattern for fleece (I had one, where did I put it again? oh well, $1.40 and I have a new one). I've been promising my almost 10 year old a ballet bag with an Andover Fabric At the Barre fabric panel (purple) and coordinating striped fabric I bought for her years ago now (2008? 2009?).

My oldest was less than thrilled at the pattern I picked up for her (McCall's M6196) b/c it's a poncho, not a I started with my dancer. She wanted one with a spot for her water bottle - I get that so I picked out this one McCall's M6297 and she picked out View D (the big on in the back) with the pocket on the inside:

I have no idea how I learned to sew with a pattern - my mom's not really a sewer and I made a lot of stuff before my friend's mom taught us the basics. I know things came out less than perfect for a LONG TIME but I found out that my little girl can't cut a straight line even slowly with my super sharp scissors. This was also NOT a simple pattern! I really thought it was going to be a "sew the bag, sew the liner, sew together, add the pocket" pattern but it was more complicated than that (LOTS of stitch the ditch type instructions) and I ended up taking over completely - she  ironed the fusible interfacing on... oh well! she has a fun bag now! I'll find something else to teach her machine sewing - maybe a pillow or blanket...

oops - forgot to add the photos!

Shop talk:  I'm really excited to be adding this bunny hat to my collection! It's made with Yarn Bee Cameo Bulky yarn to give it that fuzz!

GIVE AWAY - Check out my facebook page to enter but here's the details:
GIVEAWAY TIME! Today is Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, Pancake Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday - whatever you call it, it's the day before Lent, the countdown to Easter, starts. I'm giving away a blue and white mini crocheted Easter Basket filled with a yummy Sweetastic soft-serve fudge! I'll ship it anywhere in the US or to APO/PPO. All you have to do is like or comment on this post and I'll be choosing a winner using Rafflecopter's Facebook Flash Giveaway app on Monday, March 10, at 9pm.

You're welcome to share this status update on your page or group but it won't increase your chances of winning (sorry - it's Facebook rules).

#giveaway #handmade #fudge #Easter #win

*legal stuff: this promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Children's Books Re-written for Moms

A few weeks ago, my friend sent me a real-life rewrite of If You Give A Mouse A Cookie (with a tip of the hat to the DirecTV commercials) based on a weekend day home with her hubby and baby boy.

If You Give Me A Bathroom to be Cleaned...

...I'm going to bleach the entire shower and let it soak all day.
...and then I'll go to church with my family........
and then we'll come home and gag on the bleach fumes that have permeated through the house...
...and then i'll decide to bake something to cover up the smell....
...and then I'll start making chocolate chip cookies...
...and then I'll realize it's lunch time, but I don't have enough rice to eat with my more than a week old leftovers... then I'll start cooking some rice before realizing I haven't finished my cookies...
...and I'll mix the flour into the dough and wonder why it's crumbly instead of gooey...
...and then I'll consider mixing in oil or applesauce to make it right...
...but that's a CRAZY idea, so I'll press it into a 9x13 pan to make it a "bar" cookie...
...and then we'll have lunch until it smells like the cookies are done but not quite burnt yet...
...and then I'll stare at the pan wondering what I did wrong before realizing...
..."1 cup stick butter" is not the same as "one stick" butter!!! Doh!...
...but Hubby eats one, so I eat one...
...and realize that my mixer really didn't crunch up that hardened pebble of brown sugar...
...but my teeth did...
...and maybe it will taste less sweet with plain yogurt...
...but it doesn't... now we need vanilla ice cream to offset and save the cost of the ingredients...
....but I'm only going to be able to go to BJs today, and I don't need a tub of vanilla to feed the entire city... I guess I'll either buy the tub or go without or maybe mail them to all of you.

MORAL OF THE STORY: Don't clean your bathrooms. 

I, of course, laughed and set it aside...until this past Monday...when I had a morning like that...

If You Give A Mom a Chocolate Stain... by Karin Wallace

If you give a mom a chocolate stain on an off-white table cloth that's set in overnight,

...she takes everything off the table.
And if she takes everything off the table, 
...she'll notice that you've hidden rainbow loom rings under the centerpiece.
And when she goes to pick them up, will fall on the floor where she'll discover your pile of Legos
And when reaching for your Legos, 

...she'll find where you left your watercolor art pencils that you cried about someone taking last week.
And when she goes to put them away, 

...she'll knock over the hiding spot for your Girl Scout projects
And while she's picking up that, 

...she'll notice that every single shelf in her sideboard is filled with crumpled papers and half finished art projects and board games.
After she gathers up everything that you've left in the dining room, 

...she'll remember the chocolate stain and go get the spray.
On her way to get the stain spray, she'll trip over your sandals from the unusually warm weekend and catch herself on the chair with your dance clothes and soccer ball on it.
After spraying the tablecloth and starting the laundry, 

...she'll remember to take the leaf out of the table. Your shoes and daddy's tool bag will be in her way when she's putting the leaf away.
When picking that stuff up, mom will notice the pile is too big to carry upstairs and take a picture to send to her friends!

MORAL OF THE STORY: do your taxes instead of cleaning up a chocolate stain!

But I did spend the rest of Monday making this for my daughter's teacher who's having her baby tomorrow! 

Beanie Hat available here