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Archive for December, 2009

I had been eyeing this Bananagrams Game which looks like a fast-paced Scrabble in a fun and compact (of course banana) package. My family (from Great-Grandma to Grandparents to David and I) love to play Scrabble, so anyway I could get my 5 year old more interested in such word games is a bonus.  Up pops Pairs in Pears while surfing Amazon, which is meant for the younger kids (5+), so it was a no-brainer purchase.

It arrived yesterday afternoon so last night our small family set out to play! Skimming the directions, I see that it has some very simple versions that I bet homeschoolers from age 3-4ish could even play, such as rhyming, letters in order, consonants/vowels, names, and such. But knowing my little speller girl, I knew she’d want to go straight to forming the words!

The game is simple. 4 alphabet sets come in a cute little  zippered pear pouch.  There’s also a little gadget that you can write words on, but we didn’t use that much, nor did the instructions mention it. We divided the letters up equally between the 3 of us, each got about 34 letters. After I spelled a sample word “bug” for Satori, she set out spelling all kinds of words. I didn’t even have time to read the directions and follow one of the suggested games.

To my surprise, Satori didn’t stick to the simple CVC type words like “cat”. She went ahead and experimented with words that we have gone over in All About Spelling – such as beginning and end blends, double letter endings, “-ck” words, and more. She got almost all of them right on the first try. Every time we looked over, Satori had a new word which both David and I thought was above a newly-turned 5 year old ability!

Thanks to Grandma and Grandpa for their gift this Christmas of this art table that we used for the game! The art table has a white-board top, a spot to put drawing supplies, and a roll of drawing paper underneath that can easily be torn off once a picture is drawn. But it also makes a perfect small gaming table! We had a spot to use a dry erase marker to tally up our word count (good math practice for Satori).

Pairs in Pears was a good investment for our family, it will get Satori even better at reading and spelling. I imagine Bananagrams might be a good idea next Christmas and soon after that, the real deal – Scrabble!

In just one week Satori and I will resume our history lessons. This time we’ll be including some mapwork, so in preparation for such maps, this December I gave Satori a refresher on map and geography basics. The below book was an excellent overview of the world, with tons of pictures and colorful maps – from the Usborne Children’s Picture Atlas.

This introduced us to the world with simple descriptions of geographic areas, culture, animals, transportation, etc… Images on the bottoms of the page where shown where we could then look for them on the maps in the back.

Satori had a great time searching for everything! She got a great intro to all the continents and oceans of the world.

We used our Rand McNally Schoolhouse Beginner Geography & Map Activities workbook to learn more about reading and understanding maps.

While we are still on Christmas break, Mom has some fun interactive ways to expand on our knowledge of maps and the world. Stay tuned for those activities.

On our visit to London we had the privilege of meeting David’s dad and his family. I have more photos, but here is just one.

Aw heck, I was feeling lazy tonight and thought I would make this post a Wordless Wednesday, but I just couldn’t. It’s been such a crazy day. A winter storm hit us last night and while the snow wasn’t so bad, it makes it almost impossible to drive on steep slippery mountain roads like where we live. (We live on top of a hill on top of a mountain.) I thought a Family Craft Night to make Christmas tree ornaments would be fun, so I needed to get to Boulder which is all the way down the mountain from us.

I got in the car and proceeded inch by inch down our steep driveway. Sure enough, the car starts to slide. Anti-lock brakes and letting off on the brakes now and then does not help on this slippery slope. The left side of our driveway is a little cliff. As I was sliding towards that cliff, I find myself eyeing the spindly lodgepole pine trees hoping desperately they would be enough to hold back a large SUV. I stopped just in time. Second try and then the car starts sliding sideways down the hill and at the final moment, again towards the cliff side.  Stopped again just inches from certain death. That’s it, maybe I should give up. I burst into the house and David came to the rescue! He goes down the hill faster than me and the wheels get more traction, and the car made it safe and sound down our driveway! I was able to get the craft items, because that was oh so important you know.

Once at home, I laid out all the craft items along with some print-outs of instructions to make about a dozen ornaments. We all picked a few and chugged away at our masterpieces!

David chose the two coolest ornaments, a gift-wrapped present and sleds.

I made sure Satori got the easy ones – mostly the chenille stem and pony bead type. 🙂 I was pretty busy managing it all, but I did finish a pair of skis and the reindeer head.

It was a great family activity and a very memorable night. We’ve put a few on our tree and may give a few as gifts. Click the link below if you want to check out how to make these ornaments and more.

Links to making these ornaments

We had quite a few entries for our little giveway on the evolution flipbook. Charlie’s Playhouse mentioned us on their blog, Facebook and Twitter, so it was fun to hear from the people who were also in the video! And one comment was from someone who remembered me from my sling shop, and I think I had her email/address memorized from her many orders and other contests she entered. 🙂

Satori picked two entries out of the hat, and the winners are Heather and Carrie! Congratulations!!!


Holiday Preparations

It’s been quite a busy past few days, as we’ve done all our Christmas shopping in just 24 hours. Mostly online, with Amazon’s Prime memberships free 2-day shipping. Almost all of Satori’s presents are going to be educational. But fun educational! 🙂 My parents (Grandma and Grandpa) are here in Colorado now and we’re looking forward to their visit up to our mountain home if the winter storm (predicted to hit tonight through Thursday morning) will let them.


Photography Talk

Since I can hardly stand to write a post without pictures, here’s a few photos I took with one of my prime lenses I sold last week to make fast money for Christmas. My Nikon 50mm 1.4 lens is super fast but I rarely used it. (I prefer my 24-70mm zoom lenses so I can adjust the zoom to fit the picture. ) This 50mm 1.4 lens I just sold is good for professional photographers who shoot in low-light situations that you cannot use flash, like at a wedding or a performance in a dark theater.

The problem with opening this lens up all the way to 1.4 aperture is that the depth of field is so very small (which is so very cool as well), that you could possibly have the camera focus on one of Satori’s long eyelashes and have her eye out of focus! It’s a challenge to get both eyes in focus at the same time. Of the dozen photos I took of my wiggly daughter, only a few turned out sharp in the eyes. I’m sure all I need is more practice with it, but I’m too addicted to my 24-70mm 2.8 lens, I never use anything else anymore.

The next two photos are completed  unedited aside from  cropping. If you click on them to see them bigger, you can see how Satori’s eyes are sharp, but the sides of her face are getting blurry. Her outfit is blurred even more. And the TV and cabinet behind her are barely recognizable.

And one of our Bengal cats… As you can see,  Kashi’s neck fades into blurriness, but his face is sharp.

For those that want to learn photography, depth of field is one of the things that photographers know how to control. You’ll need to learn about aperture and how your shutter speed and ISO can affect aperture. You’ll also need a good lens to take the best advantage of depth of field. Normally in portraits you want the person’s face in focus, and the background out-of-focus, so your subject person is what catches the eye. In landscape, you may want the foreground (the flowers at your feet) all the way to the distant mountains all in focus, so you’d want the most depth of field to see everything. To shoot something flat hanging up on the wall, you’ll want depth of field right in the middle, where your lens will take its sharpest picture.

I only started learning photography fall of 2008, but I love to talk about it now. 🙂 I even started up a photography website for mama photographers.

I won’t really miss this lens though, as I can get the lens known as the Nifty 50 but 1.8 aperture for just a third of the price ($100).

Satori in Santa hat decorating the tree. I had an empty holiday frame sitting around and thought I’d shoot a few pictures to fill it out. 🙂

She asked why the Christmas lights looked like sticker circles, hehe. I said I was trying to achieve that, and it’s called bokeh.

As I was preparing these images for this blog post, Satori made me a letter, and I just had to share…

As you can see, we are to the point where no intensive-parent-translations are needed. Just a mild effort is needed to read her letters. This letter tonight says:

i have the bestest mom ever

We get letters like this all the time. Every now and then I can’t resist sharing.

Satori learned all her lowercase this fall and after a quick review this past week on how to write them all correctly, we present to you, Satori’s very first penpal letter showing off her lowercase letter skills! Satori told me what she wanted to write to her new friend Aspen, and mama dictated the spelling.  Coincidentally, this was also our very first time we actually tried to “properly” use Handwriting Without Tears Wide Double Line Notebook Paper designed for K-1. For her first letter, not bad. You can see she sometimes wrote capital letters in the same small space. She’s also trying hard to write her “e” correctly, so she redid that a few times.


I didn’t realize until recently this was indeed the perfect paper for Satori’s level. I had all kinds of “beginner” lined sheets, but all the lines are confusing. Which one to start on? What’s that dotted line for? What about all the colors – blue, red, green, black… Confusing! She ended up just ignoring lines altogether. But with the HWT paper, there is only the bottom line and the midline, which is all she needed to start improving on her lowercase handwriting. Plus, it has lots of room to write.

After we finished our HWT Kindergarten book, and before we pulled out the above paper, Satori and I spent two days practicing lowercase on HWT’s Blackboard with Double Lines.  Some letters took a few tries, but eventually she did some pretty good work. Below is a quick word I just had her do, but she was distracted and wanted to work on her computer, so she didn’t focus on perfection. But I wanted to show this word in particular, with a tall letter, a small letter, and a descending letter.


We have one more week of review, and then a short Christmas vacation, and then we’ll start in on  our HWT First Grade book.