Thursday, October 28, 2010

Advice for Student Writers from John Steinbeck: Write Freely, Edit Later

John Steinbeck's "rudimentary suggestions for the beginner":

"Don't start by trying to make the book chronological. Just take a period. Then try to remember it so clearly that you can see things: what colors and how warm or cold and how you got there. Then try to remember people. And then just tell what happened. It is important to tell what people looked like, how they walked, what they wore, what they ate. Put it all in. Don't try to organize it. And put in all the details you can remember.

You will find that in a very short time things will begin coming back to you, you thought you had forgotten. Do it for very short periods at first, but kind of think of it when you aren't doing it. Don't think back over what you have done. Don't think of literary form. Let it get out as it wants to. Over tell it in the manner of detail--cutting comes later. The form will develop in the telling. Don't make the telling follow a form."

More here.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Swallows of Mission San Juan Capistrano

Each year on October 23rd, the Day of San Juan, thousands of swallows leave their mud nests at the San Juan Capistrano Mission and head south[Argentina] for the winter. Amazingly, the swallows return each year on March 19th, St. Joseph's Day[The Miracle of the Swallows], and rebuild their nests for the summer.  ~ Homeschooling 

The Swallows of Mission San Juan Capistrano Coloring Page

See here for more information about Mission San Juan Capistrano(Franciscans).

Also see:

The Swallows, The Character Building Readers: Industry(sixth grade), 1910, free and in public domain.

Saints in the New World, Stories of Saints, 1908

Swallows, Handbook of Nature-study, 1918
The Swallow's Nest, The Boston Collection of Kindergarten Stories, 1913

The Swallows, Bancroft's Third Reader, 1883

Printable story of St. John of Capistrano, namesake of the mission

Nature Stories by Grades- Sixth Grade, Migratory Birds

More later...

Books are downloadable, readable online, and printable. To print, right click on the images of the pages at the links.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Before and After Laundry Room

I could get lost in that Chinoiserie wallpaper! Click on pictures to enlarge. What a fabulous transformation, one that I need to do, although ours will probably be limited to a new paint job. Seen at Design Sponge.

Federal Energy Star Tax Rebate Due to Expire this Year

We are finally getting new windows. We purchased our home in 1999, and I believe the windows are original to the house built in 1972. It's time to update, and we are going to take advantage of the Energy Star Tax Rebate which if not renewed, will expire at the end of this year. I'll post pictures when they go in next month.

Details for our replacement windows:

Tax Credit: 30% of cost up to $1,500
Expires: December 31, 2010
Details: Must be an existing home & your principal residence. New construction and rentals do not qualify.

Many more items qualify: Federal Energy Star Tax Rebate

Find Rebates in Your State, various expiration and start dates.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Ramblings of Frugal Grocery Shopping Strategies

During the past few years I've seen food prices rise at least 30%. I found myself having to redefine dollar stretching frugality. I thought myself frugal before prices rose, but it's amazing how one can adapt when challenged. I could not have done it without the help of all those wonderful cooks who share their ideas and recipes online. Everyone is having to cut back, and they generously share their methods of coping with higher prices, so here is mine.

The new normal means that the Dollar Tree, *Dollar General, and Save-A-Lot are my usual shopping places for the lowest priced foods, personal care products, and cleaning items. I rarely set foot in Food Lion anymore, not since the food prices rose. Once a month I visit Big Lots and Walmart in the hopes of picking up some random deals. It's hit or miss at these stores. I'll visit Family Dollar if I find a coupon(off total purchase) in one of the mailed advertisements.

I like to visit the Dollar Tree first because they usually have the best deals for staples like large cans of diced tomatoes, dry beans(some), cleaning items, shampoo, tooth brushes, and spices. It's also on the way to my other shopping places, so I save gas.  At the Dollar Tree I look for the lowest price per unit as compared to similar items at my other shopping places, and in the case of things like shampoo, the highest ounces I can get for a dollar. Then I visit Save-A-Lot where I buy the bulk of my groceries, and Dollar General which is just next door. If I find sale prices on items that I usually purchase, I'll stock up and buy a dozen.

I used to keep a price book, but now I have memorized the prices of items which we regularly purchase. And in case my memory fails me, I usually have last week's receipts in my wallet for comparison.

Meats could be our most expensive price per unit purchase if we didn't sacrifice good cuts. Every other month I'll purchase a five pound bag of chicken quarters for about $1.00 a pound, sometimes less, and once in a while, a pork shoulder for a dollar a pound. I'll slow cook both to make shredded meat for stir-fry, Mexican/Latin American recipes, hearty soups and stews, Sloppy Joes, and casseroles. I get about seven 6-8 ounce portions of shredded meat from each which I freeze in plastic wrap. As a bonus, I glean some seasoned chicken stock from boiling the chicken. I purchase a pound of ground turkey every month for $1.49 as well. This doesn't go as far, but adds variety.

I've also been preparing more and more meatless dishes lately, at least three times a week. Instead of meat, I'll substitute beans, tuna, cheese, and/or eggs while going heavy on the vegetables. This kind of cooking can be very nutritious and healthy if you limit the fats and starchy carbs(rice, potatoes, and pasta), and make the meals vegetable heavy. Portion control is important for health and budget as well. I eat no more than 6 ounces for my main meal. If I get hungry later, I'll eat a salad. Bagged salad mixes at Save-A-Lot are only $1.29, and I make my own salad dressing with a little soy sauce and balsamic or rice vinegar.

I keep quite a bit of frozen and canned mixed vegetables on hand. It's a healthy inexpensive filler for dishes. My favorite frozen vegetables are chopped collard greens, mixed peppers and onions, and stir-fry. Save-A-Lot has these for about $1.50 a bag. Their canned vegetables are less than a dollar. The least expensive canned vegetable at Save-A-Lot is .49 cents for peas. I use these in old fashioned tuna casserole as their canned Starkist tuna has only been .59 cents a can for the past few months.

All this hunting and gathering is a lot of work, and I'm all about efficiency, but it has been worth the time and effort for the lowered shopping costs.

In the warmer months I keep a small garden. We had a good number of cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, and herbs this year. If we had more sun, I'd grow more.

A website, and two cookbooks that got me started:

Hillbilly Housewife Recipes(from scratch), the More-With-Less Cookbook, and the Extending the Table Cookbook.

These are all about cooking from scratch which is healthier in terms of the absence of additives and preservatives, and the ability to control, customize, and substitute healthier ingredients. It can be very inexpensive as well, if you keep it simple. Two cups of rice, some shredded chicken, and a bag of stir-fry costs us no more than $2.25 to feed four people, and we usually have leftovers because the little one and I don't eat much.

Dollar General, Save-A-Lot, and Family Dollar all take coupons. They also have printable store coupons at their websites. In addition to printable coupons, I purchase groups or "lots" of coupons from ebay. Usually the cost of buying a "lot" of ten coupons is the price of two or three coupons with free shipping. This is a great deal for me because I don't purchase many name brand items, so I only need a few very specific ones in larger quantities( for stocking up).

What have you done differently in the kitchen since the recession? Have you changed your meals or shopping habits?

*Coupon Alert: Dollar General has another $5.00 off a $20.00 purchase.  It came out my receipt yesterday good for this Thursday - Saturday. I'll  be using this for their clearance on coffee - $4.00 for two pounds of  coffee(largest tin). These coupons seem to be a regular offering lately.  This is the fourth $5.00 off coupon I've received in the past few  months.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Autumn Nature Art for Young Children

Items from the garden painted with watercolors and pressed onto paper. There is also a crayon leaf rubbing in there as well. Things we tried: flat rocks, acorn tops, oak leaves, clover, a shell, garlic grass, small berries, sticks, and daylily stalks.

A fall nature study: Fall Leaves, free and in public domain. Just right click on the image of the pages at the link. From Type Lessons for Primary Teachers in the Study of Nature, Literature and Art, 1905.

Beauty of Leaves. —The beauty of color and texture combined with the endless variety of leaf forms cannot fail to prove a constant source of wonder and delight to the children during this season of bright, blue weather. Thoreau says, "October is the month of painted leaves. Their rich glow now flashes round the world. As fruit and leaves, and the day itself acquire a bright tint just before they fall, so the year near its setting. October is its sunset sky. November the later twilight."

Draw Me a Cat!

Before the sun peaked over the horizon, I heard a little voice this morning asking repeatedly, "Draw me a cat, draw me a cat, pleeease". I didn't pop up out of bed and cheerfully draw her a cat, but I did find a simple cat drawing lesson online later in the day. This site has a lesson for the the cat above.

This one has the sitting cat below.

Early Childhood Learning: My Telephone Number Worksheet

Image source here at Homeschooling. Click on image to enlarge, or go to image source to download. We are working on this one tomorrow.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

National Geographic Featured Articles

I have to remind myself to use this resource more often! National Geographic is an excellent source of free historical articles, pictures, quizzes, maps, virtual tours, etc. Here is one that I bookmarked some time ago when we were studying Latin America. Check it out:

Maya Rise and Fall Includes article, maps, quiz, extended learning links, and photo gallery.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Free Vintage Prints of Historical Costumes and Clothing from Around the World

A huge collection of free vintage prints from the NY Public Library Digital Library of clothing and costumes from around the world during different periods in history.

Image: A 16th century English woman of quality

Help Dealing with Homeschool Burnout

I saw these at Homeschooling.

Two of my favorite:

Hitting the Homeschool Wall by Holly Richardson

Avoiding Homeschool Burnout by Isabel Shaw

These are coping mechanisms that I learned the hard way. Students are not the only people who learn and grow in homeschool. It has been the catalyst for spiritual and emotional growth for the adults in our family as well.

DIY Young Children's Pallet Bookshelf

 See picture: I used two of the pieces at left, and five of the pieces on the right( two for each shelf, and one on top to stabilize).

I've been collecting pallet pieces from Home Depot. These pieces were found free in the lumber area, discarded in the trash cans at the end of the aisle. With permission I've been taking these home for DIY projects. Yesterday I made a thin rustic bookcase for my young daughter's books. The thin shelves, which rested between the pallet pieces on the blocks, were the only things that needed attaching. The shelves were screwed down at both ends with a power drill and long dry wall screws. No sawing was needed; these came as they were.

The books shelf holds quite a few books. I was able to empty two very large baskets full of preschool/K books into this bookshelf. We've gained back a good chunk of living space, and it's easier to vacuum now. My daughter loves the ease of finding books and putting them back without the struggle of squeezing them into baskets.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Free Printables: Historical and Literary Paper Dolls

Pages include background and historical information, and some offer links to free e-texts. This is a fabulous homeschool resource, and is beautifully rendered by artist C. David Claudon .

Ancient Egyptian Transformations
Clarence's Eight Lives(historical cat)
A Durer Everyman Paper Doll
An Inferno Paper Doll Set
Sir Gawain & the Green Knight
A Plantagenet Paper Doll Set
A Gothic Romance Paper Doll told in the style of the Limbourg Brothers: The Little Mermaid
Geoffrey Chaucer
Dunant's The Birth of Venus: Italian Renaissance Paper Dolls
Commedia dell'arte
Elizabeth I Transformations
William Shakespeare
Taming of the Shrew
Five Saints: S. Anthony, S. Bernardine, S. Joan, S. Rocco, S. Raphael
Renaissance Artists & Models
A Pepys Show: the World of Samuel Pepys in Paper Dolls
Moliere: A Baroque Paper Doll
The Gilt of the Sun: Louis XIV
The World of Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Spinach Enchiladas Recipe

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup sliced green onions
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach , thawed, drained and squeezed dry
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups shredded cheese
  • 10 (6 inch) corn tortillas
  • 1 (19 ounce) can enchilada sauce
Read the rest here at

I'm going to try this, or a version of this, tomorrow night. It's got many excellent reviews. I have a box of spinach I need to use up, and I'm not in the mood for quiche.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Homeschool Friendly Work Spaces

Collected from various places across the web(Mid-Century Modern, Eames, Danish Modern, Vintage Modern, etc.), I keep them as a part of my decorating scrapbook(digital) for inspiration. I used to see these vintage furniture styles all the time at the thrifts; however, now that they have become popular, they are more difficult to find!  The tops are all laminate which makes for a friendly surface to paint, roll play-do, glue and do other messy projects. I gave up trying to keep my wood table clean and went with a hard surface table and pleather/metal seats. I enjoy projects so much better now because clean-up is quick and easy, just a wipe down with a cloth and some mild cleanser.

We also got rid of much of our carpeting a few months ago, and went with painted floors. So far, so good. The floors are much easier to keep clean. Although our place may not be magazine worthy, my life is a lot less stressful. It works for us.

Try Craigslist for inexpensive homeschool pieces. We've purchased much of our children friendly furniture inexpensively from sellers on Craigslist. Thrift stores are good too; however, in our area the quality and condition is often not as good.

A gallery of pictures here to envision these styles better.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Before Telephones/Cell Phones There Were Pigeons

Wartime hero pigeon Paddy honoured with fly-past
Paddy, a messenger pigeon who served with the RAF during the Normandy operations in June 1944, was remembered in his home town of Larne on Friday.
PDSA, Britain's biggest veterinary charity, awarded Paddy the Dickin Medal, dubbed the animals' "Victoria Cross", 65 years ago this month.
He received it for being the fastest pigeon to reach England with a coded message from the battle-front beaches of Normandy.
The brave bird brought back vital information about the Allies' progress, flying 230 miles in four hours 50 minutes - the fastest time of any of the messenger pigeons involved in the mission with an average speed of 56mph.
     PDSA spokesman James Puxty said: "Paddy's contribution to the D-Day operations was a credit to the thousands of messenger pigeons donated by the racing pigeon fraternity for service during World War II.
"He was one of 32 brave, feathered heroes that received the PDSA Dickin Medal for their life-saving flights during the war, and the only recipient from Northern Ireland."

More about our fine animal friend, the carrier pigeon below. Free printable children's stories, all in public domain. To print, right click on the images of the pages at the links.  These books are also downloadable.

Carrier Pigeons, 1907, Primary Education(elementary)

Willie's Carrier Pigeon
, 1894, second grade reader

The New Popularity of the Carrier Pigeon, 1901, St. Nicholas Magazine(elementary)

The Standard Fifth Reader, 1857, poem, elocution lesson

The bird, let loose in Eastern skies, when hastening fondly home,
Ne'er stoops to earth her wing, nor flies where idle warblers roam ;
But high she shoots through air and light, above all low delay,
Where nothing earthly bounds her flight, nor shadow dims her way

So grant me, God, from every care and stain of passion free,
Aloft, through Virtue's purer air, to hold my course to thee ;
No sin to cloud, no lure to stay my Soul, as home she springs ; —
Thy Sunshine on her joyful way, thy Freedom in her wings !
~ Moore

Carrier Pigeons in the Army, 1918, New Reed and Kellogg English(late elementary - early middle school)

Carrier Pigeon, The Encyclopædia Britannica, 1897

Carrier Pigeon, The World Book, 1920

Pigeons, Comstock's Handbook of Nature Study for Teachers and Parents, 1911(elementary)

Carrier Pigeons
, Heroes and Greathearts and Their Animal Friends, 1908(elementary and up)

Arnaux, the Homing Pigeon
, Classics Old and New, 1906

, Animal Heroes (full story) middle school and up, 1905

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Vintage Clipart Decorative Letters

So much can be done with these decorative letters found for free over at Clipart ETC. We used the ones with a children theme to make a lacing name game with recycled cardboard(dry food box). I also thought about making some A-Z blocks with these letters, or a decorative alphabet poster. Instead of printing out each letter individually, I used Google's free Picasa to make a collage. This way all the letters are uniform in size, and print out all together.

Those black dots on the printouts is my printer's fault. The ones at the link are clean. After I took this picture, I colored in the letters in black. It makes it much easier to read.

Free Columbus Day Vintage History Story

"Sail on ! sail on ! sail on ! and on !' " They sailed and sailed, as winds might blow, Until, at last, the blanched mate said : "Why, now not even God would know Should I and all my men fall dead. These very winds forget their way, For God, from these dread seas, is gone. Now speak, brave Adm'r'l ; speak and say — " He said : "Sail on ! sail on ! and on !" They sailed ! They sailed ! Then spake the mate : "This mad sea shows his teeth to-night.‎"
~ From Discovery of America(Columbus), Great Inventions and Discoveries, a vintage textbook for young readers, 1911.
To print and/or save, follow the link and right click on the images of the pages(See Table of Contents, begins on page 92). The entire book is downloadable as well.  Free and in public domain.

I just love old textbooks for younger children. The language is so beautiful, and at times history is romanticized, but what better way to get children interested in history. There is time enough in the later years to learn that "history is written by the victors".

For younger children - Cut and paste, Story of  Columbus in pictures.Click on image to enlarge.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Sewing Craft for Children: Make a Tea Cup Mouse

Adorable! See here for instructions.

Building Blocks

Originally uploaded by sassyarts.

With blocks before the wagon's wheels,
It's hard to make it go,
And blocks within a person's mind
Make learning very slow.

The word's "I can't" are like a block
Inside your little head
They will not let you understand
The things that you have read.

Use building blocks, "I think I can,
For God is helping me."
Then work with eagerness and joy,
And wonders you will never see.

Poem from Rod & Staff Grade 3 English
Above originally posted in 2007

Because we can never have enough building blocks:

Melissa & Doug 200-pc. Wood Block Set

And this one! Guidecraft Table Top Building Blocks - Set of 90. I think I'll have fun building too(giggle).

My daughter loves to use her imagination and build things. The prices are always good for the Melissa & Doug wooden play sets. Even their multi-colored pattern sets are stackable. She has been using these to make furniture, plates, food(sandwiches and pizzas), and fences.

I've got my eye on these block sets for Christmas.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Homeschooling Fine Arts: Letting Them Choose

"The great artists of old knew that they needed to focus their energies within their own talent’s sphere. They did venture forth and learn more, but it was all within the confines of their own medium. So how do you choose what to focus on and what to pass over?" ~ A thoughtful post/article about Letting Them Choose.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Vintage October/November Children's Blackboard Calendar

From a 1909 teacher's magazine. Free and in public domain. Click to enlarge and save, or follow the link to the original and right click on image to save/print. Free and in public domain.

We used a write crayon to fill in the month and numbers after printing. Saturday and Sunday go above the first row.

Young Children's Vintage Autumn Picture Study: The Reapers by Jules Breton

"Isn't this a beautiful out-doors picture! Would you like to tell something about it? No, it is not a garden, why did you think it was? Yes, there is a path with flowers growing beside it, and the little boy has been gathering some. What is he doing now? Why is he running? Where do you think they all are going? Yes, they are going home, and where have they been? You must hear a story about that for you could never guess what they have been doing." Read more here.

More harvest autumn art by Breton for young children(elementary school)  here.

These pages are printable, just right click on the image of the page. Free and in public domain.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

October Squirrels: Children's Vintage Calendar and Short Story

I printed this out for my homeschooled Kindergartener. This chalkboard calendar is from 1909 which just happens to have the same beginning day of the week as 2010. It is free and in public domain. I found this in a 1909 teacher's periodical on Google Books. Click on image to enlarge.

A story we read as well - The Disobedient Squirrels, 1853. It's got a rather harsh lesson, the fatal consequences of disobedience, but I remember reading these types of stories as a child. In much the same way that Aesop's fables passed on wisdom, these sorts of stories made me think twice about disobeying my parents, and to trust in their wisdom. Right click on image of the page at the link to print or save. There are a few blank pages, just keep clicking through to get to the second page of the story.

Friday, October 01, 2010

The Good Rain: Free Printable Vintage Children's Stories and Poems

All are in public domain and free to print and/or save. To print or save, right click on the images of the pages at the links.

Fourth Grade Reader: Spring Rain Poem(Christian)
Primer Teacher Plan: The Good Rain 

Independent Fourth Reader: Summer Rain(Advanced by contemporary standards, and could be used for older readers as well.)
"A good summer storm is a rain of riches. If gold and silver rattled down from
the clouds, they would hardly enrich the land so much as soft, long rains. ...

All theYear Round: A Nature Reader(early elementary)

"See it rain! Where does the rain come from? It comes from the clouds. ... The
cold air changes the water-dust or clouds into drops of rain. ...

New Geographies(middle school)
"Briefly, — when air rises, it expands and cools ; and then rain usually follows. " 

The Children's Hour, Watering His Garden with Rain(early elementary)

High School Geography: Moisture in the Air

Primary Education: Rain Lesson Plan

The Blodgett Sixth Grade Reader: Before the Rain(poetry)

The Poetical Works of William Cullen Bryant: To a Cloud(poetry)

Choice Literature, Book 4: The Signs of Rain(poetry)

The Rain(poetry) by Caroline Mason.

Literature and Life, Book 1: The Cloud, Percy B. Shelley

Merrill Third Grade Reader: The Story of the Water Drops

Henry Longfellow, Summer Rain

Second reader, Rain and Hail

Many more(600) children's texts in my Google Books library that reference "rain" here. It may be a little tricky to print pages from this link. If you can't get to an HTML page, go to "Plain Text", then change the last word in the link address from "text" to "html", and reload. Google books used to have an HTML button, but it has disappeared. I've emailed them about this, but haven't heard back yet. You can still download the books and print in plain text, but the address must be changed to right click on the pages to print and/or save. I've preset the above links, but don't know how to do it from this main search page.

About Me

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I'm a homeschooling mom of two, a teen and a little. I hope this collection of mine helps you as much as it has helped us. I have an Etsy shop here: And a blog: