Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Undocumented Visitors to the Manger

Jar Jar Binks by Christian............ Happy Feet by Anna.............
101 Dalmatians by Bethany..............

Goofy by Christian................

Never a dull moment at our manger scenes!!!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Day in Oakley

Our family has recently rediscovered the joys of Oakley. Since our church is in this area and our two oldest are at school nearby we have a chance to snoop around the area quite a bit. So I am going to tell you about a Cincinnati Field Trip that every couple and/ or family should not miss! King Arthur's Court is the BEST and I mean the BEST toy store in Cincinnati. Even if you are not in the market for buying, this is a great place to play! Toys and games are out for everyone to try. Their Lego and Playmobil offerings are extensive and all of their toys make kids and bigger "kids" think and imagine. Very fun.
We usually tie in lunch or dinner when we are "field tripping it" in Oakley. Our favorite place - Dewey's Pizza. You can half your pizza at Dewey's so adults can satisfy their taste and kids can happily enjoy more traditional toppings. There are other locations around Cincy but this one is our fave.
Our most recent find up Madison Road is AbbyGirl Sweets! A cupcakery! You all know I love me some cupcakes and our family is currently out to find the "best" cupcakery in the United States! We have had some pretty good cupcakes but so far the actual "best blend of icing and cake award" goes to this establishment!! I highly recommend the peanut butter/chocolate cupcakes.
Yes. Yes I do.

Also, if AbbyGirl's does not totally quench your sweet tooth your family may want to try Aglamesis Brothers Ice Cream and Candy. They have caramel marshmallows that have to be tried!
Yes. Yes you should. (oh, and their raspberry whipped cream, too.) You'll thank me for that tip.
Stay tuned for more updates on this wonderful area. I know we have yet to discover it all!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Christmas Tree Shopping Near Cincinnati

Bill and I have been cutting down our Christmas trees for over 20 years. So we have experienced a variety of tree farms that have offered cut your own trees. I would consider Bill and I connoisseurs (Christmas tree snobs) and we have found the perfect place not too far from home. Big Tree Plantation www.bigtreeplantation.com is located in Morrow, Ohio and offers the best selection around. Here is the whole crew out shopping this year! Poor Anna injured herself in the gym earlier in the day so she got a little transportation help from her strong and mighty big bro!
It has never taken us longer than 30 minutes to pick the perfect tree. Getting it back to the tree shaker was easy and the process of paying for and tying the tree to the car was painless. They even have a pretty sweet gift shop offering free hot chocolate. Santa was there, too, plus some reindeer.

This year they added outside food vendors. Food as in fried stuff. We had to try some of that fried stuff since I refuse to fry food in my own home! And the crazy idea that someone would put snickers, oreos and rice krispie treats in a Fry Daddy was just too intriguing!! We can now say that we have partaken. We will not partake again!!

So, aside from leaving there with higher cholesterol levels, we had a marvelous time. This is definitely our pick for a family Christmas Tree adventure!!

Friday, November 20, 2009

The End of a Season

Most people mark the end of fall by the calendar - December 20. I however mark the end of fall by the date that all those darn leaves are cleared from the property!! You see, we have about 3 acres with about 20 mature trees and it takes us pretty much a whole month and a half to clear them off! Many of my friends comment on how beautiful our home and property are but are soooo happy they are not the owners of all those leaves that fall each autumn! So when they are finally off of the trees and off of the lawn we have our ceremonious picture taking event. I had to have Grams and Gramps get in on the action. After all they have been raking these leaves for --oh, about a 40 years! (not sure why they wouldn't sit down in the pile though, party poopers!).
Anna and the pup were next to have their picture done. It was a hot fall day. Can't you tell by the 12 inch tongue hanging out of the dog's mouth? She's probably dripping slobber all over those leaves that Anna will jump in later!!!

Even that crazy couple below stopped long enough for a photo-op!

Now this is the only remaining pile in the yard! Yahoo! We will leave this one as a drop zone for Anna's zip line and a place for the pup to lose all of her outdoor toys!!
Now that the lawn is clear - Bring on the Snow!!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Hiking: Miami of Ohio

Bill and I have decided that our future will include a lot of hiking!! We both enjoy it very much and have decided to see how many trails we can get under our feet before we cark! That's Bill's term for leaving this earth! I bought a wonderful book entitled 60 Hikes within 60 Miles and we have begun checking off the hikes surrounding the tri-state area. Our first hike was to the natural areas of Miami of Ohio and it was Fun, Fun, Fun! The Sycamore trees were huge as Anna and Bill are showing above. Anna could even crawl up in many of the crevices of the trees. When not crawling in she was climbing up!
The swinging bridge was the absolute coolest! Love this pic of Anna going across. She and her dad had the best time swinging and swaying! I made them stop when I came across. Although they did dare me to run across. I managed a slow trot!!

I did run across the concrete stepping stones. OK, it was also a slow trot but I did it more than once! Anna continued another three or four times.

The total length of this particular hike is 4.32 miles. We broke it up to get to the swinging bridge faster so I believe we did about 3.5. Certainly the 4.32 is doable with Anna. For younger kids it is only about a mile trip straight to the swinging bridge.
I highly recommend this hike for all families. I am sure you can visit
www.muohio.edu and locate the natural areas to hike. For a good reference this hike circles Bachelor Pond.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Heritage Village Museum - Sharon Woods

As part of our literature study on The Legend of Sleepy Hollow Anna and I were able to visit an event nearby that featured Ichabod and the Headless Horseman. Sharon Woods is part of the Hamilton County Park district and features a recreated 1800's village. It is open year round but offers special programs during Christmas and Halloween. Anna and I enjoyed the event which included trick or treating (ok the candy was not spectacular). Our favorite activities other than Ichabod and the Horseman were the semi-haunted 1800 house and the mad scientist. The pic above is from the haunted house. My flash captured this picture and made it lighter but the house was quite dark and the antique furniture added to the haunt. This was the chain lady who offered the only scare, really. The sound of the chain dropping to the floor was unexpected but fun!!!
I think Anna enjoyed the mad scientist. We went to see him twice! He was pretty silly and delivered a funny and not so scary act.
Our favorites by far were the Headless Horseman and Ichabod. Sorry, I know you can hardly make out Headless on Horseback below but I had to try to include a picture!! These actors were wonderful. The paths were lit by lanterns and Headless would ride up to unsuspecting visitors. He had his horse circle Anna and I (very tightly!) 3-4 times. We were amazed at how well trained the horses were and how well the actors played the parts and stayed in character!! Also, other characters jumped out us at various times on the paths. It felt a bit like Sleepy Hollow!!

Overall it was a fun experience and we were glad to witness our study on the Legend recreated. The evening was a bit pricey but worth it for us since it involved something we just studied. I got the feeling that most of the visitors present were not there for the Sleepy Hollow atmosphere!! And if they were there for the candy I think they were pretty disappointed!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow - Literature Study

We love doing literature studies as part of our homeschooling! We take a certain piece of literature and study various topics mentioned withing each piece. There are so many premade curriculum available. One that we loved to use in the younger grades was Five in a Row by Jane Claire Lambert. Now I often make up my own and this month we have been studying THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW by Washington Irving. Some of the topics we have covered are:
*Henry Hudson
*the Hudson River
*St. Nicholas
*New England Superstitions
*Screech Owls
*St. Vitus
*Don Cossacks
*1 Timothy 4:7
*and of course Washington Irving

Crafts included: oil pastel fall tree, collage tree with Bible verse and the Gourd pumpkin in the above picture.

We have been reading this in its original text and also in some easier versions. We came across a radio drama of the story by the Colonial Radio Players that is marvelous! Also, we watched the television renditions by Shelly Duvall theatre and Wishbone.

Our most exciting adventure for this study came with a trip to a haunted village complete with Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman on horseback. More to come on that in my next post!

Saturday, October 17, 2009


Seems that our Bethany has taken a liking to riding in big army aircraft!! At her LDAC training in Washington this summer she had the opportunity to participate in some flight training. She is now considering the possibility of putting in for flight nurse training. We'll see what the future holds and we'll keep you posted!!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Apple Picking Time!!

Well, actually, September is apple picking time!! I'm just a little late in posting! Anna and I went with our home school group to an apple orchard out in Midland, Ohio. Where is Midland, you ask? I can't even tell you. Oh, I drove and we found the place but it seemed like it was in the middle of nowhere!! But, we were very happy we travelled all the way to Midland.

The orchard is called A & M Farm and is one of the only U pick orchards in our area. Not too many in our area since I had to drive an hour!! The people who worked at the farm were great and their little store which sold already picked apples, farm produce and their own cider was very cute. We were able to pick a variety but our all time favorite was Empire. Usually we are fuji, honey crisp or braeburn people but we took a liking to this little beauty!
The farm allowed us to taste the apples before we decided if we wanted that type. Very thoughtful and excellent marketing strategy!! We were able to keep what we liked.

We came home and immediately pulled out our apple recipes - I'll share two with all of you.
Apple Dip
1 can sweetened condensed milk (fat free is fine)
1 cup butterscotch chips
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Heat milk, butterscotch, and salt on stove until chips are melted. Remove from stove and stir in the next two ingredients. Store in Fridge!
No Peel Apple Cake
4 cups chopped apples with peels
2 cups flour
2 eggs
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup applesauce
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons each of cinnamon and baking soda
Mix all ingredients by hand (will be thick batter). Pour into 9 x 13 greased pan and sprinkle with additional sugar and nuts if desired. Bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes. Even better on day #2!!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Music with Lunch!!

Big tip for all Cincinnati area homeschoolers (and anyone else free on the second Wednesday of each month), Christ Church in Glendale, Ohio - http://www.christchurchglendale.org/ - offers free concerts!!! This is a great way to introduce the kids to a variety of different types of music and instruments. If you go to their website you can view the schedule and what groups are playing when. In September, Anna and I brought our lunch (yes, everyone is allowed to eat during the concert) and we listened to a group call Miami3. Their music was called crossover music which contains classical music mixed with jazz, folk, rag, pop, etc. The instruments played were the piano, violin and clarinet. We enjoyed them and 25 minutes is just the right amount of time for a kid to sit. I felt like a youngster myself since most in attendance were over 70 yo!! But everyone was pleasant and it gave Anna some opportunity to socialize with the seniors!!
Anna quickly took these pics with our tiny camera. It was hard to get good shots with all the guests arriving and her feeling a bit awkward about standing in the best spots to get a good shot. But it should give you some idea of the beauty of these windows.
We will go back for about 3 or 4 more concerts over the course of the year. Check out the website to find out what is offered on each of those Wednesdays!!

Monday, September 7, 2009

This and That

It is Labor Day. All the kiddos are home. All the cupboards are becoming bare. Tomorrow the older two will go back to college and I will be going back to the grocery. It is a pattern. A pattern that I will gladly fall into because I enjoy having them around - even though they eat us out of house and home. Where did that phrase come from anyway? Probably from the mother of college kids.
A very low key day here. I made spaghetti sauce and Bill made salsa. We have an overabundance of garden produce. Go figure. So we are coming up with every imaginable way to use tomatoes and peppers. Bill has become quite the salsa maker. Actually, Bill is a very good cook and could easily take that job away from me if he wanted to. But it is one thing that I do rather well and I like leaving him the jobs that he is especially good at. Like the one below.
Gotta love a man that would take on this responsibility. Bill, I appreciate all the little and BIG jobs that you do so that I don't have to. Thanks, Buddy!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Washington, D.C. in 8 hours!!

Since we were only visiting Bethany for a day and a half, we knew we would only have about 8 hours to visit the sights in D.C. So, you ask, how do you see all of D.C. in 8 hours. Well, you don't, so we planned accordingly. We wanted to visit the memorials at night so we went to those from 7-10p.m. on Wed. night. Glad we did! The memorials at night were stunning. Below the WW II memorial with the Washington monument behind. Anna's favorite was the Lincoln Memorial.
I think the most intriguing memorial for me was the one for the Korean War. You just get a very eerie feeling while standing and observing. We visited others, too, but these will be the pictures that I share.

On Thursday morning we rode the metro again ( love the metro) into D.C. with the plan of doing as many of the national museums as we could. Before we left home I had visited the Smithsonian website and downloaded a copy of the treasure hunt for the movie, Night at the Museum - Battle of the Smithsonian. With this we were able to get a glimpse of three museums within our time frame. We saw many exhibits including Oscar the Grouch, Amelia Earhart's plane , Able the space monkey, General Custer's buckskin jacket, Easter Island Head, Giant Squid and T Rex. Below, a picture of Pharaoh Kahmunrah's pile of treasure found at the Smithsonian.

A wonderful trip for us, even though it was very quick. We are hoping Bethany gets sent back to the area for a longer commitment. We are now pros at riding the metro and look forward to seeing everything in D.C. in the future.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Visiting Our Bethany! Silver Spring, Maryland

Bethany's ROTC adventures took her to the far west (Ft. Lewis, Washington) and the far east (Washington, D.C.) this summer. Since we didn't get to talk to her for three whole weeks while she was at Ft. Lewis, you all know that I HAD to go and visit her while she was working at Walter Reed Hospital in D.C. Soooo, I managed to pack up Sir Bill and Bethy's lil sis and we made a whirlwind 2 day trip to the east!! (Mamas should not have to go three whole weeks without even a tiny phone call from their offspring!!).
The army put Bethany up at a very nice hotel in Silver Springs, Maryland. Once we arrived Beth grabbed Sir Bill to go and workout at the fitness club (fanatics) and Anna and I swam in the lovely pool. After a good workout - we were off to eat at the Lebanese Taverna. Bethany is all about trying different ethnic food. Below she and Bill dive in to the appetizer. Our meals were awesome and we each got to taste a variety. Anna was a bit unsure about what was on her plate. She was a trooper and said that her sandwich was the best.
Ah, but look. Joy comes to Anna's heart when we walk out of the restaurant and spot this.
This lovely sign with even more loveliness inside the shop. Cupcakes. Awesome Cupcakes. Made with awesome real butter. The icing on top was so incredible it made me cry! My favorite - chocolate cupcake with vanilla/strawberry icing! They even gave military discounts!! Cake Love, please open up shop in Ohio!! It should probably be northern Ohio so I am not too tempted. But still, please.
Look at Anna below. She is acting as if "real butter" doesn't matter to her. But it does. And it matters even more to her father!!

Silver Springs was a great area. Very crowded but easy to get around by foot. We also visited another restaurant - which by the way - needs to move to Ohio, too. Eggspectations. Wonderful.
The rest of our trip was spent riding the metro and touring D.C. Another post to come.........

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Day Trip - Dayton, Ohio - Riverscape

Our final destination was to Riverscape part of Dayton's metro park system. Riverscape is right along the river and is home to this spray fountain!
Anna enjoyed herself and lucky us - she had the fountain to herself!! I imagine during the early afternoon hours this place is packed. It has a wonderful view of the river and the landscaping is awesome!!
Out on the river are a number of water jets that send shooting water across the river. The central geyser sends water shooting about 200' in the air! Very impressive and fun to watch. Paddle boats and bikes are available for rent here. They also offer laser light shows at various time throughout the warmer months. Also, the Dayton Dragons minor league baseball team plays very close to this park!! So, I know we'll be heading back up in the future!
This was a great one day vacation!! Three different places all in one day! We came home tired but enjoyed every single minute of our time in Dayton!

Day Trip - Dayton, Ohio - Boonshoft Museum of Discovery

After an enjoyable morning at Cox Arboretum we had planned to visit the metro park Riverscape. It was still cloudy and chilly (not enjoyable weather for running through water fountains!!). So, we decided to find this museum in Dayton that many other homeschoolers have told me about. Boonshoft Museum of Discovery is another Dayton gem!! I am very sad that we had not taken advantage of it when my kids were younger. Many great things are found inside including a reduced fee admission price if you belong to the Cincinnati Zoo! Yahoo!!
There is so much to do here that I couldn't explain it all. Anna spent a good half an hour at the color wall. This screen was amazing. Since I am not techno savvy the best I can tell you is that Anna's movements were recorded and then changed into various color combinations and placed on the big screen!! She had the whole room to herself and used the opportunity to do many gymnastics skills and watch them back on the color wall. Below is a press handstand and above is a press handstand (in red) split into four with added color!! Let me tell you the price of admission was worth the fun we had at the color screen! It took back handsprings and front walkovers to a whole new level!!!

Boonshoft works hard at making learning fun. Below, Bill is explaining some sort of water pressure thingy. Bill is good at explaining stuff!! He reads all of the printed materials at all of the museums so he is up to snuff on much more than I am!!

They also have a wildlife of Ohio exhibit which was quite informative. Zoo Keepers come out a various times during the day to offer animal shows. The otters are too cute to miss!!
After Boonshoft the weather turned hot and sunny and even though it was getting close to rush hour we decided to take Anna downtown to the river! Next post, Riverscape.

Day Trip - Dayton, Ohio - Part One- Cox Arboretum

A few weeks ago we took a little road trip up to Dayton, Ohio. There is so much to do in Dayton but on this particular day we decided to concentrate on Cox Arboretum and Riverscape. Unfortunately, the day started out a bit cloudy and chilly; but, fortunately, we were able to change our plans a little and include one more indoor stop - The Boonshoft Museum of Discovery! I'll concentrate on the Cox Arboretum for this post. Wow, what a beautiful place!! About 3 - 4 miles of walking trails intermixed between amazing landscaping. Beautiful flowers, mature trees and little ponds were around every corner. Above, Bill and Anna are chasing each other through a shrubbery maze. The edible garden area is a must see. Both older and younger members of any family would enjoy a picnic here.

Cox Arboretum also is the home of a small butterfly house. We spent a good 20 - 25 minutes inside finding many caterpillars, butterflies and moths. Volunteers were available to answer our questions.

I believe the house is open during the summer months and closes right after Labor Day. Anna enjoyed her time here. I think she would say that her most favorite thing was the border collie, Zip, who guards the ponds and keeps the geese away!! Very enjoyable trip!!
Next stop, Boonshoft!!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Muffin Tin Madness

You all know we love homeschooling around here. But I do admit that some parts of our school day get - well, shall I say boring. Some of you might guess that math or language would be boring. Some of you might guess that science would be boring. And some of you might even guess that just Anna and I being alone together all day might be boring!!! Shame on you. NO - the boring part can be Lunchtime!! Imagine, everyday....at home....with one kid......turkey....grapes....no lunchroom gossip......well, we have a remedy to shake up some of those lunches...........
Muffin Tins!!! I found this idea over at http://michellesjournalcorner.blogspot.com/. She uses muffin tins on Mondays to make fun and exciting lunches. Her kids are much younger than Anna but Anna and I thought the concept was cool and decided to try some this summer. Above is our lunch with garden veggies and dip, homegrown blackberries and yogurt, trail mix and some turkey on multigrain sandwich thin. Love those sandwich thins!! Below is my surprise breakfast for Anna.
She woke up to three different cereals, blueberries and melon! She was so excited about this! I think the mini assortments of cereal are cute!! Notice the letters reading breakfast of "champions"!

If any of you have any fun suggestions for future muffin tin meals let us know. Variety is the spice of life!!!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Fun Morning!

Last week Nicky (Christian's girlfriend) came over to spend the morning with Anna. They went to the fabric store and came back home to sew pillows!! And watch SpongeBob. And eat lunch together.
They had a great time together!! We love this girl and enjoy having her around as much as we can.
Thanks Nicky for planning this activity!! Anna had a great time and made a great memory!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Raising a Boy!

See this young man? Every time he comes into a room I just want to hug him!! Makes me proud to be his mama!!
God has taught me a lot about myself while raising this boy. Number 1: I am better equipped at raising a boy than I am at raising a girl!
Let me explain. I love my girls. I feel I am a great mom to my girls. But in certain ways I have failed them. You see - I am a Tomboy!! Yes, I admit it. I have no fondness for girly-girl stuff. Actually, I think I am impaired in some way. I can't even force myself toward these traits. Fortunately, my oldest daughter has inherited some girlishness from her grandmothers/aunts and can pass it along to her younger sister!
Bringing up my boy, however, has been easy. And refreshing!! Simple is always better. Some examples: my boy does not need a whole lot of clothing options. Tshirts and jeans are fine no matter what the occasion. And I never heard him complain about wearing the same clothes on Wednesday that he wore on Monday!! He didn't care if someone else noticed this, too! Girls, however, seem to have a problem with this.
Another example: soap! My boy is fine with bar soap or even shower soap that is the all in one variety. Hair and body wash combined - so simple. Girls on the other hand have shampoo, conditioner, body wash, a different lotion for everyday and a variety of applicators for each item. This just is overwhelming at times!!
My last example for today is - my boy never needed highlights, a $40 haircut, straightening or curling of the hair to feel attractive or creative. The good old hair clippers have been fine for all of his needs. At the beginning of the summer - he sported a mohawk. Easy, just shave the sides leave hair on top. After that he decided to be bald - easy- just shave the whole head. Now he is stylin it up on the chin! Easy - just shave off what you don't want - keep what you do! So simple and I love the results!
I'll wrap this post up by saying, "Thank You, my son." Thank you for keeping life simple and encouraging me in my strengths!!
And "thank you" for never buying me lotions or fancy soaps or jewelry for my birthdays. I have always loved each and every Starbucks gift card that you have ever given me. So simple. Melts my heart!!