Tuesday, July 31, 2007

50 Things to Do During No-TV Month

I am making a poster to hang up this month, listing 50 things that we can choose to do instead of watch TV. Some of the ideas I've listed in the last 2 posts. But here is the entire list. Are you excited? READY...SET... PULL THE PLUG!

1. Read aloud as a family
2. Work on a prepared Bible Study
3. Sort & organize photos
4. Scrapbooking
5. Listen to stories on tape or CD
6. Cut & file coupons
7. Play cards
8. Go for a walk
9. Play horseshoes
10. Do origami
11. Sew
12. Draw
13. Clean out the garage
14. Write letters
15. Jump rope
16. Stargaze
17. Carve soap
18. Play H*O*R*S*E
19. Play the piano or guitar ( or learn how )
20. Go on a picnic
21. Bake bread
22. Rake the yard
23. Paint a room
24. Build a cardboard or blanket fort
25. Go letterboxing
26. Go swimming at the pool or lake
27. Hula Hoop
28. Do a jigsaw puzzle
29. Practice calligraphy
30. Read a good book
31. Write poetry
32. Organize the closets
33. Play board games
34. Invite friends over for tea
35. Do manicures / pedicures
36. Play marbles
37. Sing hymns and the read the stories behind them
38. Tend the garden
39. Organize and enjoy your collections - baseball cards, stamps, postcards, etc.
40. Ride bikes
41. Do science experiments
42. Build with Legos or other construction toy
43. Learn sign language
44. Make jewelry
45. Go birdwatching
46. Knit or crochet
47. Make greeting cards and envelopes
48. Learn cartooning
49. Play string games ( cat's cradle, etc.)
50. Learn carpentry


Sunday, July 29, 2007

More Ideas for No TV Month

I have 3 days to make a schedule of activities for our No TV Month. I know that if we just try to wing it, there will be more whining and boredom than if I make a plan, even if we have to deviate from that plan from time to time. No TV Month doesn't mean that every night has to be Family Fun Night either! That is something that we will incorporate into our week, hopefully at least 1 0r 2 nights each week, but the goal is also for each person to be able to find ways to entertain him or herself without relying on the television or computer!

One thing my younger kids already do frequently is listen to story tapes ( the "Adventures in Odyssey" programs are a particular favorite ) while they color or draw. Since my 8-yr-old will listen to the same stories over and over and over, we encourage him to use headphones. HearthSong catalog has some neat drawing sets - Fashion Design Studio and Car Design Workshop - that my kids enjoy. They also really like these coloring books from Mindware.

Right now Jason and one of his buddies are sprawled out on the living room floor with a 3-ring binder, empty trading card pages, and a gazillion baseball cards which they are sorting by team and putting into the pages. So working on a collection or a hobby like building models can fill time currently occupied with television and video games.

Letter writing is somewhat of a lost art these days. Email just isn't the same as a letter written on stationery with your own handwriting and mailed to the recipient. So an evening every once in a while spent writing letters to family members, far-flung friends, missionaries, soldiers would be an excellent way to practice writing skills and bless someone else at the same time.

Create greeting cards with an assortment of papers, inks, and rubber stamps! You can even make your own envelopes from white copy paper, or use scraps of leftover gift wrap for a one-of-a-kind special delivery.

There are tons of ideas online. Check out one of my favorite sites for learning activities for kids - http://www.enchantedlearning.com/ There is enough on that site alone to keep your kids busy for an entire month! Another favorite resource of mine is Family Fun magazine, and its online counterpart - http://www.familyfun.com/

Go to The Tree House for a whole lot of ideas for Old Fashioned Family Fun.

Author Jan Brett's website is full of fun activities, games, coloring pages, and more for children. http://www.janbrett.com/


Saturday, July 28, 2007

Things To Do Instead of Watch TV

To go along with my last post about TV-Free August, I thought I'd make a list of things that we can do in the evenings or weekends instead of watch TV.

*How about setting aside 30 minutes to an hour each evening for a family read-aloud. All ages enjoy this, not just small children! You can find lists of good books on many homeschooling sites. Here is one -
1000 Good Books List
*Of course, this would also be an ideal opportunity to spend time in God's Word, either individually or as a family. Work through a prepared Bible Study guide together. Read a bit of a devotional each night. Nourish your spirit.
*Visit the public library and have each person pick out a few books they are interested in - each can pursue their own interests and perhaps try something new, like poetry or a classic novel. At times, I have instructed each of my children to choose books from specific categories, such as 1 biography, 1 history book, 1 craft/how-to book, 1 book of poetry, 1 book about nature, etc.

2. ART
*Fill a box with art supplies such as drawing pencils & erasers, colored pencils, markers, paints & brushes, pastels, etc ( depending on the ages of your children ). Get a few art instruction books and pads of paper. Either hold an art "class" or just let everyone explore on their own. But endeavor to improve and develop skills.
For younger children, you might enjoy the DRAW WRITE NOW series. Notesketch books or Picture Story Books are wonderful for this. They are spiral bound sketch books with the top half of the page blank for drawing and the bottom half lined for writing.
Miller Pads & Paper is my favorite art supply source - everything you could want and great prices too!
*Calligraphy is also a wonderful skill for the older children and adults to learn. It takes a lot of practice ~ but is beautiful and satisfying when mastered.

I have a table full of scrapbooking supplies that I haven't touched in ages. In addition to the years worth of photographs in boxes are the hundreds of digital photos now stored on my computer! Who gets to enjoy them? My kids enjoy working on photo scrapbooks as much as I do ~ yet we never set aside the time to do it! And time is passing, memories are fading... if I don't get these pictures in albums and the memories written down soon, I'll forget who and where and which year and all the wonderful details of our family life that I'd like to preserve and celebrate for my children's children!

My children, especially the younger two, LOVE to play board games and card games. We have a stack of them in the closet. Some are even educational!
It's a shame they don't get used more often...

Take the whole family and go for a walk through a pretty neighborhood or along a nature trail or in the mall or around a track! It doesn't cost a thing and it is good exercise. If you are really adventurous, hop on your bikes or don rollerblades ( with helmets!)

Combine walking with treasure hunting and try letterboxing. Go to http://www.letterboxing.org/ to find out how to get started and find clues to boxes hidden in your area.

self explanatory

hmmm.... time to organize closets, go through old files and toss unneeded papers, empty and organize the "junk drawer", get rid of old Tupperware bowls or videos or toys that nobody uses anymore

Learn to play the piano, learn to sew, learn a foreign language, learn HTML, learn to dance.... or practice a skill that is rusty and hasn't been used much lately

Invite friends over for coffee and conversation, have a cook-out, host a night of playing cards or board games or backyard volleyball, just hang out with people you enjoy and nurture these friendships

More to come...

TV-Free Challenge

August is TV-Free Month!
I have not broached this subject yet with my family but...it is time. We have done this several times in the past - turned off the TV for an entire month - and lived to tell about it! It really is a very good thing - a detoxifying, rehabilitating, family relationship-building, mind-clearing, re-prioritizing exercise. But it has been too long since we have done this and the box has regained control of the minds and hearts of many members of this household. I watch very little TV myself. Last night I sat down and watched the video "Sense and Sensibility" with my daughters. And the whole family has been watching "So You Think You Can Dance". But while my family is watching TV, I am more likely to be in the other room on the computer. Not very condusive to togetherness.
The fact is, TV is a time-waster and relationship-stealer. Whether it is the Disney Channel or Fox News, reality shows or sit coms, PBS or ESPN, it is all mind-numbing. And there are so many benefits to NOT watching TV ~ it is amazing that we let ourselves get sucked in the way we do. So, I challenge you! Go to Revive Our Hearts and read some of the articles. Make a list of things you could do in the evenings or on the weekends INSTEAD of watching TV. Then pull the plug. I'll keep you updated.


Thursday, July 26, 2007

Sarah at camp

Sarah and her campers at New Life Camp.

These are the New Life Camp Staff Girls.

10,000 Steps

I have started walking 2 miles every morning ( have done it for 4 whole days now!) , and wearing a pedometer with the goal of walking at least 10,000 steps a day. That works out to approximately 5 miles, give or take some depending on the length of your stride. I have been reaching about 8,000 steps a day this week.... so I need to look for some additional opportunities to MOVE! Mark's employer has a "10,000 steps" program, offering workers a monetary incentive for walking 10,000 steps a day (5 days a week) for 8 weeks. I don't get a monetary reward, but I hope to lose pounds, which is just as good!
There is a website that outlines a walking program and explains the benefits of exercise ~ as if you didn't know. ;-)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Home Cooking Blog

I have started another blog just for my recipes. Since I have 2 in college, one of whom will be living in an apartment and cooking for himself this semester, I get requests for recipes for the things I make for my family most often. So I am posting them online, to make them easily accessible to my kids and anyone else who is looking for a good recipe that has been "family-approved!"


Sunday, July 22, 2007

A World Without Kids

Does it seem that some people would like to live in a world without kids? Those who scowl, roll their eyes, grimace, or run the other way then they see a mother with one or more babies/ toddlers/ children in tow in a public place - grocery store, airport, restaurant... as if they have a right to a tidy world with no noise, interruption, aggravation, or inconvenience! HELLO, but the most noisy, aggravating, annoying people I generally encounter in public are NOT children. I read this article responding to recent publicity about children and/or moms with babies being harrassed on airplanes, and my response was - AMEN, SISTER!

"Protect Me From the Grown-Ups"

Mark 9:36-37 He [Jesus] took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, "Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me."


Friday, July 20, 2007

Men and Gift-Giving

You MUST go read Kate & Jeff Estes's blog entry for 7/16/07 - "Changes for Noah".
Kate and Jeff take turns writing on the blog, and while Kate gave an update on their baby boy, Noah, and the challenges they face with his illness, Jeff took over at the end to ask for help in the gift-giving department. Oh my goodness! I was laughing so hard I was crying! Maybe because it could have been some guy I know writing it!
Ladies, you'll bust a gut! Guys, keep reading the replies at the end and maybe you'll get some good ideas for the future....hint hint...



I have found a really neat website that you can use for homeschooling or for enrichment for elementary and middle school age kids. It is called Time4Learning. My sister uses this site as her main homeschool curriculum for her 2 girls. I just signed up my 8-yr-old for the purpose of giving him some practice in language arts skills over the summer. He LOVES it! You sign up for the grade level you want for you child in language arts and math. Science and social studies are included too. When you log in, the child can see what he has already finished and what lesson is next. The presentation is very engaging, with fun animation, humor, interesting characters, and lots of positive reinforcement. The child works on lessons for a certain amount of time ( can be adjusted by parent ), and then earns "playground time", which allows him to play for a set amount of time in the game area ( dozens, including pacman, tetris, asteroids, bubble blaster, etc ) You sign up for one month at a time. We've only been using it for about a week, but I'm impressed.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Happy Birthday Princess

Amanda turns 14 yrs old on Monday. Today she had 5 friends over for a Princess Birthday Party! I made a castle birthday cake - 2 13x9 cakes on the bottom and 2 8" round layers on top; toilet paper tubes covered with silver paper, topped with frosted ice cream cones.

The girls got dressed up and made ribbon-covered pens, body glitter ( aloe vera gel mixed with fine glitter) and "princess headgear" from tulle, ribbon, and silk flowers.

Then they divided into teams of 3 and played "fashion designer", creating a gown from tissue paper! ( and tape and staples)

In addition to the cake, we served chocolate-covered strawberries, cream puffs, chicken salad in puff pastry cups, and orange-pineapple punch.

Cream Puffs

1 cup water

1 stick butter

1/4 tsp. salt

1 cup flour

4 eggs

Put water and butter in saucepan, and bring to a rolling boil. Remove from heat and add flour and salt all at once. Beat with a wooden spoon until dough forms a ball. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until dough is smooth and glossy. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes. Cool. To fill, slice top off of cream puff with serrated knife.


1 sm. pkg cheesecake flavor Jello instant pudding mix

1 pint heavy cream

1/2 cup milk

Beat ingredients together with mixer. Chill to set. Spoon a heaping tablespoonful into each cream puff. Drizzle with Chocolate glaze.


Thursday, July 12, 2007


I'm trying to lose weight, I'm very interested in health and nutrition ~ but I also have a wicked sweet tooth and love desserts of all kinds! Check out these blogs ~ I never realized that cupcakes had become so upscale and gourmet!! A plain old frosted cupcake really doesn't tempt me, but these...... I may have to try Cappuccino Chip Cupcakes with Mocha Buttercream or Triple Chocolate and Raspberry Cupcakes.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Close Call

Along with mid-summer heat and humidity comes late afternoon thunderstorms, and today was no exception. Around 6:00 PM the sky got dark and rumbles of thunder could be heard getting closer, and then the sky opened up with a torrential downburst. Suddenly there was a deafening crack of thunder and darkness as the lights in the house went out! My first thought was that the house was hit by lightning. Alex and Amanda came out of their rooms, and we quickly took a look around. Interestingly, all the lights were out EXCEPT the light in the den. While the lights were out in the kitchen and living room, the dishwasher was still running and the clocks on the oven and microwave were still on ~ and they weren't even blinking! I had a pot of water on the stove to boil, and that was still heating. The computer was still on in the living room. So the wall outlets seemed to be working fine. But the electricity was completely out in all 3 bedrooms. Alex pulled down the attic steps and took a look up there, to make sure there was no smoke or hole in the roof... all was okay up there. We took a quick look outside and everything looked fine. Flashlights are always in short supply around here, but Alex used the light on his cellphone (!!) to check out the circuit breakers. He flipped the master switch on and off a couple of times, and the lights came back on. When Mark got home from work a short time later, we went out in the yard and found 3 big pine trees by the corner of the house which obviously had been hit! There was a streak of missing bark from the top of one to about 1/2 way down, and then the 2 trees on either side had streaks from 1/2 way down to the ground. Quite a bit of freshly shattered wood lay on the ground all around as well. Whew! Nothing in the house seems damaged... we were lucky, or blessed.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Back Home Again

We are back home after a week visiting family in Massachusetts! We made great time on the road both up and back, because my hubby decided that in order to beat the holiday week traffic on I-95, we would leave at 1:30 AM. This allowed the drivers ( Mark and Alex ) to get a couple of hours sleep before making the 13 hour trip. The rest of us never went to bed. It worked - 13 hours up, and 12 hours coming back because we took a slightly different route...
That's the fastest we can make that drive. Our worst time ever was 18 hours... let's not talk about that time.

We stayed with my parents and just "hung around" all week. There was a full house, because not only did we descend with 6 people ( Sarah couldn't make the trip because of work ), but the cousins wanted to spend time together so my 2 nieces and my nephew also bunked over at Grammy & Grampa's house!
The weather was quite mild, even cool sometimes ~ I regretted not packing a sweatshirt. But that's so much better than hot and muggy, so no complaints here! My aunt and uncle and a couple of cousins and their families all came over for a cook-out one night. We enjoyed a cook-out with the neighbors on the 4th, and their covered front porch provided shelter from the rain. And we spent an afternoon visiting Mark's college roommate, who happens to be chaplain for both the Boston Red Sox and New England Patriots.

We spent one afternoon visiting my sister at her cafe,Victoria Station Cafe,
in Putnam, CT. They are getting ready to move into a new, bigger location just two doors down from where they are now, and the excitement is growing. Chris and Dave make all their own pastries, so of course we had to sample some cannolis, lobster tails, fruit tarts, lemon squares, bicotti, and even some savory chicken pot pie. yum yum yum And of course, the kids wanted frozen cappucinos and smoothies. There's even something for the youngest - YoYo Cappucino ( so named by my niece when she was about 3 ) - which is milk with chocolate and coffee syrups and whipped cream.

Although Mark's family lives close by, we almost didn't get to see them this trip. His mother and his sister and her family were expecting to return home Tuesday after a vacation in Europe. But their flight out of London was cancelled due to the bomb scare at Heathrow, so they had to reschedule another flight for Thursday. Fortunately, they did get home safely and we got to spend one evening with them before we headed back south.

It was also fun getting to meet cousin Luigi, my dad's second cousin from Italy who is also visiting my parents for the summer. He is 27 yrs old, a language teacher who speaks 3 languages fluently - Italian, Spanish, French. He came here to improve his English, which really isn't bad at all! He said that he was surprised by 2 things so far ~ that so many American homes are "in the forest", as he put it , and that we all didn't eat at McDonald's every day!!!


Thursday, July 5, 2007

A World Without Public Schools

A fascinating article from the June 4 Weekly Standard, written by a professor from Yale University, asks the question, "Would America be better off without public schools?", and goes on to prove that the historic national concensus supporting public education has vanished!


Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Happy Fourth of July


Irving Berlin, 1918; revised 1938
While the storm clouds gather far across the sea,
Let us swear allegiance to a land that's free,
Let us all be grateful for a land so fair,
As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer.
God bless America, land that I love
Stand beside her and guide her
Through the night with the light from above
From the mountains
To the prairies,
To the ocean white with foam
God bless America,
My home sweet home.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

My Quest for Organization!

I'm reading/rereading a couple of books this week in my seemingly endless quest to better organize my home and my life!

Organizing from the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern
Organizing Plain and Simple by Donna Smallin

Currently there is far too much stuff in my home that does not have an "address" ~ that is, a place where it permanently resides and can be returned to after use. Big problem with 7 people living in 2000 sq. ft. I don't have a natural affinity for organization, but I do have a very strong desire to BE organized. I get very cranky when things are too cluttered and untidy. I spend hours trying to come up with a better system!
One tip that I read today is to look at whatever room you are trying to organize and think of it in zones, based on the activities that take place there. This is like a Kindergarten Classroom, which has the Book Corner, Painting Center, Block Center, Housekeeping Corner, etc. So my bedroom has a Sleeping Zone, Dressing Zone, Reading/Rest Zone, Home Office Zone, etc. The things I need for each of these activities should be stored and arranged close to the area where that activity takes place. In other words, don't store linens/ blankets for the bed in another part of the house. Or have everything needed for dressing in the morning conveniently located close together in or near the closet. This also made me think of some of the things I currently have in my bedroom that really shouldn't be there. For instance, I have a table full of photos and scrapbooking materials, which is a jumbled mess and which I haven't touched in months ( okay, years?) I also have my sewing machine and sewing kit in my bedroom, but fabric and boxes of other sewing supplies ( buttons, thread, etc ) in the closet in the family room. hmmmm
I don't do those activities in my bedroom because I'm away from the family, and because my husband tends to go to bed early, which is the time when I'm most likely to scrapbook or sew anyway!!! SO, I need to rethink the location of those items! I'm learning some useful things that I just need to APPLY!

I recently learned that there are quite a few others like me ~ those who make detailed plans and schedules and lists and systems.... but can't quite implement them. Part of the problem is that we are always looking for something better. We are great at coming up with ideas, but not so great at utilizing those ideas. Anyway, somebody started a Yahoogroups called "Schedulizers" just for people like that, and within 2 days there were over 100 people signed up.