Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Goodwill Hunting: American Girl Edition!

See this little beauty (next to my little beauty)?

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Her name is Mabel. And she is an American Girl Doll.
But there is a huge difference between this doll and 

every other American Girl doll we own: The price.

Diana found this darling doll at the local. K.A.R.M thrift store 

for ....

Wait for it...


Yep. 2 bucks. 2 smackeroos.

Granted, sweet Mabel isn't perfect.
Her legs are loose and her hair is a bit of a mess,
but did I mention she was


How do you beat a deal like that??
Well, you don't!
And I have just about the happiest 8 year old
on the planet because not only did she find Mabel and rescue her she also payed for her with her own money!

ETA: We've since put Mabel through our home-made Doll salon and spa and she cleaned up beautifully!!

On becoming Jewish in a jiffy.

Tonight, as we celebrate the first night of Hanukkah, I have a confession to make.  
I'm Jewish.
Well, I am!
Or I was.

17 years ago, Hanukkah saved me.
It saved me from awkwardness.
It saved me from explanation.
It saved me from judgment and
most of all it saved me from pity.

As soon as the Thanksgiving dinner had been cleared off the table the questions started:
"Aren't you excited for Christmas?"

"Aren't you going home to Florida?"
"Who are you spending Christmas with?"

"Are you suurre you're not carrying twins? You're getting awfully big!"

And as soon as I told them that I was doing nothing, nowhere with no-one you could see the well meaning (but completely misguided) gleam in their eye that could only mean one thing: They were going to "adopt" me. They were going to take this young, dumb, pregnant girl home and make her one of the family.

The out pouring of invitations to holiday parties and Christmas Eve family dinners was nice, but it was also overwhelming. I didn't want to spend my Holidays with people I hardly knew. I didn't want to spend my holidays doing anything! I just wanted to work, come home, sleep and await January's reprieve from all things Christmas.

One night in Early December as I got yet another grilling on my would-be Christmas plans, I just blurted it out: "Oh, I don't celebrate Christmas. I'm Jewish." And just like that: a Hanukkah miracle!! The invitation was retracted. Apparently, a declaration so dramatic as being Jewish meant I no longer needed their charity or their pity or their well meaning
(but completely misguided) attempts at adopting me for the holidays. The thing about northern Utah is that the Jewish population is all but non-existent. Thankfully, there was no one there to call me out or test me on my actual Jewishness. For all intents and purposes I was free!

And so, I spent my very first Christmas Eve alone.
And it was okay. I was okay.

So now, Hanukkah is one of my soft spots. And why shouldn't it be? It is the celebration of miracles.
Thousands of years ago Jews had only enough oil to burn for one day and yet it burned for 8.
Seventeen years ago I needed a little "oil" for my soul. Just enough to burn through the holidays and yet it still burns, even today.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Easy Peasy Breakfast Migas

Breakfast. It's what for dinner!

If only my kids knew that when I break out the ol' "It's Breakfast for Dinner" scheme, it really means that Mom has neglected the grocery shopping and can't find a recipe that calls for pork and beans, half a jar of pickles, strawberry yogurt and a cheese stick.

Last night I found myself staring into the empty expanse of our refrigerator wondering what on earth I was going to pull together for dinner when I realized I had just the right ingredients to make Migas!

If you've never had Migas, they're just scrambled eggs on steroids.
And you can add just about anything you like! (I love to add peppers, sausage and olives when I have them on hand!)

These are so delicious and easy to make that you're going to make them anytime you realize you've forgotten to buy food all the time!

What you need:
- 6-7 Eggs
- 1/2 cup of milk
- 5 Corn tortillas
- 1/2 cup diced onion
- chopped bacon (3 or 4 strips cut up)
- salt & pepper to taste

Part 1.
- Cut up your tortillas into bite size pieces. Set aside.

Part 2.
- Break your eggs into a medium size mixing bowl.
- Add the milk
- Mix until well blended

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Part 3.
- In a frying pan saute onion until tender.
- Add bacon to onion and cook until done.
- Add egg mixture and cut tortillas to frying pan.
- Scramble until eggs are done.
- Salt and pepper to taste.

Part 4.

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Monday, September 09, 2013

All Your Perfectly Delivered Lines...

It was by accident that I found this song by the Civil Wars.
Life is weird like that.
I didn't know I needed to hear it,
and now I need to hear it often.

And I know someone else who probably needs to hear it too.
But, I can't exactly come right out and say:
"Hey! I think you might be going through a crisis so listen to this song!"
Instead I'll hope that person stumbles across this blog and listens.

I hope they know they are not alone.

And if I could I would hold their hand and
dance round and round the flames.

It’s not your eyes , it’s not what you say

its not your laughter that gives you away
you’re just lonely, you’ve been lonely too long
all your acting, your thin disguise
all your perfectly delivered lines
they don’t fool me, you’ve been lonely too long
let me in the walls you’ve built around
we can light a match and burn them down
let me hold your hand and dance round and round the flames
in front of us, dust to dust
you’ve held  your head up, you’ve fought the fight
you bear the scars, you’ve done your time
listen to me , you’ve been lonely too long
let me in the walls you’ve built  around
we can light a match and burn them down
let me hold your hand and dance round and round the flames
in front of us, dust to dust
you’re like a mirror, reflecting me
takes one to know one, so take it from me
you’ve been lonely, you’ve been lonely too long
we’ve been lonely, we’ve been lonely too long

Monday, September 02, 2013

Sometimes I ache.

Sometimes I ache.
Not the physical aches of everyday life, 

but the deeper, tormented, heart wrenching aches.
The aches that remind you of every mistake you've ever made
and every opportunity you've let slip past.
The merciless whispers that remind you that you're doing it all wrong. 

I ignore these aches and pains.
They are distorted and grotesque.
But every once in a while,
something slips across the line
and forces me to dip my head into the

Then the walls are breached.
And I am forced to confront the source of my pain.
The Demons of my actions past.
We see each other. Eye to eye.
I am kicked down by the knowingness of their stares.
They wrap me up in the weight of my regret.
They stroke my hair with the fingers of my shame.
And they sing to me of my loneliness.

Salvation comes in the form of
My Happiest memories fighting to the front lines to defend me.
They rescue me from my tormentors.
They absolve me of my guilt.
And together, running through the highlight reel of my life,
we push the Demon's away and back into the darkness.
Where they belong.

And when they return,
Slipping past the Sentinels
I'll fight them off once more.
But, I'll need no sword, no profound words.
I will wear my blessings as my armor.
And then the Demon's will cower
because they will know they have finally been defeated.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Homeschool Helper: Weekly Planners for Elementery and High School Use.

If homeschooling came with a motto I think it'd be:
"Homeschooling: Thy name be Trial and Error!"

Six years ago I began my homeschooling adventure with the kind of naive enthusiasm that guarantees almost immediate failure.
Yes, I was one of those parents. The kind who knew exactly what the perfect homeschool day should look like. You know, where the children sit obediently at their desks, listen intently to every word you say and do there assignments in a timely manner... And then reality happened and I've been scrambling to keep my grip ever since!

Don't misunderstand me. I -L.O.V.E- homeschooling. And I relish the challenges it offers. I have spent quite a few hundreds of hours over the years scouring the internet for help. So, when I find something that just "clicks" with me I'm anxious to share my find with anyone out there who is also seeking.

This weeks "find" wasn't actually found.
It was created (kind of)  by yours truly.
I call it: PLANNERS.
Like I said, I didn't so much as it create it,
as tweek it around to suit my needs.

If you google "homeschool planners" you will receive over a half million results. And there is every type of planner you can imagine.
Some are weekly, some are monthly and *GASP* some are yearly. Yes Virginia, there are some amazing super-homeschool-parents who can actually plan out an entire year of curricula *and stick to it* !!
I am no such parent. I am quite comfortable planning out one week at a time. And when life throws us speed bumps, it's easy to move a missed assignment without messing up your entire life.

But even knowing what kind of planner I wanted, I still wasn't able to find a planner that suited our schedule and curriculum. Most of the weekly planners I'd found online break up the day into hourly increments. We don't roll like that.  Considering that my kids are the ones doing the work, they choose which assignments and projects they want to work on first. Sometimes they follow the order of their planner, but most times they tackle the harder subjects first and then move on to the less intimidating assignments.

In the end, after all of my Googling and Trial-and-error-ing I had a general idea of what I wanted and sat down to make my own planners.
I ended up making two.
One for the High-school kid.
One for the Elementary kids.

This is the elementary school planner:

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I like this planner because it is simple and very easy to use.
Each day of the week has a place for me to write the assignment in the upper part of the box. When the assignment has been graded I enter the grade in the lower half.
And here is that same planner in use:
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The planner for the high-schooler was different because I don't need to record my daughters grades on her planner.
I just need to give her a general guideline of what she's expected to complete each day. (We're using Time4learning so at the end of each week, I log-in and print out all of her grades and staple to them to the corresponding planner.)

This is the weekly high school planner:

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And again, here is the high school planner in use:
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If you think either of these planners would be a good fit for you and your classroom, email me at and I'll be happy to send you a blank. (Please be sure to tell me how many subjects you want on each planner!)

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Kopycat Kitchen: Olive Garden's Chicken Gnocchi Soup

A few weeks ago my friend, Kellie, and I found ourselves in the enviable position of being without any children on our favorite shopping day.
Seizing upon the opportunity we spoiled
ourselves and indulged in lunch at the nearest Olive Garden.
I love O.G's Chicken Gnocchi soup and left lunch feeling inspired.

As soon as we came home I searched the internet (Ok, it was just Pinterest) and found what I hoped would be the perfect Kopycat recipe to make for the family.

You can find the pin HERE to link you to the original recipe!

And here are the results:
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It was dee-licious!
Next time though, I'll use fresh gnocchi
(I used the vacuum packed variety).
I'll also increase some of the ingredients to make more broth.
After it had cooled it had more a gumbo consistency.
All the same, it was a huge hit at our place!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Homeschooling high school: FREE language courses by duoLingo

After years of trial and error I think I've found the last language program we'll ever need for our high-schooler.

And we have tried quite a few programs.
- We've tried the ol' textbook approach. (In which you order used textbooks from ebay and hope for the best) And they are impossible to teach from unless you're already a fluent speaker.  

- We've tried Muzzy. Which is a great program but definitely aimed at a much younger student.

-We've tried LiveMocha. An internet site that specializes in language. This was a good program while it was free, but about a year in, they started to charge for different parts of the site. It also requires community interaction which had some minor drawbacks as well. It just didn't suit us.

But now, I think, I've found a winner.
I present to you duoLingo !
Why do I love this program?
1. It offers multiple languages: French, German, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese. Which, you can learn simultaneously if you so wish.
2. It is so easy to use!
3. It is very interactive.
4. And not only is it 100% FREE , there are absolutely no ads. None.

Now, I downloaded Duolingo from the Apple iStore and the review I'm offering is based on our experience using it on an Apple iPad.

So, let's explore!

When you open the program you'll see this screen:
I chose to learn German, but if I wanted to change to Italian or Spanish, I'd click on the flag to the right of the duoLingo text.
Next, click on the first lesson. "Basics 1"

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When you click on that box, this screen pops up:

You can scroll left and right. This section has a total of 5 lessons.
Notice that tiny little icon in the upper right corner that says "Test Out". If you think you're skill set is beyond the basic lessons you can take a short quiz that will let you "test out" of that lesson. If like me, you are not that proficient: Click on lesson 1.
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This screen will pop up:
In the top right corner you'll notice you have 4 hearts.
4 hearts = 4 lives. When you run out of lives, the lesson is over.
But do not fret! You can start over immediately!
The first question is pretty simple, translate the sentence from English to German. You do this by choosing the tiles at the bottom of the screen and placing them in the correct order. When you think you've got it right, click the green "check" by at the bottom of the screen. In this instance, I was correct and the green banner popped up. Click the green "Continue" button to move on.
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This is a slightly different format.
In this question you're asked to translate from German to English.
You can click on each German word for a pronunciation and a definition. Then choose the proper tiles at the bottom of the screen and drag them to make the correct sentence.
I would choose the tiles "A", "boy", "is", "eating", "an", & "apple" to form the sentence: "A boy is eating an apple."
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This next set of pictures shows a multiple choice question in action.
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Here is another way a question can be formatted:
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Now, this is my favorite part of duoLingo:
The audio questions.
First, read the instructions.
In this question you're asked to say: "Du bist eine Frau".
Click on the large round microphone button.
It is ready when the microphone turns blue.
Next, say the sentence clearly and slowly.
(I've noticed if I talk to fast it can't always identify each word)
When  you've stopped speaking the blue light will turn off and it will say "grading".
If you've got it right the green banner will fly, if not it will allow you to re-try a total of 3 times.
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You won't always get the questions right.
In those instances the dreaded red banner will fly and will steal away 1 of your red hearts.
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Most lessons have 10 questions.
When you reach the end, this little screen pops up:
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Followed by this one:
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Remember the home screen? Let's look at it again:
I did well on "Basics 1", but I don't really want to move on to "Basics 2". Not yet anyway. If I want to refresh, I can click on the blue "Strengthen Skills" bar on the bottom left side of the screen. Now, I can review vocabulary and work on sentence structure before moving on to the next lesson.
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And there you have it!

I am so excited that I stumbled across duoLingo, and I'm happy that I can pass this invaluable resource on to you and your home classroom! If you have any questions, feel free to comment in the comments section!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Homeschooling High School : Time4learning FINALLY adds a high school curriculum.

The day I've been waiting 5 years for is here!

Time4learning announced that they are FINALLY adding the high school curriculum we've all wanted!

Little is known at this point about it, but it should be available around the middle of August.

I'll add further updates as we know them, and I'll give an in-depth review after we've used it for a few months!

Check it out!

Hale Family Reunion: The Final Entry

And then there were 2.
Families that is.

The Fiore's and the Odom's.

I felt like we just did not get enough time together.
From the moment we pulled up at the hotel we hit the ground running.

But on Saturday night, the last night, we found the time.

After cleaning up from the beach, we met my Mom and Dad at Sonny's BBQ for our farewell dinner.
The dinner was great, but the company was better.
I miss dinners with my folks.
I miss that Diana can't climb up on her
Mimi's lap whenever she wants.
But I'm grateful ... oh, so grateful for any
opportunity that we have to break bread together.

After dinner, we did a little shopping
and then went back to the hotel to hang out.

The next morning my parents flew home and
we made our way back to Tennessee.

I miss everyone already.

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