Be a magical librarian, choose your own adventure, get your Shakespeare on, and more games we want to give and get and (mostly) play this holiday season.
What’s the best way to choose your family’s new favorite board game? Take inspiration from the games you go back to again and again.
If you love: Balderdash
Put your storytelling and bluffing skills to the test in this game, which asks players to take turns making up a story based off one of the game’s picture cards. When the story’s done, all the players choose a card from their stack of images that could be about the story—then take turns trying to guess which card actually inspired the story.
Hooray! Suzanne is back with this week’s edition of Stuff We Like, most of which I plan to borrow for my own homeschool life, stat.
Around the Web
What’s better than a summer reading list? A LIST of summer reading lists!
As a long-time reader of science fiction and fantasy mostly written by white men I’ve really been enjoying the new books by authors like .N.K.Jemisin, Karen Lord, and Zen Cho. And (speaking of lists) here’s a great list of authors past and present to help diversify your sf/fantasy reading:
I’m also enjoying Black Nerd Problems, a website with commentary, news, and reviews about diversity in comics, television, movies, video games, and all things geeky. (For a sample, check out this recent article on cultural appropriation.)
One of each, please! (My birthday is in October, but don’t feel you have to wait ‘til then.)
At home | school | life
in the magazine: The summer issue is coming out any minute. That means even more summer reading lists. Time to clear out some room on your library card!
on the blog: If you can’t wait another minute to fill up your library tote, there are some great summer readaloud ideas in the July Pep Talk.
in the classroom: The fall class schedule isn’t officially out yet, so I’ll just mention that if you are looking for a U.S. History class that is pretty much based around Broadway musical numbers, you are in luck. (Hamilton and 1776, together at last!)
Just finished Nimona, the much praised web comic collection about teen shapeshifter Nimona, sidekick to the evil Lord Blackheart, and am ready to pass it on to the 13-year-old, who has discovered (after reading Persepolis that she really likes graphic novels. (Did I mention that Lord Blackheart’s hero nemesis is Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin?)
In the category of “Arrgh! What do you MEAN the third book isn’t out yet?!?”, I’d like to encourage Robert Jackson Bennett to hurry up with the final book (following City of Stairs and City of Blades) of his Divine Cities trilogy. I’m in love with these books and this world, not to mention Bennett’s smart, strong, and in-charge female protagonists.
Fortunately, Jane Smiley recently did finish her Last Hundred Years trilogy, a multi-generational saga following one Iowa farming family from 1920 to 2020, so I was able to power through all three (wonderful) books, me Some Luck, Early Warning, nd Golden Age, in one (long) go.
And Amy tells me I’ve been sorely remiss in leaving it this long, but I finally got around to reading some Chuck Klosterman, specifically his I Wear the Black Hat, essays on the nature of villainy. I’m glad I’ve got more by him to look forward to!
At Home—Special Board Game Edition!
We’re heading off for our annual vacation to meet up with family and do as little as possible for a week, so it’s time to pack the boardgames! ndemic s one of my all-time-favorites, so I’m excited to try out Pandemic Legacy, hich is an “epic twist” on the game with “ever-changing elements”! I have no idea what that means, but I’m in.
For a person who can’t read Stephen King or watch a horror movie, I’m remarkably fond of “horrific” games, so we’ll definitely play a couple of rounds of Arkham Horror and and Betrayal at House on the Hill.
These days, I mostly prefer cooperative games, but I’ll make an exception for Portal: The Uncooperative Cake Acquisition Game.
We’re taking a break from our weekly pep talks this summer, so for June and July, we’re hooking you up with an over-stuffed monthly pep talk instead. We’ll be back in August with our regular weekly pep talks.
10 FUN THINGS TO DO THIS MONTH
July 4 is Independence Day, sure, but it’s also Sidewalk Egg Frying Day.
Celebrate Yellow Pig Day on July 17. I don’t totally understand this mathematician’s holiday (devised by two students studying the number 17), but any day that celebrates math, has its own songbook of Yellow Pig carols, and ends with a Yellow Pig cake is okay in my book.
What better way to celebrate Ice Cream Month than by making your own ice cream? Bonus: It’s a legitimate science experiment.
Video Games Day is July 8, and Suzanne’s got us all excited about checking out the Uncharted series, starring rakish adventurer Nathan Drake. (Add him to the list of people Nathan Fillion should be playing in a film adaptation.)
The easiest summer art project: Make sun prints.
Make a set of rock dominoes to play all summer. (River rocks are ideal for this, so collecting them is a great excuse to take a little river field trip.)
July is Picnic Month! I love the idea of painting a chess/checkers board on your picnic blanket for picnic gaming.
Make your own wooden stilts to get into the spirit of Walk on Stilts Day (July 27).
Celebrate Uncommon Instrument Awareness Day by making your own vuvuzela (a South African horn) out of recycled materials.
Get crafty on Thread the Needle Day (July 25) by making some easy-to-sew and completely adorable bean bags.
10 IDEAS FOR THIS MONTH’S DINNERS
I love how versatile these (gluten-free!) farinata are. Think of them as chickpea pancakes, and top them generously with whatever looks good at the farmers market.
You don’t really need a recipe to make a rainbow cauliflower rice bowl, so experiment with whatever veg you have on hand.
Put a summertime twist on Taco Tuesday with chipotle quinoa sweet potato tacos.
Make a batch of freezer-ready mini pizzas on a quiet day, and you’ll have an emergency dinner/lunch/snack whenever you need it.
I want to make a batch of this pickle-brined fried chicken for our next family picnic.
Break out of your grilling rut with grilled sweet potatoes.
This Big Green Cobbler with leeks, gruyere, and split peas is like a vegetarian take on the best chicken pot pie you ever had.
Summer is all about salad for dinner—and this Thai grilled corn and peach quinoa salad looks like a great addition to your summer salad lineup.
Another dose of inspiration for your grilling menu: Soy-based chicken kebabs with sesame-citrus sprinkle.
Summer squash pizza with goat cheese and walnuts puts a seasonal spin on pizza night.
FOUR GREAT READALOUDS
Seven Daughters and Seven Sons is a retelling of an Iranian folk tale, in which the fourth of seven daughters sets off to make her family’s fortune, disguised as a boy. I’m a sucker for a girl-powered fairy tale, so it’s no surprise I love this one.
Speaking of spunky girls, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is as fun to read aloud as the Lemony Snicket books: plenty of nefarious villains, dramatic plot twists, and, yes, two plucky heroines who must save themselves from an evil governess’s plot.
If you’re looking for laughs, get yourself a copy of Daniel Pinkwater’s Yobgorgle, Mystery Monster of Lake Ontario. I like to think of Pinkwater as the elementary school set’s Douglas Adams, and this zany tale of a boy who takes up monster hunting is a delightful example of why.
New York City’s pushcarts declare war on the trucks in The Pushcart War, creating hilarious city-wide chaos.
ONE THOUGHT TO PONDER
IN CASE OF EMERGENCY (BECAUSE SOMETIMES YOU NEED SOMETHING STRONGER THAN INSPIRATION)
Looking to add a little more critical thinking to your homeschool life this summer? We’ve got the scoop on some useful resources, from online games to full-blown curriculum, that will help you out.
nature study: What's At Stake? #18
Turn your next geocaching adventure into a test of logic. (You don’t have to be in Pennsylvania to play, but if you like the idea of playing closer to home, why not create and submit your own geocaching logic puzzle?)
board game: WFF’n’PROOF
Lots of games teach critical thinking skills, but this board game was developed specifically to introduce students to the fundamentals of symbolic logic.
computer game: FTL: Faster Than Light
Your goal in FTL is always the same: deliver an important message to the Federation without getting captured or stalled by ship malfunctions along the way. But thanks to a pretty darn sophisticated game matrix, this 2-D game never plays the same way twice. Every decision you make, from quests you agree to take on to what upgrades you give your spaceship, affects your gameplay. This is a game that rewards thoughtful, intelligent playing over shoot-and-run-as-fast-as-you-can strategies.
book: What Is the Name of This Book?: The Riddle of Dracula and Other Logical Puzzles
Add mathematician and logician Raymond M. Smullyan’s puzzle labyrinth to your summer reading list, and your brain will get a serious workout. (The book includes solutions—with detailed explanations.)
workbook: Mind Benders
I know! We never recommend workbooks. But this series (with books for ages from preschool through high school) encourages to students to deduce increasingly sophisticated connections between people, places, and things to solve puzzles. It’s pretty awesome.
curriculum: Building Thinking Skills
It’s easy to find critical thinking resources for younger kids, and by high school, students are ready to tackle inductive and deductive logic—but what about middle school? The Critical Thinking Co.’s Building Thinking Skills curriculum is the perfect critical thinking resource for this in-between age.
class: How to Think Like a Philosopher
The University of Hawai’s’s Philosophy for Children program developed a toolkit to help kids break down big ideas by looking at some of the assumptions, implications, examples, and reasons behind them. Shelly Denkinger uses the toolkit as a basis for exploring everything from pop culture to Plato in this five-week class for high school students. It’s a great first step to more in-depth philosophy studies.
Happy May, everyone! And special thanks to Amy for letting me take over Stuff We Like this week! I’m busy getting ready for the summer Hamilton History class (register today!) so I’ll do my best to limit the number of Hamilton-related links, but I can’t help starting off with one (or two or three…)
Around the Web
Awesome Hamilton Broadway Crossover Pt. 1: For when you’ve memorized the cast recording and start wondering how other great Broadway shows would sound Hamilton-ized, here’s the cast doing their version of “The Ballad of Sweeney Todd” (Demon barber Sweeney Todd/I am the demon barber Sweeney Todd…)
Awesome Hamilton Broadway Crossover Pt. 2: A conversation between my favorite Alexander Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and my favorite John Adams, aka the actor William Daniels, from the other great Broadway musical about American history (and my favorite July 4th movie-watching tradition), 1776
Speaking of politics, it’s time for my election-year rewatch of The West Wing (I’m also enjoying Joshua Malina’s new podcast The West Wing Weekly) and I was thrilled to see C.J. Cregg herself taking the podium at a recent White House press briefing (and was reminded of these two adorable West Wing PSAs from a few years back—walk and talk, anyone?)
And now that I seem to have established a theme, here’s #Ham4Ham in the West Wing with Cabinet Battle #1 (makes me wonder why I even bring the thunder…)
at home | school | life
in the classroom: Speaking of Hamilton, registration is now open for our summer classes
in the store: Also open: registration for our awesome Homeschool 101 workshop
on the blog: I think we can all identify with the messiness of homeschooling
on instagram: Any excuse to quote Umberto Eco
in the archives: What to read next if you loved Lemony Snicket
My non-fiction reading at the moment is all Hamilton-related—my favorite so far has been Ron Chernow’s Washington: A Life (in which I learned that during his second term George Washington himself was challenged “to point out ONE SINGLE ACT which unequivocally proves you a FRIEND to the INDEPENDENCE of AMERICA,” proving that partisan political speech in this country has always been nasty and bone-headed, a fact I find strangely reassuring at this time of year). I’m midway through Founding Brothers by Joseph J. Ellis, a much shorter book which focuses on several specific events of interest to Hamilton fans (the duel, the Jefferson-Hamilton-Madison dinner, etc.) in which Ellis memorably describes the secretary of the Treasury’s “dashing Hamilton-to-the-rescue demeanor.” (Now I want a Hamilton-to-the-rescue t-shirt.)
For lighter, non-Hamilton-related reading, I’ve been working my way through Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher mysteries (the racier inspiration for the also-very-enjoyable and exceptionally-pretty-to-look-at television series, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries) from Cocaine Blues to the latest installment, Murder and Mendelssohn, and am hoping that Greenwood will give us some more, now that I’ve become very fond of the indomitable Phryne and her household of devoted minions.
Current read-aloud: the final book of Catherynne M. Valente’s Fairyland series, The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home, which I confess to reading more slowly than usual, as I’m not ready to say goodbye to this world.
Is it weird that I pre-ordered Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter so that I would get it the day it came out, but haven’t actually read it yet? I like looking at it on my shelf, anticipating how much fun it will be to read, and taking it out every once in a while to admire its encyclopedia-like loveliness and maybe give it a little hug. That’s super-weird, isn’t it?
Superheroes, Pt. 1 (Marvel edition): We’ve already got our tickets for Captain America: Civil War (opening this weekend!) and family relationships are starting to break down along Team Iron Man vs. Team Captain America lines. (For the record, it’s Steve Rogers all the way.)
There’s a new Mapp and Lucia on PBS! My well-read copy of E. F. Benson’s Make Way for Lucia is dog-eared and falling apart and I’m a huge fan of the 1980’s adaptation (starring Prunella Scales, Geraldine McEwan, and Nigel Hawthorne), so I’m very excited to return to the 1930’s and the seaside town of Tilling.
International Tabletop Day was last Saturday (mark your calendars for next year) and this year we tried out Cash N Guns and Last Night On Earth at a local game store. (Apparently we were feeling a bit violent. We’ll have to play a couple of rounds of Pandemic to save the world and make up for it.)
Coming up in May: We’ll soon be celebrating my eldest’s 18th birthday AND his high school graduation! I couldn’t be happier to reach such major milestones. I also may be having a small nervous breakdown. Clearly, it’s time to pour a glass of wine and listen to Hamilton.
Have a great week!
Games make learning math easy and fun, so they're perfect for your elementary homeschoolers. These games are Shelli's homeschool favorites.
This week most homeschoolers are getting back into the swing of things after a few weeks off for winter break. It’s hard for everyone – adults and children – to start getting up early and getting back to work, so here are a few ideas to make that transition a little more bearable. Please add your ideas in the comments section!
Play Games :: Instead of pulling out the curriculum, pull out your games. Pick the most educational games you have on hand and do it during your regular school time. If you like to get up a little earlier in the morning for your homeschool routine, use the games as a way to ease back into that schedule. It’s much easier waking up for a fun game than spelling lesson!
Plan a Field Trip :: If you spent a good portion of your holiday in your pajamas, sleeping late and watching movies, you might find that planning a field trip will help you ease back into a routine. You’ll need to get up early, get dressed, and best of all, you can plan a trip to a place that will spark someone’s interest. Ask your child to take a notebook and sketch their favorite exhibits or jot down ideas for follow-up once they get home.
Plan a Trip to the Library :: This is easy, and it feels good to watch our kids pick out their own books. While you are there, you might pick up that history book you’ve wanted to read to the kids too. Once you’re home, you have a stack of books that will kick start your new season of learning.
Find a Good Book :: You might not need a stack of library books, but just one great book that pulls everyone together on the sofa. And especially if you spent most of your holiday visiting relatives, dressing up, and being on your best behavior, you might enjoy easing back into your regular routine by cuddling together in your pajamas for a good readaloud. (Click here to check out some books we've recommended in the past.)
Watch a Documentary :: Do you want to do something educational, but you’re still not ready to do much planning? Try getting the family together to watch a documentary. See Family Time: Our Favorite Documentaries for a must-see list of documentaries.
Make Art Your Lesson :: A great first day back might be an art day for your family. Be sure to check all the past issues of home/school/life for Amy Hood’s great ideas on how to explore art with your children. You can read one of her columns online too.
Ask Your Child How to Begin :: Finally, if your child is just not transitioning well, or even if he is, but you want to make the transition fun, ask him what he’d like to do to get back into the swing of things. How about research a new subject? Make a poster. Make a film. Or do a puppet show? You might kick start a whole new project!
This week we celebrated my birthday, knocked out a big chunk of the fall issue, which just may be our best issue yet, and logged a lot of couch hours. (Only three more weeks until one of my boots is scheduled to come off!)
around the web
I love this: A hotel in Sweden keeps your sourdough starter going while you’re on holiday.
Hilarious: Five television shows they will never stop making. (The Adventures of Mr. Superabilities and Detective Ladyskeptic!)
If you have kids in college, you will appreciate these letters from medieval students hitting their parents up for more money.
on the blog: We’re digging Shelli’s husband’s online history lectures. Check them out if you haven’t already.
on pinterest: These DIY architectural building blocks would be fun to make together.
from the archives: I love Idzie’s post on gaps in unschoolers’ educations. (Spoiler: They are nothing to worry about.)
I didn’t love Louis Sachar’s new book Fuzzy Mud, which made me sad because I always love Louis Sachar’s books. The kids thought it was just okay. Maybe we’re missing something?
I can’t cook, so I’m reading cookbooks nonstop. Right now I want to make everything in the Salad Samurai cookbook, especially the grilled miso apples and Brussels sprouts salad.
I finally convinced the kids that we should read Museum of Thieves, and they are totally enraptured. You should definitely include this one on your library list!
My friend convinced me that Grey’s Anatomy is the show to binge-watch if you’re stuck on the couch. She may be right. (It’s streaming on Netflix.)
We’ve fallen into the habit of playing Power Grid in the evenings. I seriously think this game could replace the average high school economics class.
As summer winds down, I’m finding myself walking the line between doing more research, getting organized, and making plans for the year, while also enjoying the last of what summer has to offer – movie nights, peaches, and hours-long board games with the family.
around the web
Homeschooling has changed a lot since we started 18 years ago. This article from Time does a great job of highlighting the modern homeschooling movement and how it has evolved over the years. (And I always like reading about homeschooling!)
I’ve been following Amanda Blake Soule’s wonderful blog, SouleMama, for over five years (her books are great too!). Reading her blog is like finding a little corner of peace and sunshine on the sometimes not-too-peaceful World Wide Web.
I love the whimsical artwork and gentle poetry of life-long learner and radical unschooler, Jacob Oh. And I think it’s awesome that he’s found a way to interact and share his work with fans, while supporting his passion.
on the blog: I really like this Q&A post from Amy about creating volunteer opportunities for our kids. It got me thinking about ways I can give back to the community with my six year old, which has led us to start an ongoing service project to benefit our local Food Pantry.
on the blog: I just discovered Suzanne’s blog post, Organizing Your Reading Lists, from July. I don’t know how I missed it when it came out! But I’m glad I found it now. I’m excited to start a book journal for myself and for my 1st grader as well.
in the kitchen
I made this peach cobbler for my son’s 18th birthday because it’s his favorite dessert, and we’re lucky that his birthday comes in August when our local peaches are still available at the market. As always, it came out lovely and delicious.
My very favorite thing to do with fresh peaches is make peach butter. This recipe comes pretty close to the one I came up with and only requires three ingredients: fresh peaches, sugar, and water. Though I also add a pinch of salt to it while cooking. Yum!
We’ve watched a lot of movies together this summer, and we’re wrapping up our movie-fest by revisiting some of my childhood favorites with our six year old. The latest? Escape to Witch Mountain followed by The Love Bug. Thanks, Amazon Instant Video!
Our teen doesn’t watch a lot of movies with us, but he’s totally into board games. Our current favorite is Twilight Struggle, a two-person, cold war era game. It’s a little pricey on Amazon, but we found it at our local comics and gaming shop for about half the price. (Don’t be put off by the confusing instructions! Once you start playing, it all makes sense, and provides hours of historically dramatic fun.)
My youngest and I have really liked reading the Imaginary Veterinary series by Suzanne Selfors and Dan Santat together. So far we’ve finished the first four and will be started book 5 soon.
I can’t recommend Paradise in Plain Sight by Karen Maezen Miller enough. I have dog-eared almost the entire book with pages that I want to go back and read again and again. I also loved her other books, Momma Zen and Hand Wash Cold, but Paradise has really struck a nerve with me.
One of my friends was teasing me that my weekly stuff posts make it seem like I have my homeschool life act totally together. So just for the sake of transparency: I haven’t been completely caught up on laundry since one glorious week in 2011 and I do not include things like “ordered cheap Mexican because I was too lazy to cook dinner” on my lists because they are such routine occurrences that they don’t bear mentioning. In other words, I totally have my homeschool life act together — for about 11 whole minutes of every day.
around the web
This warmed my heart: What happens when you give a tree an email address?
This blog rounds up every line spoken by a person of color in hit movies. Wow.
Is our obsession with photographing every minute of our children’s lives shaping the way they’ll remember their childhoods — and not necessarily for the better?
on the blog: Did you enter our Oak Meadow curriculum giveaway yet?
on pinterest: I am in love with this cozy, creative corner.
from the archives: Easy ways to turn around a not-so-great homeschool day.
Is anybody else dying to get her hands on the adult-novel sequel to Five Children and It, set during World War II?
It’s that time again: I’m doing my annual end-of-summer reread of Little Women. (And I’m totally okay now that Jo doesn’t end up with Laurie. But even Gabriel Byrne is not going to reconcile me to Professor Bhaer.)
in the kitchen
In my effort to squeeze every bit of flavor from tomato season, I made a batch of tomato jam. Verdict: Yum. (Think of it as a very posh ketchup.)
Shawne inspired me to try making onigiri at home, and these little stuffed rice balls have become a favorite afternoon snack. The recipe makes them sound complicated, but they are actually really easy. (Sometimes I stuff mine with smoked salmon and avocado, and they are delicious.)
If there are blueberries, I’m making blueberry boy bait. And there are blueberries.
My daughter and I had our annual homeschool planning retreat — at the pool, this year. I just reported my July homeschool budget, but August spending is well underway.
Jason and I are trying to find a new television show to obsess over, but in the meantime, we’re digging the Harriet Vane Collection on DVD.
We’re totally obsessed with Quirkle, which is kind of like dominoes but with more sophisticated strategizing required. We’re always pulling it out and saying “just one quick game.”
Our month-long web extravaganza is ending, but we’d love to know what you’ve enjoyed reading on the site and what you’d like to see more of in the coming months. (Really! Pipe up!) And don’t worry, we’ve still got plenty of good stuff in the queue, including an awesome giveaway that we’ll tell you more about next week.
around the web
So I love Rebecca, which I read at exactly the right time to fall in love with its Gothic charms, but I do frequently find myself saying “What the heck is wrong with you, Max de Winter?” So this imagined conversation between Max and the second Mrs. de Winter made my day.
I still reread my favorite books every year. (I have reread Little Women every fall since I was 7 years old.) But apparently rereading is something we do less and less as we get older, and that’s a shame.
Great read for helping kids (and parents) recognize problematic statistics in news reporting.
on the blog: We’re trying out the Monday pep talk as a little kickstart to your week. What do you think?
on pinterest: This wall-mounted kraft paper rollis so clever — I’m thinking we need one in the kitchen as a doodle station, and we’ll use the resulting artwork to wrap holiday presents.
in the magazine: You know your homeschool group wants our best subscription deal.
I already have a copy of Goodbye Stranger on order to give my daughter as soon as it comes out next week. I think this is THE book to give a middle school girl. (Despite the cover, it has nothing to do with boyfriends.)
We’re reading The Island of Dr. Libris as our morning readaloud, and it’s been a lot of fun. (I caught my 7-year-old trying to read ahead, which is high praise indeed.)
I just finished Silver in the Blood, which I wanted to love (shape-shifting! mysterious family origins! best-friend cousins! Jessica Day George!) but which was ultimately just okay.
in the kitchen
I love watermelon pickles. And now I have a bunch.
I am totally hooked on this quick skillet granola because I want to be the kind of person who has healthy homemade granola on hand but am more frequently the kind of person who needs a breakfast that comes together in under 15 minutes. (I add Trader Joe’s dried blueberries.)
Does anybody have a great tomato sauce recipe? I am at the stage where the tomatoes are outpacing our eating ability. (Luxury problems!)
Mystery Show is my new podcast.
I am still chugging along on my Beekeeper’s Quilt. I keep trying to justify buying the big KnitPicks palette sampler to help motivate me over the last hill (or three), but my stash is already beyond reasonable life expectancy.
Do you play Ticket to Ride? It’s had a featured role at our table this summer. I like that it’s fast-paced so we can finish a game in an hour or so and challenging enough that it’s fun to play over (and over).
This week’s special edition of Stuff We Like is brought you by one of our home/school/life readers. Because we like finding out what y'all are loving in your homeschool lives, too!
around the web
I have really been enjoying Pam Larrichia’s blog series, Exploring the Unschooling Journey in the Context of Joseph Campbell's Monomyth, the Hero's Journey. Her wonderful posts on the subject go so deep, and offer so much to think about, I’m finding myself re-reading some of them again (and again).
I’ve received three boxes so far from the online foodie subscription service, Try the World, and I am loving it. The company has had a few issues with customer service lately – people not getting their boxes on time mostly – but they seem to be addressing those issues and getting things running smoothly. The Paris Box has been my favorite so far, but the latest box is Japan, and I am really (really) looking forward to that one!
This news story out of Turkey is a favorite at our house; so much so that we’ve actually purchased the “respect the robot” URL and have starting designing “respect the robot” t-shirts.
on the blog: I was so excited to see Amy’s What to Read in Elementary School list on the home/school/life blog! I am actually planning my six year old’s “1st grade” year around our reading of these books together.
in the magazine: I probably shouldn’t claim this as a "Thing I Like", but I can’t help myself! The new tech column in home/school/life is an immediate favorite at our house. Of course, I may be partial since the columnist is my always-homeschooled, recently graduated, teen son, but it is a subject I’m interested in, and I’m really looking forward to reading more.
Instacart has made my life so much easier. In my neighborhood, they’ll shop for you at Whole Foods, Kroger, or Costco, and deliver it to your door (with a smile), within two hours. Not only does it save time, it also saves us money, since I’m shopping from a list and not tempted by all the goodies I always end up impulsively grabbing if I actually go to Whole Foods. Instacart’s prices are the same as in-store (I’ve double checked this multiple times), and the delivery fee is so nominal, I can’t imagine not using them.
Summer is the perfect time to try out new salad recipes. They’re easy, versatile, and nice to eat when it’s too hot to cook a big meal. I’ve found great salad ideas on the Pioneer Woman site (the Mediterranean Orzo is a favorite), and yummy pasta salad ideas from Food Network (the Italian Chicken is a must).
Duran Duran has a new album coming out in September (people still say “album,” right?). The first single, Pressure Off, was released in June, and it’s pretty good. Not my favorite Duran Duran song of all time – I’m a sucker for their 80s tunes – but I’m so happy they’re still together, making music and touring, I’ll listen to just about anything they come out with.
Both my teen and 6-year-old are hooked on the beta version of Lego Worlds, which was released through Steam early access on June 1st. This sandbox game allows players to explore a Lego universe, alter landscapes, build pre-designed Lego structures or create their own (brick by brick), collect objects, fly helicopters, and change characters. We are already enjoying it more than Minecraft (gasp!), and the developers aren’t even finished with it yet.
As a family, we’ve started playing Dungeons and Dragons (5th edition). The teen is our Dungeon Master and has come up with a really cool, original adventure for us. The 6-year-old is enjoying creating his character and finally being old enough to play. He’s a little reckless in some of the choices he makes within the game (“let’s fight all the monsters!”), but that keeps it pretty interesting, I must admit.
I am hooked on the Pokemon Master Trainer Board Game. Yes, it’s aimed at a younger demographic. But the design and game play are so straightforward and well done, and the Pokemon are so darned cute, I’ve been asking my youngest to play it with me just about every day.
I stumbled across this book, Unbored Games: Serious Fun for Everyoneby Joshua Glenn and Elizabeth Foy Larsen, on my last trip to Barnes & Noble, and I’m so glad I did! I actually read the whole thing cover to cover as soon as I got home and got lots of good ideas for family fun. (Can you tell we’re a family that likes games?)
My youngest said he was ready for the Harry Potter series, so that has become our read aloud this summer. It’s been so much fun to re-read them and see the story through his eyes. We’ve just finished Chamber of Secrets and plan to take a week or two off to read some shorter books before diving into Prisoner of Azkaban.
The red-winged blackbirds are back — which means spring is coming, even though our back deck was dusted with snow a couple of days ago. This winter has been cold but not snowy, so we’ve spent a lot of time inside around the fire this year. That means lots of books and artsy-crafts projects in our house.
:: We have a lovely stack of biographies to read for Women’s History Month. (Did you see all the great recommendations we had in the winter issue? I think the Marie Curie biography is one of the best-written biographies I’ve read in a long time, but my daughter is loving Invincible Louisa, which didn’t even end up on our final list for the magazine.)
:: Everybody seems to be having babies this year, and I’ve made Milo and the Puerperium Cardigan (free) so many times I can knit them even when I get caught up in the Buffy musical (which may be the greatest single episode of television ever, no?).
:: My daughter is very into making felt portraits of her favorite anime characters right now, so we have been on the hunt for quality felt. We’re digging the plant-dyed colors from A Child’s Dream, which are richer and more subtle than some of the crayon brights we’ve discovered. Bonus: The pink is apparently just the right shade for Madoka’s hair.
:: Cold weather apparently makes me want comfort books because I have been rereading some of the cheerfully old-fashioned domestic books I loved in my younger days: The Blue Castle (don’t you really want a movie version of this in which Nathan Fillion plays Barney?), A Woman Named Smith,The Grand Sophy,The Rose Revived …
:: Winter is my favorite time to make complicated, lots-of-prep-work-required recipes, and Nigella’s Mughlai Chicken is one of our favorites — creamy and not-too-spicy served over mounds of basmati rice with spinach on the side.
:: This is also our season of board game playing. Wildcraft remains our family favorite — we always cheer when we draw the chickweed card because that is one handy plant — but we have also enjoyed Quixx (a dice game that’s like a cooler, more strategic Yahtzee), Quilt Show, Tokaido (which nicely taps into the kids’ passion for all things Japanese), and the Laser Maze logic game.
:: We have had a lot of fun with the How to Make a Coat of Arms tutorial at the The Postman’s Knock. I think we now have coats of arms for ourselves, the Grimm sisters, Ciel Phantomhive, Pigeon (of Mo Willems fame), and the Baudelaire and Snicket families hanging up in our art room.
What's your family enjoying this March?