January 2017

Already a month into 2017. January sure went by fast. Yet at the same time it was a month of adjustment, rather than new beginnings.

img_0845We went back to doing school after nearly a month-long break. Kids went back to their extracurricular activities. I went back to my work and had a very productive month. Life moves in measured paces more or less, with a crazy day here and there of course.

 

We went to see Star Wars the Power of Costume in Denver Art Museum, and we absolutely loved it, such a large and thorough exhibit. Local people, if you haven’t yet, definitely go and take a look, it’s on until April.

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D. did three days of World Peace Game with our homeschool group. It was such a valuable experience for him and made him think about current events more.

School was mostly “getting into the swing of things” and hopefully it will be better in February.

Gray and white cold days, splashes of color of mundane things – the combination seemed comforting somehow

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My favorite moment was probably playing with Excentric Cinema book by Beatrice Coron. Kids had so much fun moving shadows and making up stories

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I ended up making one of my own papercuts out of black paper and it worked too

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Kids read (beyond a pile of re-reads):

D. read Pax by Sara Pennypacker and White Fang by Jack London

C. read BFG by Roald Dahl and Amazing Animal Stories by Quentin Blake

Mama read Spaceman by Mike Massimino and absolutely loved it

 

I have opened a bookstagram  with most of our reads. Come and take a look. I have a Litsy account under the same username too.

So this was our January. February looks quite busy, but it is also shorter. I hope to keep the measured pace and not give in to the crazy moments.

 

 

Book Review: Spaceman by Mike Massimino

In his autobiography “Spaceman: An Astronaut’s Unlikely Journey to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe” Mike Massimino, a NASA astronaut and Columbia University professor describes his journey from a childhood dream of being an astronaut to actual walking in space (of which he and his team set records). As soon as I started reading this book, I was absolutely captivated by Mike’s tale.

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His manner of writing is very frank and straightforward. He just tells his story like it is, and it’s impossible to put down. His journey wasn’t always smooth, neither was it always aimed for the space. I admired his determination when he made a decision to get into space program. How he overcame stumbling blocks on his path, his personal ethics – everything is admirable. His story is full of the most important lessons in life -the value of education, the value of public service, deep desire to be a better person, true friendship.

Overall impression: Loved this book to pieces. My 11 y.o. son is reading it now, and I am sure it will make a difference in his world perception, and no doubt will inspire him . Absolute must read.

 

I received this book via Blogging for Books in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Goodbye November +Advent Calendar

November is over. And thank goodness. Somehow it turned out to be so much more stressful than I was hoping it would be. There were quite a few shocks close to heart and there were and are a lot of things to ponder and re-evaluate.

What have we been up to:

-Lots of field trips: We went to Denver Art Museum and saw Glory of Venice and Japanese Fashion Exhibits. We went to Denver Museum of Nature and Science and saw Extreme Mammals exhibit, as well as Mummies (D. loved it so much, C. on the other hand hated it, “too many dead bodies”, I must say it was interesting but I didn’t enjoy it as much for the same reason). We went and listened to an awesome Drums of the World performance by Colorado Symphony. Even got to do Mannequin Challenge with them. We took a tour around Denver Center for the Performance Arts. D. and I did it once when he was in the first grade, but we had an awesome guide this time around and, since I am so much more in touch with my artistic side now, I achieved new levels of appreciation for the backstage workers, designers and craftsmen.

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-The weather was fickle, with winds, first snow and some icy rain. But plenty of sunny days too.  We were busy with extracurriculars too- both kids had a dress rehearsal for the choir concert (C. can’t wait to debut, I unfortunately will have to chaperone and watch her from the backstage instead of the audience), both participated in karate tournament. C. did extremely well, was brave and endured long waits. D. did well too, but he also got hurt, not seriously but enough for me to consider taking him to the ER. He was ok in the end, very thankful for that.

-Also thankful for friends that we were finally able to have over for dinner, thankful for everyone being overall okay and even husbands medical concern isn’t serious and very treatable.

-We have two intense weeks ahead of us, two concerts for each of the kids, tournament training at karate, I will most likely cancel our mid-year testing, I don’t think kids will handle 4 hours and then a long rehearsal all in the same day. We all need rest.

-As usual I have made an advent calendar for kids, they ask for it and really look forward to simple activities we do. The list is pretty much the same as last year, the only thing I added is “grant each other’s wish” (with a reminder to keep it realistic and kind)

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Kids read a lot in November: D’s favorite was “Marvels” by Brian Selznick and C. loved Grace Lin’s “Starry River of the Sky”. I am hoping to do a little book advent as well as the one with the activities we’ll see how it goes.

Hopefully, December is kind to all of us

Goodbye October+ First Week of November

October is over, whaaat?

That was one crazy month. Even though we didn’t have a particularly heavy schedule life seemed busy.

What have we been up to in October:

-We had guests: D’s godfather and his wife came to visit and spent nearly a week with us. We were so happy to see them and their visit gave us the longed-for opportunity to take a small break in our studies.

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-I received kids’ MAPS test scores and was pleasantly surprised to see how well kids did, especially C. who tested as a third grader (to have her sip the grade was a spontaneous decision and I am still questioning it from time to time),  D. did wonderfully, but he almost always does, good job to both of them.

-Studies at home went well for the most part. We hardly had time for much besides core subjects for some reason, I am glad kids take science and history at co-op, this way at least  there they got their electives covered. They did lots of art on their own. But that would be my major goal to get beyond core in November.

-C. had her choir camp, D. was working very hard in Concert Choir and helped his friends there learn a song in Russian. They sound really good, can’t wait to hear them at the concert as well.

-We all got through a stomach bug, that makes it two times we got sick this school year. Something needs to be done.

-The weather was gorgeous, we got to see some amazing colors. The trees are getting bare now and we are ready (well, almost ready) for winter.

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First week of November was loaded with things to do and thoughts to process:

-C. is heading to her first karate tournament next week, so she’s working very hard on learning her forms and practicing sparring. D. is going too, but it’s his 10th, so he’s more relaxed this time around.

-We went to Denver Art Museumimg_20161102_114234

-Just a handful of practices remains for choir before the big concert. Looking forward to that a lot.

I finally opened my Etsy store, YAAAAY! I have put a few cards out already, so come and check it out.

 

What my kids read in October:

C. read “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” by Brian Selznick and it took her all month to get through the book, but she loved it

D. read

The Archer’s Goon by Diana Wynne Jones,

Call of the Wild by Jack London, and

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

There were also tons of re-reads, which I didn’t keep track of.

Mama read:

Across the Universe Trilogy by Beth Revis. I read quite a bit of Young Adult novels this year, not just because they’re fun, but also to add to D’s “to be read” pile, this trilogy, although it was fast-paced and interesting read will have to wait for a couple of years.

 

Plans for November:

We have A LOT going on outside of home. I will need to try and balance it out so our school at home doesn’t suffer. But personally, I hope to reach the level of calm that will support me throughout the winter months.The past weeks were anything but calm, there was anxiety, there were struggles with children and general uneasiness about certain matters. Health wasn’t the best either, especially for kids. I crave the sense of calm and simplicity, so I will work on that this month.  I am already preparing for our December celebrations and hopefully will make an advent calendar slowly instead of at the last minute like past years.

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: Doodletopia Fairies by Christopher Hart

We adore fairies in this household. And we adore art. Kids love books that teach them how to draw and Doodletopia Fairies by Christopher Hart came into our house just in time. I have heard of Doodletopia books before, but haven’t had a chance to look into others before.

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The book is full of cute fairy characters  and there are 8 sections on each little feature: Heads and Faces, Fairy Bodies, Magical Clothing and Accessories, Wings and Poses, Fairy Personality, Magical Powers, Musical Instruments and Fairy Dwellings. Each section contains very clear and easy to understand directions on how to draw this or that feature and then an exercise is offered to help develop your own characters.  Readers are eased into each new lesson with the skill they have acquired on previous pages. Initially I thought of this book as a kids’ book, but as an illustrator I found I can learn from it as well. We will make it a family activity book, I say.

Overall Impression: Enjoyed looking through this book quite a bit, children are very excited about learning more about drawing fairies and elves with this book. Instructions are straightforward and easy to follow, exercises are fun and helpful. 5 stars.

I received this book via Blogging for Books in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

BOOK REVIEW: Natural Color by Sasha Duerr

As someone who enjoys needle felting I was always curious if (or rather how) can I dye my own wool and, although a number of chemical dyes are available, natural colors always seemed more attractive . For that reason Sasha Duerr‘s book “Natural Color” immediately caught my attention. I used to look through blogs and natural dyeing videos and tried to systematize all the information somehow, and it is nice to see there is an actual book that got all the questions I had covered. Let’s take a look.

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The book discusses the entire process of natural dyeing, from finding the plants, getting the color out and until the final result is ready. Truly it is a wealth of information, presented in a friendly, accessible manner . And not just basics, the book touched various techniques too. The recipes are very straightforward and precise, quite easy to follow. I loved how the recipes were organized by season , and although not all the plants are available in my region for foraging specifically, some are and I can’t wait to try. There is a section on mordants that I found very helpful, different options are discussed and the process is explained so well, I really appreciate the meticulousness. The photography is beautiful and  I am getting inspired by merely looking through the book.

Overall impression: I am in love with all the projects in this book, not just for wardrobe, but for the house too. I am looking forward to trying them one by one. The book is a valuable asset to anyone who is interested in natural dying. 5 stars.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

September Round Up + First Week of October

September flew by and first week of October is also gone.

What was our September like?

-We were quite busy with school and extracurricular activities. After we settled in the routine our tempo picked up a little bit. Both kids had their MAPS testing, still awaiting the results, but  I am confident they did well. Both kids had their camps at choir. D. also participated in Songs of Holocaust event with his choir. Both got through the first bad cold (I got it too, ugh).  There were a couple of outings- we went to the Ice Core Lab and learned about Antarctic Ice and the process of getting it, it was very interesting, we got to go to the lab itself, the temperature was very low, kids got to learn first hand what it must be like to do a work of getting the ice from Antarctica.

We also went to Denver Botanic Gardens, which we try to do every year around the same time (many thanks to our friends for taking us along). The flowers and trees were absolutely beautiful and all of us got to sketch a little right there in the gardens.

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Fall is truly here now, especially comparing the the first week of September with it’s “still summer” warmth.

-First week of October was very special for us as we had dear friends visiting. It also coincided with our first break this school year.  We went to the mountains and saw some first snowflakes and to Colorado Springs to the Garden of the Gods. It was absolutely lovely to have them over and we are truly thankful they came to visit.

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-I am working more and more on my art, I had some good things happen in September and I hope October is even better. Etsy shop is coming soon too.

 

What were my kids reading:

This list runs from beginning of school and through the month of September. I only count new books, something they haven’t read before. But as usual there were tons of re-reads.

D. read:

Fiction: Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt, King Arthur and His Knights by Howard Pye, Matilda by Roald Dahl

Non Fiction: How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming by Mike Brown, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by Bryan Mealer and William Kamkwamba

Russian: Скифы в Остроконечных Шапках С. Фингарет, Каштанка и другие рассказы А.П. Чехов, М. Горбовцев “Мишкино Детство”

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C. read:

Ollie’s Odyssey by William Joyce, The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl, Primates by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks, A Nest for Celeste by Henry Cole, The Fantastic Flying Journey by Gerald Durrell

In Russian:Сельма Лагерлёф “Путешествие Нильса с дикими гусями”,  “В Лесу” М.С. Соколов-Микитов

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Overall, the month of September was good to us, let’s hope October will be even better.