BOOK REVIEW: How to Set a Table by POTTER

Who doesn’t love a cute home decor book, bonus points for practical tips. How to Set a Table by POTTER book promised to offer an exciting range of possibilities to add to one’s dining experience. I was surprised to find the book on a smaller side, quite compact and under 200 pages long.

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The information touches many aspects of shared meals: it mentions casual dining, weekday breakfasts, formal dining, buffet-style entertainment and even birthday picnic. It is however quite concise: an occasion and approximate setting mentioned and not much else. A tip on etiquette is likewise included but only one per occasion. I did appreciate the info graphics on types of basic dinnerware. Formal dining has nice tips on arranging of plates and glasses. The photography is lovely and images are abundant – plenty of eye candy here.

Overall impression: I think it makes a cute little gift. The book is very pretty to look at, it has this delightful linen cover that I just loved. It won’t teach you everything you need to know about table etiquette, but I thought it was a nice and pretty cheat sheet with enough occasions included.

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

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Board Game Review: Rewordable

I am always on a lookout for a new board game. My kids adore those that involve language. Rewordable is a project by Allison Parish, Adam Simon and Tim Szetela. It is a card game aimed at 2-8 players aged 8 and up. I thought it will be a nice addition for our homeschooling needs as well.

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The rules and set up is pretty straightforward, there is a deck of cards and tokens. Three cards go into a pool and each player gets 5 cards. Words are then created and tokens received. We played half a deck at out first round and it took us about 30 minutes to get through it. It was three of us me, an adult, a 7th grader and a 4th grader. All three of us had fun making up words. It was definitely not as easy as I thought at the beginning as one gets a letter or a suffix or a syllable and has to get creative with that. My 4th grader had a bit of a trouble at first, but then got into it and had tons of fun.

Overall impression: fun and quick game, perfect for a classroom or a quick round with family and friends. Rules are easy to follow. Cards are made of a sturdy material which is nice for those little fingers that won’t stay still. I definitely recommend it.

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

Book Review: Foundations of Drawing by Al Gury

As an artist I am always on the lookout for comprehensive guides to drawing and painting. I love learning from the experts and Al Gury, chairman of the painting department at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia is just the man to get this kind of advice from. His newest book is Foundations of Drawing: A practical guide to art history, tools, techniques and styles. 

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The book is probably the most comprehensive guide I have come across so far. It is split into five sections. First section talks in depth about history of drawing. Part two reviews materials, I greatly appreciated the meticulousness here, some materials I was really curious about, but found hardly mentioned in my previous studies. Part three discusses essential drawing skills with a large discussion on composition, which was probably my most favorite part of the book – so clear and valuable it was to me. Part 4 discussed the esthetics and various styles. Part five focused on a few drawing demonstrations- still life, interior and human form, again with some interesting bits of art history.

Overall impression: Wonderful addition to my collection, tons of valuable information to go through and ponder. I think this book will be most interesting for someone who is serious about drawing and art history, there are no immediate instructions and how tos, I see it more as a very detailed drawing encyclopedia. Probably best suited for adult artists due to the amount of information. 5 stars.

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

WEEKLY ROUND UP: 10% of school year is done :D

Well, I was away from the blog again. With the school year in full swing days fly by very very fast. The weather cooled down at last and we have our comforters out. Even though the sun can still be quite brutal, we can safely say that summer moved on. Truly thankful for that.

 

What have we been up to:

School at home goes well,  mostly routine, we are settled into our daily rhythm and overall it is good. 10 % of the school year is done, hehehe. Kids had their testing this past Wednesday and seemed to have done ok, even though little C. forgot a lot of her math over the summer. D. gets lots of new information in math now, algebraic equations, exponents,  it is all very exciting. C. is ready to start multiplications in earnest. Both read and write a lot. C’s spelling has improved tremendously.

Outside of home: extracurriculars progress nicely, D. is getting ready for a sleepover with his choir next week, C. had a couple of choir practices and seems to be loving it so far. Karate goes great for both as well. I am surprised how much C. loves it considering she wouldn’t even hear of trying  a couple of months ago. Now she’s fully focused on her practice and tries her hardest to keep up with more experienced kids. She’s an only girl in her Saturday class but it doesn’t bother her at all.  We had a lovely outing with friends in one of the local parks, it used to be my “pregnancy promenade” when I was expecting C. but then we moved away and I never returned there. I forgot how pretty it was with all the water and birds, the grand time was had by all of us.

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-The House: we have interrupted our kitchen repairs. Interrupted is the right word here, I guess, since the repairs are truly never-ending. There are still minor things that need to be finished- some paint touch ups here and there, new curtains need to be put up. Downstairs bathroom needs to be done asap…But our kitchen is cleaner now and looks completely different. We went from yellow/ black to green/white/light furniture combination.

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Cooking: the highlight of the week is

Breakfast Pasta Bake

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-cooked pasta (we had elbows)

-5 eggs plus 1/2 c of milk

-thinly sliced baby zicchini

-shredded cheese

-salt, pepper

Preheat oven to 350 F

Put boiled elbow pasta into a greased oven-proof dish, pout egg and milk mixture over, bake for about 20 minutes, sprinkle extra cheese on top and bake for another 3-5 minutes.

Enjoy!

 

-What are we reading:

D. read “How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming” by Mike Brown, he was absolutely fascinated by the process of discovering a new planet and wants to learn more about space now

C. reads Ollie’s Odyssey by William Joyce

Together they are reading Women in Science by Rachel Ignotofsky and Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey and Birute Galdikas

I read The Light Between Oceans by M.L.Stedman . I enjoyed this book, such a very sad story, but the descriptions of a life at the lighthouse were beautiful and fascinating. I am not sure whether I will see the movie, but I might.

Plans for the next week:

We have quite a schedule- doctor for D, a field trip, choir camp for D. I had to cancel one of the clubs kids were looking forward to, it was getting too crazy …Overall life is good.

Hope next week is fun and pleasant for everyone.