“Travel is the only thing you by that makes you rich.”

Happy Monday all! I hope everyone had a nice Easter weekend. The blog was MIA last week as I was babysitting my nephews. My sister’s maternity leave is over so she needs a few family members to cover til the end of the school year. It was so awesome to spend time with my nephews but taking care of 4 kids (her 2 boys and my 2 girls) ain’t no joke! Wow, was I tired on Saturday once we were back home. However! It’s back to the grindstone of homeschooling and blogging this week.

My birthday is coming up , which got me thinking about my 40 by 40 goals. I made a “40 Goals by 40″ list about 2 months ago and I figured I should at least figure out a plan on HOW I am going to achieve these goals. The goal I am going to tackle today is visiting all 50 states. I only have 18 left to go! I have lived in Iowa and Wisconsin so that takes care of those states. Plus I have family in Minnesota and Montana and have visited those states numerous times.

I am very fortunate to have traveled on several vacations with my family growing up. Montana to visit relatives. Disney World, in high school and our honeymoon! Kansas City for summer vacation and high school band trip. And an Arizona vacation over Christmas break my senior year to visit my grandpa which turned into a trip to Vegas. I had I to sit in the middle of the front seat between my parents. It’s a long story. We are pretty much the Griswolds. But that is a story for another day. A quick summary of the states I have visited with my family: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Wyoming.

I also saw a lot of the country while over the road trucking with my husband. Well, over the ride passengering. I never drove. Holy yikes. I could never do that. I can ride like a bawse tho! The account my husband worked for only did east of Mississippi river so we didn’t really get further west than Kansas. Super exciting I know. We saw most of the east coast except the northeast corner. It was a lot of trips from Iowa to Pennsylvania. A few to Missouri. A lot of Ohio. Ohio is huge people. And boring. Sorry Ohioans. A few trips down south. We had our 2 wedding anniversary dinner at a truck stop in Alabama. So romantic isn’t it. So a quick list of states I visited while trucking: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Now, this still leaves the following states to visit: Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Vermont, and Washington. I am trying to plan to kill two birds with one stone and cross off some other goals while visiting some of these other states.

First off, Alaska. My husband and I plan to scatter his father’s ashes there (one of my other goals). The only problem is if we come back.

California. We also decided we would take our weekend getaway (another goal) to San Fransico, California, check!

Colorado, Nebraska, and Utah. My husband has family in Colorado and he LOVES this state. We haven’t planned an official visit but I am sure we will.

Conneticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhone Island, and Vermont. My husband has seen Maine during his long haul trucking days. The state is beautiful and he can’t wait to take a tour of the northeast as a family.

Hawaii. We will more than likely not make this one by age 40 BUT we know plenty of people who have visited so we have been there by association :)

Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. If we have a horrible summer, we may just be moving to the Pacific Northwest. This winter has worn us out!

Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas. One of my goals was to meet Pioneer Woman. She lives in Oklahoma (and no I am not talking about stalking her) and we hope to visit her deli in Pawhuska, OK when it is finished. If you follow Pioneer Woman’s blog you know all about “The Building.”. We figure since we are in the southwest already we may as well make a trek down to Texas or New Mexico.

Now all we need to do is get our shit together financially so we can actually go to these places! Any ideas for the northeast states? Or the Pacific Northwest? What travel goals do you have? What has been your favorite place to visit in the US? Have a great week everybody and thanks for stopping by!!

Visit all 50 States Checklist

  1. Alabama
  2. Alaska
  3. Arizona
  4. Arkansas
  5. California
  6. Colorado
  7. Connecticut
  8. Delaware
  9. Florida
  10. Georgia
  11. Hawaii
  12. Idaho
  13. Illinois
  14. Indiana
  15. Iowa
  16. Kansas
  17. Kentucky
  18. Louisiana
  19. Maine
  20. Maryland
  21. Massachusetts
  22. Michigan
  23. Minnesota
  24. Mississippi
  25. Missouri
  26. Montana
  27. Nebraska
  28. Nevada
  29. New Hampshire
  30. New Jersey
  31. New Mexico
  32. New York
  33. North Carolina
  34. North Dakota
  35. Ohio
  36. Oklahoma
  37. Oregon
  38. Pennsylvania
  39. Rhode Island
  40. South Carolina
  41. South Dakota
  42. Tennessee
  43. Texas
  44. Utah
  45. Vermont
  46. Virginia
  47. Washington
  48. West Virginia
  49. Wisconsin
  50. Wyoming

This Moment

have been inspired by SouleMama to take a moment …

{this moment}

“A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.”

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This Moment

I have been inspired by SouleMama to take a moment …

{this moment}

“A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.”

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“The Maple Syrup Factory”


Every Thursday, I share a little bit about our homeschool life. Interested in why we are homeschooling? Click here. Want to know about our home preschool curriculum? Click here. Any other questions? Ask away. I would love to hear from you :)

This past Saturday our whole family attended the Maple Syrup Festival held at the DNR’s MacKenzie Center near Poynette, Wisconsin. Over couples weekend our good friend Katie recommended the MacKenzie Center to see a maple syrup demonstration. Her best friend lives in our area of Wisconsin and this where she takes her 2 kids, plus her students. The MacKenzie Center is a nature education center “with trails, exhibits, museums and programming available for school and youth groups. MacKenzie is a wonderful place to visit and learn about the natural world. The State Game Farm is connected to the MacKenzie Center and is adjacent to the arboretum on the western half of the property.”

The Maple Syrup Festival consisted of a pancake breakfast, a demonstration on tapping a maple tree, lectures on how Native American and Pioneers made maple sugar and syrup, and lessons on how they currently make maple syrup.

The girls were super excited to go to “the maple syrup factory.” Note to self: prepare kids a little better before we go on field trips. They were most excited to eat pancakes and have ice cream. Let’s face it, they are 4 and 5, they live and die by mealtimes. And ice cream. In fact I think everyone does. Or should anyway. Aaaaand, now I want ice cream. Anywho, we weren’t able to eat right when we arrived, which threw Fofo for a loop but she calmed down once we told her we would be eating later.

The only cost for the festival was the pancake breakfast. Admission and parking was free which was awesome! After we parked the car, the first thing the kids saw was a gigantic hollowed out log. The girls (and all the other kids) just gravitated toward it. It goes to show you, all kids really need is a giant hollowed out log to have fun.
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After climbing through the log, we made our way to the maple syrup demonstration. Here we learned how the early settlers made maple sugar and maple syrup. The sap needed to be continuously stirred day and night. This volunteer did an awesome job of explaining the process to all the visitors. She also got all the kids involved by carrying buckets and showing examples of maple sugar and the various stages of maple syrup making. Did you know popcorn and pumpkin are indigenous ingredients to the US? And President Jefferson urged the settlers to make maple sugar so we would be less dependent on imports of sugar.

The girls were getting antsy so we decided to do a little hiking before we headed over to breakfast. We took a minute to check out the tapped trees around the property as we hiked.

We climbed to the top of the observation tower that used to be used for spotting forest fires. Then we walked over to the wildlife exhibit. This was an awesome surprise! Our kids love animals so they were enthralled. The animals at the Center were all taken in to be rehabilitated from injury or sickness. We saw wolves, coyotes, foxes, hawks, owls, and a lynx. Fofo was totally in love with the red-tailed hawk.

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Then we headed back to the lodge for the pancake breakfast. It was a long line (which is to be expected) but the girls were super patient while we waiting for our brunch. They gobbled the pancakes right up!

After we were totally stuffed, we headed back over to the maple syrup demo to get, what else, more food! At this point, there was a line for the maple sundaes but we didn’t care. Where else can you get fresh churned ice cream and fresh maple syrup. It was heavenly. The ice cream was churned by a steam engine, which could be the coolest thing ever.

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After dessert, we headed over to the evaporation house. This is where they boil the sap down to maple syrup. In gist, to make maple syrup the volunteers gather the sap from all the pots attached to the tapped trees. From there, they take it back to the holding tank, where it goes through the process being cooked down into syrup. At the MacKenzie Center they aren’t licensed to sell the syrup, so each of the volunteers is paid in a pint of fresh maple syrup. Ya can’t beat that wage! Fofo LOVED the evaporation house. She didn’t want to leave. It was terribly sentimental for my husband as this was the job my father-in-law had many years ago.

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By this time, the event was winding down. We took a quick look at the skins and hides brought by a local taxidermist, then took one last walk around the grounds before heading home.

It was a really beautiful family day. You never know what to expect when you go on an outing with a 4 and 5 year old, but they both did awesome and hopefully they learned a little something too! Thanks for stopping by!

The ABC’s of Rock N Roll

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I LOVE music. It has the power to make me feel better on a bad day. It has the ability to make me think about things differently. It has the power to inspire a generation.

April 5th marked the 20th anniversary of the death of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain. A huge loss to the music community. Among the ranks of Jimi Hendrix, Elvis Presely, and Janis Joplin. One of the things I love the most about homeschooling, is that I can teach my kids what our family feels is important to help them become more well rounded individuals. Music appreciation is absolutely one of these things. My long term goal is to create a curriculum around some of the best rock bands of all time. I have come up with the obvious subjects: geography for where the bands are from and history since current events inspire some of the great music. I have some work to do otherwise.

Part of exposing my kids to classic rock is selfishness, I don’t wanna listen to Justin Beiber. I have been tortured enough by the Frozen soundtrack. FYI Do you wanna build a snowman? Sorry. Can’t get it out of my head.

The main reason is I want my kids to appreciate the classics. Much of this music isn’t even from my generation but my parents. The classics don’t die. My favorite station on Pandora is 70′s rock, partially inspired by the movie Dazed and Confused, alright, alright, alright. I could quote movies all day if you would let me. Can’t ya tell?!

Even though I don’t have a total curriculum planned out, I already feel a sense of acomplishment when Fofo sings along to In Bloom by Nirvana and Bear proclaims “I love this song” when We Will Rock You by Queen plays on Pandora

And don’t be disuaded by the lack of woman. I have a total other list of for the women of music :)

ABC’s of Rock N Roll

A – Aerosmith or AC/DC
B – The Beatles
C – CCR
D – David Bowe
E – Elvis
F – Fleetwood Mac or The Foo Fighters
G – Guns N Roses
H – Hole
I – Iggy Pop
J – Jackson 5
K – Kiss
L – Led Zepplin
M – Metallica
N – Nirvana
O – Ozzy Osbourne
P – Pink Floyd
Q – Queen
R – Red Hot Chili Peppers
S – Stones (The Rolling Stones)
T – Tool
U – U2
V – Van Halen
W – The Who
X – Jimi HendriX
Y- Neil Young
Z – ZZ Top

Honorable Mention – Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Rage Against The Machine, The White Stripes, The Doors, Elton John, Journey, Pearl Jam, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye.

Anyone I forgot? What music do you expose your kids to? What untraditional curriculum do you teach?

40 Books by 40 – Burglars Can’t be Choosers

I have become a lazy reader in recent years. In order to get back into a reading routine and make myself more accountable, I challenged myself to read 40 books by the time I am 40. I am, ahem, 32 years old which only means about 5 books a year so it will probably be more, but 40 by 40 has a nice ring to it so I’m leaving it :)

Book 8 is Burglars Can’t be Choosers by Lawrence Block.

It takes place, or was written rather, in the 1970s and set in NYC. Bernie Rhodenbarr is a burglar and is on a paid assignment to retrieve/steal a small blue box from from a wealthy mans digs. A simple assignment that goes terribly wrong. Cops, corpse, and a mystery woman. Bernie sets out to prove his innocence before the cops arrest him. Because the book takes place in the ’70′s, it is a bit dated. No cell phones or instant knowledge of things that may help him. But it is refreshing to say the least.

I am a huge fan of this book and can’t wait to read more of Block’s books. Burglars Can’t Be Choosers is the first in a series of 11 (plus short stories) that Block devotes to protagonist Bernie Rhodenbarr. One of several Lawrence Block’s series, other being Matthew Scudder (a P.I), Keller (a hitman), Evan Tanner (a spy), and Chip Harrison. It was a quick read, fun, and fast paced. Perfect for summer reading by the pool!

I discovered this series on Goodreads, which is a must-see website for anyone looking for book recommendations or reviews on what to read next!

Have a good week everyone and thanks for stopping by :)

Book Total
Book One – Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
Book 2 – Blindsighted by Karin Slaughter
Book 3 – God, If You’re Up There, I’m F*cked by Darrell Hammond
Book 4 – Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Book 5 – Life After Death By Damian Echols
Book 6 – Catering to Nobody by Diane Mott Davidson
Book 7 – Game of Thrones (A Song of Fire and Ice Book 1) by George R. R. Martin

8 Springtime Outdoor Activities for Homeschoolers


Every Thursday, I share a little bit about our homeschool life. Interested in why we are homeschooling? Click here. Want to know about our home preschool curriculum? Click here. Any other questions? Ask away. I would love to hear from you :)

Dare I say it? Spring is finally here? Like, seriously, it’s time for spring. Time to put away the damn snow pants and go outside without 18 layers on. Everyone gets tired of being cooped up all winter, but families who homeschool are REALLY excited to finally get back out into the world again. Today I have a round up of springtime activites our family loves and suggestions to get your family out of the winter blahs!

1. Maple Syrup Fun Spring means the sap starts to run from the trees, which means maple syrup! Areas with maple syrup producers usually have a pancake breakfast and/or demonstrations in the spring. We are headed to this one this weekend.

2. Easter Egg Hunts Spring also means Easter. Pretty much every community has an Easter Egg Hunt at some point in the spring. If a giant Easter Egg hunt isn’t your thing, (I know our local one is a bit busy) have one in your back yard! The kids will have just as much fun.

3. The Park You remember the park right? Spring means your local park is no longer covered in 2 feet of snow. Nothing beats that first day back at the park after the long, hard winter.

4. Farm Life Pumpkin farms often take advantage of people wanting to get out and about in the spring and open their doors or stables or whatever you call them. Check out if your favorite fall destination is open in the spring. I know ours is :) If you can’t find one that is open, make a visit to a local farm. Farmers love to share their passion with others and farms are briming with baby animals this time of year.

5. Flowers Spring is all about nature beginning over again and blooming flowers are a key part of that. See if your area has a local flower festival. Or plan a trip to your local nursery or greenhouse.

6. Garden While you are at the greenhouse, start brainstorming for your summer garden. It could be big vegetable garden, some small herb pots, or a flower garden to attract butterflies. Gardening can be super intimidating, but don’t let it be. Kids love to dig in the dirt and watch things grow.

7. Bird Watching Along with the flora returning in spring, so does the fauna! Birds are probably the most obvious ones. Give bird watching a shot! Research what birds are in your area and set up a bird feeder to attract them: homemade or store bought. It is so cool to look out your window in them morning and see a bunch of birds flocked around your bird feeder.

8. Embrace the Weather The crazy spring weather is great for flying kites! Walk in the rain. Stomp in puddles. Make mud pies. Make a campfire in the back yard to keep warm. My kids are always up for getting dirty. Well, Bear is anyway.

What is your family’s favorite springtime activity? What are you looking forward to the most after the long winter? Thanks for reading!

This Moment

I have been inspired by SouleMama to take a moment …

{this moment}

“A Friday (or Monday) ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.”

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Foodie Friday – Couples Weekend Favorites

Foodie Friday – Couples Weekend Favorites

I’m sure all of you are sick of hearing about couples weekend (click here if you have no clue what I am talking about), but the one thing we were looking forward to most was the FOOD!! You can’t have a vacation without some awesome food. And boy did we. Here are a few of my favs from couples weekend.

Biscoff Puppy Chow – Holy cat was this shit good!!! If you haven’t tried biscoff or cookie butter. You really must! This stuff was irresistable. Think ginger snap cookie meets puppy chow. AH-mazing! I love my friend Carrie for many reasons, but I love her even more for bringing this :)

BBQ Beef Brisket This recipe turned out perfectly! We didn’t prepare it in a slow cooker, but we used this spice rub and BBQ sauce. We roasted the brisket in the oven and it was tender and juicy with a kick of back heat. The best part was we had leftovers for the rest of the weekend!

Pretzel Bites – Wowsers I am so glad Carrie took the time (and they do take a bit of time) to make these. Perfect bite sized carby goodness. Tasted just like giant soft pretzels. Best part is they can go sweet or savory. I love versatile recipes like that :)

Vodka Soaked Strawberries – Ok. These suckers got us in trouble last year. This year we all behaved ourselves and didn’t over indulge. My friend Katie differs a bit from the recipe linked above. Rather than chocolate vodka, she soaks the strawberries in whipped cream vodka for 24 hours. She also used pineapple and mango to make a total of 3 infused vodkas. I love my friends. You can then dip the fruit in chocolate for a next level chocolate-covered strawberries. But like the impatient adults we are, we just drank the vodka. You have probably seen this recipe floating around Pinterest for a while, and let me tell you, you should totally try it.

Bourbon Chocolate Milkshakes – Bourbon. In a milkshake. Let me say that again. Bourbon. In a milkshake. This boozy ice cream drink called for pumpkin puree, the ONE thing we didn’t bring, so we used the cookie butter. I thought we died and went to heaven. Well, we kinda were there already :)

I hope you check out some of these fab recipes and try some of them out. Have a great weekend everybody!!

Letter of the Week – Letter J

Every Thursday, I share a little bit about our homeschool life. Interested in why we are homeschooling? Click here. Want to know about our home preschool curriculum? Click here. Any other questions? Ask away. I would love to hear from you :)

Today’s homeschool post is all about the Letter J!

PRINTABLES

Bear practices writing her J’s with a printable from the blog 3 Dinosaurs . . .

Her rainbow writing from Time 4 Kindergarten . . .

And her Animal ABC’s (Jellyfish!) from 1+1+1=1

Fofo worked on letter identification with do-a-dot markers with a printable from Over the Big Moon . . .

And then her work for her ABC book. J was for Jake!

CRAFT

I was inspired by No Time for Flash Cards for this activity. I saw jelly beans, and I knew I needed to look no further. It’s a super simple activity and one that the girls just loved. The hardest part was keeping from eating all the jelly beans. Ok, and me too ;)

I started by just cutting out a letter J, which the girls glued on the paper.

Then they simply glued the jelly beans on to the J. A simple letter identification activity that also worked fine motor skills.


SENSORY PLAY

I was so excited to do this frozen jello sensory play that I found on The Imagination Tree. Actually, at first I was a little scared because I can literally not make jello. No joke. Never sets up for me. So I knew this sensory play would be interesting.

Right off the bat, the girls loved the smell of the gelatin.

We mixed up the gelatin according to the directions and then added some glitter. The girls stirred it up some and then we put in the fridge to set up.

I got a pleasent surprise when the jello set up. I got it to work! Woot!! The girls then scooped the jello into some ziploc bags.


Then they played with it in the bags for a little mess-free fun. With Fofo’s head apparently.


Then into the freezer it went! After it froze, we took it out for some more fun. Bear dug right in . . .

But Fofo was a little more cautious. I think she was worried about it being too cold.

They LOVED this activity and got the jello out to play with several times. Playing with it both inside the bag and out. Towards the end we put it out on a cookie sheet so they could really dig in. It was awesome sensory experience. From the smell, to the feel of the different textures, and look of it with the glitter. So fun!

What about you? Have you done any fun crafts or sensory play lately? Thanks for reading!