Monday, May 31, 2010

Last Minute Teacher GIfts

Sarah from Digital Reflections has featured some wonderful teacher gift ideas on the Designer Digitals blog this week. I think my favorite is her tree thank-you card paired w/ a great gift idea! Be sure to check them out.

Last month I featured how to make altered clothespins which are also nice teacher gift ideas.

Jodi shares an adorable end of the year album idea.

Now that summer's begun, be sure to stay tuned to our Big Summer Fun!

To receive the latest updates from Spell Outloud click here to subscribe to this blog

Labels: , ,

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Up, Up and Away!

There is something about hot air balloons that are just fascinating to me. They come in so many beautiful colors and even shapes, but it is rare that we ever spot one. Well this past Friday our whole co-op got to see one up close, and even were able to help set the balloon up.

One of the first things that was done was to release the black balloon to see the direction of the wind and what the air currents were like. Here's a more technical explanation from How Stuff Works:

"Additionally, a pilot might send up a piball (short for pilot balloon). A piball is just a balloon filled with helium that the pilot releases to see the exact direction of the wind at a prospective launch site. If it looks like the wind would take the balloon into prohibited air space, the crew needs to find a new launch spot."

Next the kids helped pull the balloon out of the trailer.



Up and away! We didn't go for a balloon ride (thank goodness! I don't think I could handle going in the balloon even if it were tethered!) but we all got to circle around the basket and see how the balloon worked. For a good explanation check out How Stuff Works: Hot Air Balloons.

And here's the inside of the balloon. Just beautiful!

Hot Air Balloon Resources for Kids:

Make a Hot Air Balloon

Hot air expands, cool air contracts experiment
Build a Hot Air Balloon out of a plastic bag

Hot Air Balloon mini-book for a lapbook
Hot Air the (mostly) true story of the first Hot Air Balloon Ride - complete lapbook unit
Hot Air Balloon Mobile Coloring Page
First Hot Air Balloon to Cross the English Channel Coloring Page
Hot Air Balloon Coloring Page

Books and Movies:

To receive the latest updates from Spell Outloud click here to subscribe to this blog

Labels: , ,

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Alpaca Farm Field Trip

My kids and I went with a group of local homeschoolers to visit an alpaca farm in our area this week. Nothing beats walking around the farm in almost 90 degree weather with one kid who didn't want to walk but be carried. :) Thankfully, her big sister helped out a lot.

First we got a tour of the barnyard area. There were chickens, ducks, geese and rabbits. I think my youngest two would have stayed there all day and petted that rabbit.

Helping us with our tour was one of the farm dogs. I'm sure he/she has a name, but I wasn't paying attention at the time. I was probably trying to keep track of my 5 kids. :) My 3yr. old loved this dog! She walked right next to him with her hand on his back for a good portion of the trip.

Mama goose. She wasn't very happy we were there.

Baby goose---I just couldn't resist!

Alpacas! Like I said, it was hot! Most of the alpacas were down by the river to keep cool.

More alpacas. I had never been so close to an alpaca before. They were really quite fascinating and beautiful.

Thanks to Julia for setting this trip up! She was instrumental in setting up our local Homeschool Explorers group. Basically it is a local email loop where anyone can set up a field trip. It is then posted to the list and if you are interested, you contact the field trip coordinator. I love that I can pick and choose field trips that my kids will be interested in, and I also love meeting other homeschoolers from our area and surrounding areas that I probably wouldn't have met otherwise. This group has been a rich addition to our homeschooling experience by providing real-life experiences I probably would have never done on my own.

Alpaca Resources:

Alpaca Coloring Page
Alpaca Facts
Listen to an Alpaca

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Muddy Mess

And it gets worse.....


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Big Summer Fun: Getting Ready

Sarah at Digital Reflections is hosting some Big Summer Fun preparation tips on her blog this week. Sarah's family will be doing several themes such as: Egypt Unit, Italy Unit, Ocean Life and Decade Days. She's sharing how she's getting ready for all their summer adventures.

We hope you all will join in with your ideas and blog posts this summer. Feel free to snag the blog button too. We'll be setting up McLinky's each month, having give-aways, guest posters and more. All new Big Summer Fun posts will be posted on Mondays alternating between Spell Outloud and Digital Reflections now through the end of July. 


My Square Foot Garden

This is my second year keeping a Square Foot Garden. The kids and I enjoyed growing and eating things right out of the garden last year, and we're looking forward to this year's harvest too.

Right now I only have 2 boxes. I am always surprised at how much I can plant within that small space though.

We are growing some herbs again: Oregano, Parsley, Basil, Lavender, Rosemary and Garlic chives.

We planted lots of tomatoes: Roma, Brandywine, Sunsugar, Grape tomatoes, Big beefy (or something like that) and some sweet sauce-type tomato. I'm hoping to can some spaghetti sauce this year.

We also have green peppers, bush beans, cucumbers, butternut squash, pumpkin, raspberry starts, and zuchinni. (I also have a plot of dirt where I'm growing some of the vine plants and the raspberry bushes. It's not as fun to garden there because the weeds are so bad!)

So that's the state of garden so far! :) Mama Jen shared a cute activity where she had her kids plan their own garden. I'm planning on having my kids do something similar. Actually, I'll have the older ones make a master chart so we know exactly what is in each square. You can check it out here: The Kid's Garden Plans.


Monday, May 24, 2010

God's Promises for Girls: Review

I have enjoyed using my Bible Promise book and other topical scripture books over the years, so when I saw that there was a similar book concept for kids, I knew I wanted to check it out.

Book Description: An easy way to help young girls see God’s promises and how they can rely on His love in their daily lives.

The promise verses in this book are selected from the best-selling International Children’s Bible® to offer comfort and encouragement when a girl is feeling afraid, lonely, worried, angry, dissatisfied, discouraged, sad, rebellious, impatient, or sick . . . and when they need reassurance of God’s protection, love, forgiveness, help . . . and that He listens when they pray. It’s a great way for children to hide God’s Word in their hearts.

What I thought:

I originally thought we would use God's Promises for Girls as a reference when certain situations occurred, but I found that it was difficult to locate where to find the topic in the book quickly without skimming through the table of contents. This book is divided into sections such as God's Promises When, God's Promises About, God Want You To, etc, not topically or by keyword, so it takes a little getting used to (at least for me.) After showing my daughter, I found out exactly how we would use the book.

My 8yr. old daughter was excited to find out that this book was for her. We sat down and paged through the book together. We both thought the graphics were very cute and the book seemed sturdy. We read a couple of the entries, and I was surprised at the conversation opportunities it opened up between my daughter and I. I loved that we were reminded what God said about that particular topic too. I plan to continue using this book as a short devotional to read with my daughter before bed. This book would be even more valuable to me if it were in the translation we normally memorize our Bible verses, but it still is a wonderful tool that we will use.

I think God's Promises for Girls would make a great gift book for girls ages 8-11. It's a perfect way to teach young girls exactly what God says about situations and topics relevant in their lives.

I review for BookSneeze

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their  book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.


Saturday, May 22, 2010

And the Winner is...

And the winner of the free spot in Katrina Kennedy's "Your Life Through the Lens" photography class is...


"My favourite memory has to be playing with the other kids on my street as late as we possibly could! Sometimes we were lucky and got to play hide and seek after dark :)"

There is still time to enroll in Katrina's class:
May 26 – June 30, 2010
NOTE: Registration closes May 28th
6 weekly written and video lessons over 6 weeks for users of  dSLR and point &; shoot cameras.

Every lesson will include these components:
1) How to use a composition method;
2) Buttons and Knobs – demystify your camera’s features;
3) Putting It Into Practice – how to use your camera’s features
4) On Assignment – practical step by step instructions for capturing photos.

In addition to written lessons that you may download and print, you’ll improve your photography skills through interaction with Katrina and other participants in the private class forum, sharing your photos in the private class gallery, and participation in live chats. The class covers techniques useable by both dSLR and point and shoot users. Come on in and start learning! 


Sometimes it's the simple things...

Sometimes it's the simple things that keep a toddler occupied. We have had lots of rain lately, so I've had to come up with a couple boredom-buster activities for my toddler and preschooler. On a whim I pulled out some ginormous plastic coins that I got at the Dollar Tree and a coffee can. I cut a X in the lid and poured the coins on the floor. I could not believe how long my 1 1/2 yr. old sat there and put the coins in, dumped them out, and did it over again.

Look at her concentrating. I just love it when she sticks her little tongue out like that. Too cute!

Here you can see how big the coins really are. I first used them for a Bible craft but had plenty of left-overs.

The next day we used the cans for a bean-bag toss game. So look around your house and you'll find many fun, easy, and entertaining activities to do with your toddler. For more toddler activity ideas see:


Thursday, May 20, 2010

My Favorite Summer Memories

I have enjoyed reading all the comments under the Photography class giveaway. In order to enter I asked for people to recount their favorite childhood summertime memories (you still have time to enter!) Reading them transported me back to my childhood.

I grew up in the same neighborhood that my mom grew up in. All the neighbors knew each other, and we had a bunch of kids in a one-block radius. I remember on warm summer nights the moms would gather on someone's porch (it varied) and talk while the kids ran around the neighborhood playing freeze tag, and once it got darker, flashlight tag. We loved it when the moms' chatted because they would loose track of time and we'd get to stay outside longer.

Another good memory is of 4th of July. When I was younger, we would have a big family gathering at my house since we lived only a couple of blocks from the parade route. We would set up all our chairs ahead of time and then when it was time for the parade, we'd walk from our house to our saved spots. In the evening we'd head to my uncle's house since we could see the fireworks right from his backyard. It was always a fun day spent with family.

Those are a couple of my favorite summertime memories. Since you all were sharing, I thought I needed to share too! :)

Next week Sarah, from Digital Reflections, will be posting about Big Summer Fun. You won't want to miss it. ;)

Also, you still have time to enter the Photography class giveaway! I have actually taken this class before and it is so worthwhile. You have access to chats (if you want to do them), PDF lessons, video lesson, message board and a gallery to share photos. Katrina does such a great job teaching in a way that is understandable. Check here for the photography class details.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

WFMW: Scrapbooking Templates

I have not had much time lately to sit down and scrap, so when I finally do have a moment, I want to at least accomplish one page. I've found the best way for me to do that is to use a digital scrapbooking template.

DEFINITION:  Layered templates are complete layered files to create scrapbook pages and hybrid projects. You can choose the papers and add/delete elements as well as adding text and extra embellishments. Many layered templates come with special frames, titles, or embellishments to decorate the page.

I love templates because all the design planning is already done for me.  All I need to do is add papers, pictures and journaling.  I decided to use Cathy Zielske's template for my layout.

I knew that I wanted to showcase several photos from my daughter's first haircut. Cathy's template has a space for 3 photos, but you can see that you can add your own touches to templates. I added the focal point photo off to the side and used the 3 little photos as a series of photos of the haircut process. Then I added a couple of finishing touches and I was done! :)

And here's an older layout I did using Anna Aspnes' template:

And here's another example of using a template. I used Katie Pertiet's template to make wall art for my daughter's bedroom:

Templates are a perfect way to speed up the scrapping process. For a great selection of templates check out Designer Digitals.

Don't forget to check out my Photography Class giveaway! Ends 5/21

Labels: ,

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

WW2 Final Projects

This past session in our local co-op, my oldest two children studied World War II. The team of teachers did a wonderful job going all out to teach different events. They did so many more hands-on activities and learning than I would have had time to do if I taught this at home. I appreciated all the hard work those teachers did.

For their final projects, each student had to have a 1-2 page typed report, a project and then give a presentation to the whole co-op.

My daughter chose to study Corrie Ten Boom. She read at least 5 different books about Corrie. She was hooked on learning more about this courageous woman! I was proud of her because speaking in front of people was a new skill for her and she was very nervous. She did a good job!

My son chose to learn more about the Tuskegee Airmen.

His favorite part was creating his first model airplane. We found a model of the P-51 Mustang airplane that Tuskegee airmen flew. With some help from his dad, he was able to finish this model just in time for the presentation.

He also did a good job on the presentation. I think this was a wonderful experience for the both of them.

For more World War 2 resources see:

Jimmie's Collage --she posted a lapbook and resources that she used with her daughter when teaching about WW2

World War II for Kids -- book that has great hands-on activities and projects. We used this several times during the unit.

Labels: , ,

Monday, May 17, 2010

Chalk Talk with Katrina Kennedy & Giveaway

Goodness, two days in a row I get to announce new things! First was the Big Summer Fun announcement, and now I get to introduce a new feature called "Chalk Talk" where I interview various bloggers. (Drumroll.....) And my first interviewee is.....

Katrina Kennedy!

Katrina is a wonderful photographer, and since I hope to take lots of pictures of our Big Summer Fun, I thought Katrina would be the perfect person to ask for some summer photo tips. Katrina has also offered one blog reader a free pass to her newest online photo class! So don't miss the details at the end of this post. :)

1. Do I need a fancy camera in order to get good pictures?
Knowing how to use the camera you have and how to see great light are more important than a fancy camera! Being there, in the moment, connecting with your subject and capturing the memory is what matter most for me.

2. What types of photos should I think of taking to document our summer fun?
Grab the little moments, the everyday moments, the tiny bits and details. I love bare summer time toes, the colors of beach towels, and dripping popsicles. Events may be what we think of first, but all of the little things make up summer for me. Ask your kids what their favorite things about summer are and make sure you get those shots. Think of including yourself in photos too, so that your family remembers what you look like! I think it is important to put the camera down as well. Get into the fun of the summer with your kids!

3. Many activities seem to take place during the "full sun" hours. What can I do to make sure I get good pictures?
Avoid over exposure of your photos and your body, by finding shade!

Full sun can seem like a great idea for photos, but can cast big ugly dark shadows over eyes or leave people squinting. Look for the open shade of trees, awnings and play structures to grab your photos. Open shade near pools work really well. Have your subject near the edge of the open area with the light reflecting evenly back on their faces.

During the summer, you can also use your body as a bit of a sun shade! Cast your shadow over your subject and shoot. It is the one time having a wider shadow can be a welcome thing!

4. Do you have any tips for organizing all these summer photos that I'm taking?
Organizing...ahhh. My best advice is to upload your photos to your computer on a regular basis, don't keep them on your card. Whatever system you are using, delete as you import and flag those you love, those you want to scrap, and those you want to have printed. I use Lightroom so that I can give them keywords, star ratings, and flag for printing. Be diligent about it, summer activities mean more photos and potentially more headache if you don't keep up!

Consider too, slowing down your photography some. Be more deliberate in when you choose to click.

5. What is your favorite camera equipment?
This is like asking someone which child is their favorite! I love everything I use for a specific reason.

I shoot with a Canon 30D, which is my favorite of course.

In the summer I love my wide angle lens (17-40mm). I want the big picture more than other times during the year, my wide angle lens lets me grab that.

6. What is your favorite photo that you took, why and what settings?
Two photos come to mind instantly.

The first photo is of my son, playing at the river last summer. We were there right before sunset, he was in absolute heaven. I saw the photo before I took it, which always delights me. I exposed for the sky next to him to create the silhouetted look. I shot this at 20mm, ISO 100, f/ 5.0, and a shutter speed of 1/500. I keep my shutter speed fast when photographing moving kids!

My second photo, is of a bike rider you may recognize. The Tour of California came through my town last year. In a time trial, each rider made a 3 mile loop around downtown.  I had one opportunity to capture him as he passed. The crowd grew as his turn neared.  A cloud came over us and then you could hear the cheers. Everyone knew Lance was on his way. I put the camera to my eye. Held my breath and fired off multiple shots as I moved the camera with his movement for a panning shot. I was beyond pleased with the results. Lance was photographed at 40mm, ISO 200, f/5.0, shutter speed of 1/100.

It was merely a coincidence that both photos were taken with the same aperture.

7. What's your favorite recipe?
I'm vegan and live in a vegetarian house, so our recipes are simple and veggie based. We grow much of what we eat in our backyard garden, so recipes change as the season changes. My current favorite is to slice mushrooms, toss them in the wok to sweat out some of their moisture. Toss in some garlic. Stir for a bit. Add in asparagus. Stir for a bit more. Grill or lightly pan fry tofu at the same time. Mix it all together and dinner is served! I sometimes dress it up with a little rice or noodles. For recipe inspiration I spend a lot of time at and
As I mentioned above, Katrina has graciously offered one free pass to her new class Your Life: Captured Through the Lens. It starts May 26 and runs through June 30. The class includes weekly written lessons and videos, live chat/office hours, and access to a private forum and gallery where you can ask for help and share your progress.

Giveaway Rules: Starts 5/17 - Ends 5/21. The winner will be announced on Sat. 5/22
1. Leave a comment about your favorite summer-time memory as a kid.
My name is  Katrina Kennedy and I take my camera everywhere. Literally. I cannot imagine a day when I don't capture the colors, the textures, and the details that make up my life. For the past fifteen years I've been an employee development trainer. Combining my training experience with my passion for photography, opened an exciting world of life documentation. When my son was born five years ago, I searched for someone to help me take my photography to the next level. It was such a difficult search that once I improved my skills, I vowed to help other people improve their skills. Through teaching photography classes, both in person and online, writing tutorials, and my ebook Get Me Off of Auto, I've helped hundreds of people document their most important events and their everyday moments.

Labels: , , ,