Field Trip – Dismals Canyon, AL

WARNING – This post was written a while ago (maybe a year or so?) and never published. The prices listed may have changed. [OK… I looked it up, and it’s now $12/adult, $8.75 for kids, with the $1 add on for picnicking on their back deck.]

A friend and I decided recently that we needed a road trip. The weather’s been beautiful and she needed a break, so we packed the kids up, loaded the car, and headed to Dismals Canyon.

Dismals Canyon is a privately owned property with camping, hiking, a grill, and a gift shop area. The admission rate was $10 for ages 12 and up, and $6.75 for ages 11 and under. Those are for self guided tours (hiking and a map).

Since we arrived in a day when the grill was opened, picnicking was “prohibited”. As a conservation minded person, I get the desire to limit trash and I agree that people can be slobs and disregard their personal clean up, but banning picnics and posting that all my bags could be searched was really off-putting to me.  If you arrive when the chill is closed you can picnic – for $1/person… to eat the food you brought…on their deck… Hmmm.  I wasn’t impressed.

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Overall the site was really, really beautiful. The day we went the weather was (as you can see!) perfect. We did about a 1.5 mile hike which was perfect for us. It left us a lot of time for exploring, relaxing, and hanging out and talking.

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I took a ton of pictures!!

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It really was a great break from our normal homeschool routine. I think I would go back again, but I might consider a different location with a more liberal picnic policy if I had a large group.

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Are there any good day trips near you that you’d recommend?

Week in Review : 3/10/17

I know I haven’t done a Week in Review in FOR_EV_ER, but I’m hoping to get back on track. The kids and I LOVE reading them from years past, and get a huge laugh over all the stuff we’ve forgotten about. I also just got a SWEET new laptop – all my own – complete with a non USB mouse (because for some reason in our house the mouse and the little sensor thing can NEVER stay together…grrr…). I am thrilled and hope to blog more consistently!!

This Week In …

… School:

We’ve actually been pretty productive this week. Despite the move we’re pretty much on or ahead of schedule. Apparently having no friends and a limited social calendar make for lots of productive homeschool days!

The kids are also catching on that “done” means “DONE!”, so anything scheduled to be completed this year that gets done early means more free time for them. Hence, Big has completed her assigned Literature and is making HUGE strides on History. Little is working hard on wrapping up Aero and decided today he’d pick up the pace in math (we’ve been doing 1/2 lesson a day and he’s committing to a full lesson) to wrap it up in half the time. [Now, I wouldn’t do this for anything that they’re not excelling in, but so far, it’s not been a problem with retention or skills.] I think he’s on track with history, too.

The classes that will drag on for a while are the online classes (Big – German, Little – English), Advanced Math and Chemistry. BJU DLO Chem is just HARD and doing more than a lesson a day is just too much. The same holds true for Advanced Math. And, online classes require you to stay at their pace, so those will wrap up when they wrap up.

Guitar lessons are going great. Big sounds really good. Wow, this is so much easier to listen to than beginner violin or even piano!

Not actually school, but kind of school, is news that Big was accepted into the Dual Enrollment program at the local college. It’s a 4 year liberal arts college, so I think its pretty cool!! She’ll start there this summer. I’ll blog a lot more about what she’ll be taking, schedules, why we’re going that route and more in another post. The college is about 35 minutes away so today we may go down, walk around (we haven’t done that yet!) and buy a t-shirt. Big times here. I’m so excited for her and the adventures God has for her!

… Life School:

I’ll keep the details brief on this one, but we’ve recently had a shift in chores here. Little (a 14 year old DUDE) will now manage all of his laundry. While he’s skilled and has done laundry before, he’ll be flying solo. (And perhaps, a budding entrepreneur, he was theorizing he could make some cash in college doing other dude’s laundry… which I think is actually a great idea!! LOL!!). For fun we went to Publix and I am not joking, smelled EVERY detergent. He picked out a nice cold water, stain fighting, not-to-smelly Gain. We’ll see how this goes! LOL!

We’ve also instituted kid’s cooking nights here. I won’t say that the [honestly made in jest] comment about “woman’s work” started it, but for two weeks the kids have each had a night to cook. This week Little (the Tuesday Chef) made pizza and invented a chocolate pizza based on a book he read recently. It was DELICIOUS.

… Other Stuff:

Friday night we attended a TINY HOUSE festival. We’re all over the tiny house deal and think it’s a great junior/senior homeschool project. It was a blast looking at all the houses, seeing what we liked/didn’t like, and checking out different builders. There were some super helpful people and lots were eager to answer Big’s questions. I really, really hope we can execute this project!!

This week was the state AAU TKD tournament. The kids learned a lot. I learned a lot. I am grateful the injuries weren’t worse. Really. I hate Olympic sparring. I am grateful that Little already had his braces installed. Really.

We’re made great progress on finding a home church. We visited 8 (yes, EIGHT) in the local area. Some were OK, some were terrible for our family, and like each one of us, none were perfect. We have found a place where we’re all happy about it’s biblical stance, peer group for the kids, and opportunities to serve both in the church and the community. I am THRILLED the search is over. It was so hard. We’ve already attending the “so you want to join our church” class (which was 4 weeks long!), and I am ready to get plugged in. To show how eager we are… we’ll be hosting a home group this weekend. Yikes!!

I haven’t, but will blog about this, but my Community Bible Study class is just about the greatest thing since air, iced coffee, and puppies. It’s amazing. If you have one near you – please try it out.

Seriously – the BEST COFFEE CAKE EVER. Add chopped pecans to the top and filling. Perfect. Moist on day 3. It makes a HUGE amount so I recommend a half recipe.

… The Move:

We’re now three months post move. I was joking with someone yesterday that like babies, I’m now past counting in weeks and made it to months. LOL!

Since we’ve been putting a lot of effort into it, we’re actually meeting some people! I went to lunch at a friend’s house last week, which was such an encouragement. Saturday night we had dinner (oh.my.word.it.was.so.delicious.) and learned to play dominoes at our soon-to-be neighbor’s house, and then yesterday after bible study I had lunch with a lady from my core group.

Check me out! I am making myself get out of my comfort zone and meet people! It’s not easy, but I have was inspired by Sally Clarkson’s comment in one of her books that she started every group she’s been a part of. That was a huge encouragement for me. The older I get I see that most everyone wants to be a part of a group, but rarely do people feel they are – so I’m trying to work on inclusion, community, and reaching out.

… On the Horizon –

We’re headed to one of my favorite cities, Chattanooga, this weekend for a play. Some of our VERY favorite teens are in a school production so we’re headed up to cheer them on. I am really looking forward to it!

Sunday we host our first home group. I already cooked all the taco meet and we’ll clean some today. I’m nervous but so far really like the people we’ve met!

Praises:

+ Injuries weren’t worse from the TKD tournament.

+ Fun, busy week.

+ Big’s DE acceptance news!

Prayers:

If you’re inclined to join us in prayer we’d HUGELY appreciate it!!!

+ House sale. This week is Spring Break back in MS, so we’d love to get a reasonable offer, sell the house, and move on with plans to build here. It’s all in God’s timing and we’re calm knowing that!!

How about you?? How was YOUR week?

Homeschool Coffee Break
The Homeschool Post

Cheap and Chicken

I know that this post has the potential to be the most boring thing, EVER, however… I am a stay at home, homeschooling mom so things like learning on youtube and being frugal and cooking generally appeal. For that reason, I have to share this!

Yesterday I was at the local Publix (which I am usually NOT a fan of, though everyone I know LOVES them… but that’s another post), and I was trolling around in my nearly-pjs at 7:00 am on a Sunday looking for something to cook for lunch after church and came up with…chicken. Grilled. Then I got crazy and decided on “chicken and fixins” (bbq  chicken breasts with ham and monetary jack cheese melted on it). I headed over to the chicken section and saw that the bone-in with rib meat chicken was on sale for $1.99/# and boneless was over $4/pound, even more for tenders or the thin cut.

So I bought the bone in.

Now, I often buy the bone in, but I usually use it for instant pot cooking. I thought each breast was WAY too huge to consider grilling, so I decided (you know…because it was still early in the day and I was feeling very awake…), that I would learn to debone the chicken breast. From there we could just grill them in a reasonable amount of time. When I got home I looked up “deboning a chicken breast” on youtube and found the following video:

I pulled it up on my phone and grabbed a knife and got to work.

When the 5 minute video was over I had 2 of 4 breasts done. I finished the other two and then split up the breasts to make them a more reasonable portion and threw them in the fridge. I bagged up the bones (chucked the skin) and then cooked those up this morning in a stock project (with all the junk veg from my fridge). All done, this was what was left (other than the skin):

I will call this project a HUGE success. I will definitely buy the bone in again, even if I don’t make stock from the bones. It was SUPER easy and really, really much cheaper than the boneless. The video was great and I will be looking into more of his cooking videos in the future. I was concerned that with the bones and skin it would be a lot of waste and I’d be breaking even compared to buying the boneless, but there really wasn’t that much waste, and I am by no means a knife expert! I highly recommend trying it out. Next time I might get nerdy and weigh stuff out. Once again, I love youtube and all the neat stuff you can learn with a tiny bit of effort.
Have you ever deboned a chicken before? Chicken breasts? What do you think?

Fenway Park Tour

We recently had to head up to Boston for a funeral when we were up there I tried to squeeze in a couple fun things for the kids. One of the fun events was the walking tour of Fenway Park.  We went in the middle of January so they’re only a couple other people and people in our tour group.  It was also freezing and raining so probably not the best day to go! LOL! Weather aside it was still really cool.

The tour was $20 for adults,($17 for a military discount), and lasted about an hour. Our tourguide was really nice and explained lots of interesting things about the park and its history. I’m an old-school Red Sox fan so I really enjoyed getting to see the Hall of Fame and some of the old baseballs and other memorabilia.


 I think my favorite part was getting to sit up on the green monster and getting to sit in the seat in the press box.


If you’re any type of sports fan or history buff, the tour is definitely worthwhile.


One thing I would warn you about is if you go in the winter, the gift shop across the street closes at 5 PM. Sadly we missed a great shopping opportunity (but saved a ton of money!). Tours start on the hour, so just plan to shop early!

Week  In Review : 14 October 2016

Wow.  It’s been just about FOREVER since I’ve posted a Week in Review!! I needed a blog break,  but I miss writing and I miss getting to look back on what we’ve accomplished,  so I hope to stay consistent. 
Last Week:

We took a sweet field trip last week to…Germany.  It was awesome. We traveled Tuesday,  and returned home Sunday.  We visited Frankfurt,  Heidelberg,  and Mainz. Big is taking German 1 this year so we rationalized that it really was educational! 

School this Week: 

This week was a SERIOUS buckle down week. We started tired,  but we had to press on. With robotics,  travel,  more travel,  and a huge move upcoming the next 4 weeks are critical . 

This week both kids (a little grudgingly)  did full math lessons each day.  With that we rocked out  9 school days of math this week.  Since both kids are in upper level math (algebra 2, and trig) the pace isn’t a big deal.  We mostly go half speed for pacing and to not make our days last forever.  Both kids killed their tests,  so we’ll keep this up until the week of November 13.

Online classes (Big – German 1 and filmmaking on Landry Academy; BJU distance learning Chemistry,   Coursera Academic Writing; Little – English,  programming on Landry  Academy )  went well this week,  too.  The kids were well prepared before we left,  so it was mostly attending.  I’m super pleased with how the classes are going this semester. They’re well paced (chemistry is easily AP level,  so that one’s tough), and the kids are learning a ton. 

I think we’re making it with other classes.  We may have a little home work over the weekend, but such is life. I feel like homeschooling high school is a little like whack a mole – and keeping the moles at bay is tough!

Other Stuff:

Little’s birthday was Tuesday.  With our need to buckle down we didn’t take the day off.  Tomorrow he and his buds are having a video game binge day.  I think they’ll have a blast. I’ve purchased a load of requested junk for them…

Tonight the kids have robotics.  Our team made it through the state competition with an overall second  place so they need to prepare for the regional cometition.  Big is preparing for the team videos,  and Little is a spotter and strategy guy.  They’re thrilled and excited about the next level. 

The Move:

Countdown for Big Box Week (when we move the junk to the rental)… 4 weeks from Monday. That’s move (and school in the car) week.  Yikes.  

Praises:

* Amazing trip to Germany.  Great travel.  Fun memories. 

* Time with bible study ladies before we move.  I can’t think on it or I’ll cry. 

* Great school week. 

* Progress on the garage clean out.  Yikes. That’s huge. 

* Amazing fall weather in the Deep South.  Sweatshirts in the morning,  80 for a high temp. 
How was your week?

5 Things

I’ve been reading all these blogs where people are sharing five things that they’re loving this week so I decided I would join in!

1.Alexa

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I received this is a birthday gift and when I’m able to pry it out of the hands of the two teenagers in the house, it’s absolutely amazing! You can talk to it and have it give sports updates, play Pandora, adjust my calendar, set alarms… It’s just absolutely fabulous, and the sound quality is awesome.

2. Spring Weather.

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Low 80s. Low humidity. Low pollen. It’s rare those collide here so we’re soaking in as much as humanly possible!

3. Summer Jobs

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I’ll wrote more about this in a whole post, but I’m LOVING the kids running their lawn service. It’s great. So many lessons. So much good about it.

4. Surprises.

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This morning I came home from my walk to this. It was so delicious and we were so stuffed we ate lunch at 2. Another surprise? A dear friend came by unexpectedly with her toddler. Another friend received good news and we got to celebrate. It’s a good day!!!

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5. Tony Chocoloney.

I love you. Salted caramel. Real chocolate. Amsterdam I miss you.

How about you? What’s blessing you this week?

Landry Academy Biology Lab Intensive – Review

This spring my two kids, 8th and 9th graders, attended a Landry Academy Two Day Biology Intensive. I have seen online where a lot of people have questions about these events, so I figured I’d share our experience. I wasn’t paid or compensated for my review, and every opinion is mine (or my kids).

 

A while back I jumped on one of the Landry sales and it included two intensives as “free” add ons. I was intrigued by the idea of knocking out all the labs in a couple of days, stretching my kids a little, and providing some social time with other homeschoolers. So I plunged in and registered Big. She would be taking Biology online with BJU this year so it seemed like a great idea.

 

Then I shared it with her. Well, she wasn’t thrilled. It wasn’t the idea of the intensive, but the idea that she wouldn’t be doing biology labs until the spring. Science nerd drama ensued. I relented. I bought the BJU Bio kit ($246…. and the microscope from last year). Now, I don’t begrudge spending the money and I am a HUGE proponent of labs – real live, gross, dissecting labs – but I had a plan. Wah. My plan was foiled. The Intensive became an add on for Big.

As the time drew closer to attend I decided, nearly last minute, that Little should also attend. I figured he would take Bio next year and we could pre-lab with him. He’s less finicky about science, and apparently Big shared with him what she learned this year – that Bio labs can be a hassle, and watching them on dvd with an intensive on the side would have been a descent plan after all. I also realized that if he attended I would have 2 DAYS of alone time. Seriously. A few emails, some money sent, and he was registered.

 

Now, the city with the Intensive was, for us, about a 2 and a half hour drive. We would have to hotel it – so with Hotwire at the ready we booked  a place fairly nearby and with a free breakfast. (In hindsight the free breakfast needn’t be mandatory – the kids fast for a lab on the morning if day 2.) We arrived the night before the first class since the kids had to be there at 8:45 am.

Upon arriving at the lab location the kids received a lab notebook and some lab gear. They needed to carry a sack lunch, but otherwise everything was included. Really – for the two days my only job was to make sure they had food, get them there, and pick them up. (I see the appeal of a traditional school now….really….wow.). This was new to me. I enjoyed it. LOL!!

OK, so, the set up was great, everything was well organized, and the amount of pre-check in material and communication was great – but what about the labs?

 

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Well, both of my kids really enjoyed themselves. They both say they learned a lot, and it was a great experience. Big, Science Nerd, loved the hands on and thought the teacher was fabulous. Little, less science-y but more social, enjoyed the other kids in the class, the material, and a couple of days of “fun” school. Both kids learned a lot about having lab partners – a rite of passage for high school IMHO – and both really liked the other kids in the class. It was a great group. One thing that surprised me was that ALL the kids in the class commuted from at least a couple of hours away. I was a little concerned it would be a pack of kids from a local group and my kids would be outsiders – but that was not the case at all. ALL of them were at hotels for the class.

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Will we do it again?

Yes, we will be attending another Landry Intensive in the future. It was a great way to break up the spring blahs, to meet some new people, and to knock out some labs that are harder to do at home. The quality was great, the teaching excellent, and overall the whole experience was one I would HIGHLY recommend.

So, have your kids attended an Intensive? Have