"Funny How a Melody Sounds Like a Memory"

Follow my blog with Bloglovin {Day 29,  Topic: 5 Songs}

Music is everywhere in my life, attached to most of my memories. I've always found it funny how a song can be connected to a moment in time, even if that particular memory isn't an important one, but simply just life. So what songs do I share? There are so many to choose from....



My childhood is marked by songs by The Beatles, Elvis, and The Beach Boys. Music is one of those things I never forget and I can still remember the lyrics to almost any song even if I haven't heard it in years. But stronger are the memories attached to these songs. What I think of when I hear songs from my Cocktail Soundtrack tape, who comes to mind when I hear songs by The Voice of the Beehive or The Bangles, or the mental picture I see when I hear Kokomo. But I am going to share a lesser known song. When I was young I had 2 favorite tapes- a recording of Shel Silverstein reciting his poems and Barry Polisar's Naughty Songs for Boys and Girls. I had them up until a few years ago when one of the boys' music players pulled the tape and I couldn't wind it back. But this one is one of my all time favorites: Never Cook Your Sister in a Frying Pan....and when I hear it I can see my younger self, my room, my toys, my tape player...



Being a rather empathetic person I love most any love song. I can feel the feelings, good or bad, regardless if there are any similarities to my life. There are many, many songs out there that remind me of my love. But there are two song that I would say are "ours".

The fist takes me back to 17 years ago, at age 16, falling in love with my future husband. I was dating someone when we met, so we started out as friends. Head Over Feet came out right around that time, so it was on the radio all the time and the lyrics just spoke to me. And it didn't take long for me to fall head over feet for Paul....

 You've already won me over in spite of me
And don't be alarmed if I fall head over feet
Don't be surprised if I love you for all that you are
I couldn't help it
It's all your fault

Head Over Feet by Alanis Morissette on Grooveshark

And then there's Remember When,  which describes...

Our past- Remember when I was young and so were you, And time stood still and love was all we knew 
Our present- Remember when the sound of little feet, Was the music we danced to week to week
And our future- Remember when we said when we turned gray, When the children grow up and move away, We won't be sad, we'll be glad, For all the life we've had, And we'll remember when



I've mentioned my struggle with depression a time or two. It's a part of who I am, some days a bigger part than others. I know many people who surround themselves with happiness when they are feeling down- happy books, people, movies and music- but that's not how I work. I tend to surround myself with sad things and music is the front runner. Listening to sad music, while it may make my feelings worse for a moment, works as sort of a release. And I end up feeling better because of it. There's something about not feeling so alone. Hearing the lyrics, you know that someone else, somewhere out there is feeling just like you.

And 2 of the songs I listen to most are:

Runaway Train, by Soul Asylum. This one came out back when I was in middle school and it's been with me ever since.
 "Can you help me remember how to smile
Make it somehow all seem worthwhile
How on earth did I get so jaded
Life's mystery seems so faded

And finally, the #1 song. If I could pick just one to share, a theme song of sorts, this one would be it. It's the song I play on repeat when I have bad days. It's the song I feel deep inside. And the one I can identify with the if you ever want to know what's going on inside the head of someone who suffers from depression, this is it:

Full of Grace, Sarah McLachlan

I feel just like I'm sinking
And I claw for solid ground
I'm pulled down by the undertow
I never thought I could feel so low
Oh darkness I feel like letting go
If all of the strength and all of the courage
Come and lift me from this place
I know I could love you much better than this
Full of grace

Full Of Grace by Sarah Mc Lachlan on Grooveshark

So those are my 5 songs. What songs are on your life's playlist? (And in case anyone is wondering, this post's title [ "Funny How a Melody Sounds Like a Memory" ] comes from the song Springsteen, by Eric Church)


Making- and Reaching- Money Goals

A couple of months ago I reviewed the FamilyMint Money Management Certification Program. In the course of using that program the kids were asked to make some money goals. One of Rylan's goals was to buy a laptop by Christmas this year. His target amount to raise was a hefty $1000. He had his sights set on a Mac. He started saving his money. Mowing grass and doing extra jobs for us. He helped his grandfather plant seedlings, bushes and flowers. He mowed grass for him as well.

When Rylan wants something he borders on obsessive. He spends way too much time researching options and prices and everything else. He also asks a million questions and wants our opinion on every little detail. Over the last few months we've had a lot of conversations about what he wanted the laptop for. And eventually he came to the decision to get a cheaper Windows based computer now and when it dies in a few years trade up to the Mac then. So he lowered his goal to about $300.

This weekend, his chosen computer was on sale. He was $8 short. But since he would earn $5 of that in his weekly mowing and he agreed to mow a couple other areas that needed cutting, we spotted him the $8 and took him to Best Buy.

And now he's loving setting up and playing around with his new toy. He's already installed Lego Digital Designer and ordered and received a cable that allows him to hook his computer to the TV to watch some of our iTunes movies.


Garden Update: May 27, 2013

We spent the weekend staking tomatoes and pulling off suckers. We also planted more beans and squash. This year I am determined to keep track of what is growing where so I can actually see which varieties grow and produce the best. Since I grow so many different types, using markers in the garden get a little difficult. So instead I planted with my notebook and pen in hand then transferred the lists to the computer. 
This is our main tomato bed. It has 75 plants total and 19 different varieties, all heirloom. 

And this is my map. All items marked with an * are Rylan's plants.

Today Rylan and I planted the melon bed. Most of the watermelon bed belongs to Rylan. It's his baby this year and he has big plans. We have 60 plants total in the bed.

We also planted most of the bush beans and summer squash. We haven't put the okra in since we were expecting cooler weather, but now that is' back to the 80s, Okra is next to go in the ground.

We also finished up our eggplant, peppers and cucumbers.  And added some of our extra tomatoes on the end. Rylan is taking the suckers off his 3 tomato types and planting them in order to get more plants for less seeds. I've done this most years when I find huge suckers that were hiding from me. It works pretty well and is an easy way to increase the number of plants.

Here's the map to that bed. The extra spaces at the end are for the extra tomatoes.

How does your garden grow?

This post has been linked to Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways, The HomeAcre Hop, The Homestead Barn Hop,


Alpaca Shearing Day!

 It's been in the 80s the past few weeks and the alpacas were getting uncomfortable. Paco would stomp and wade in their water trough and we'd set up Atreyu with a mister during the day to sit by and keep cool. It took awhile but we finally found a shearer to come out and cut their fleece for the summer. Our shearer was Joe Moore, out of Western NC, and if you are in the South Eastern US, I would highly recommend him.

First up was Paco. To say that Paco is uncooperative would be an understatement. He's untrusting, rowdy and likes to spit. They had to carry him up because he wouldn't walk on the lead even with Atreyu leading the way.

But once strapped down and stretched, he had no where to go. He could still scream and carry on though.

Paco is a Suri, and is very soft. Compared to Atreyu the amount of fleece given was very small, but it's dense and beautiful.

The boys helped to gather up all the fleece as it was cut. It was pretty windy, so they had some catching to do!

All done! He had to be carried back to the pasture as well before he was set loose. I am sure he's much cooler now!

Then it was Atreyu's turn. He's much older, gelded and has been trained. So he was very well behaved.

His fleece was pretty thick since he's a Huacaya. We got about a half a bag full from Paco and 2 over stuffed bags from Atreyu.

I bet he feels 15 lbs lighter now! 

This post is linked to Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways, The HomeAcre Hop, The Homestead Barn Hop,


{Review} My Home School Grades

At this point in our homeschooling journey, I don't really give that many grades. Actually the only thing that we grade is math and that is mostly because Teaching Textbooks does that for me. But I have never actually averaged all those lessons and tests up into a final grade. Nevertheless, when I was given the chance to try out My Home School Grades all it took was one look at their website for me to be excited to try it out. 

About the Product:


My Home School Grades is a very simple web application (accessible on your computer, smartphone or tablet). It's a way to keep track of your children's classes, grades and activities and in the end produce a very simple, professional transcript of their education. You can find all sorts of how-to videos on their website to get you started, but really they aren't needed since everything is laid out and very easy to navigate. 

You start by entering your student(s). Then you can add all of their classes. You can enter the class name, grade level, how many credits, if it's an AP/Honors course, if it's a Pass/Fail course, school year, subject, etc. My Home School Grades also made it very easy by providing some of the most common curricula for you, and if you are more of an unschooler or use a different curricula you can use the other/custom listing. 
Once you've added a class you can start adding grades. Simply type in the lessons, test, quizzes and the grade. You have option of grading by letter, fraction or by number. Based on your account settings final grades will automatically be shown as Percent number, Letter, or Letter +/-. Some of the curriculum choices have their lessons already names and listed so that all you have to do is enter in the grade. You also have the option of entering just a final grade, as well as entering the grades for those classes earned through dual enrollment.

All of the calculating has been done for you. You can also weight the lessons, quizzes, tests and labs differently in order to calculate the final grade in a way you want. I also wanted to point out the flexibility here- even if you are an unschooler or don't use a lot of pre-made curricula, your child will still need some sort of high school transcript in order to graduate. You can uses these 4 categories- lessons, quizzes, tests and labs- as any thing you want. To you they can mean anything you deem an important part of their learning process and gauge of their comprehension.

You can also add all of your child's extracurricular activities and achievements. You can choose for a pre-populated list that includes categories such as work, community service, Scouts, 4-H, school, church, etc. You can add a name and description to the activity as well as listing any awards and references to go with it.

The second part of My Home School Grades is the transcript. They take all of the information you enter over the years and create a very nice looking transcript listed by grade level. You can choose to start the transcript at any level or just include the High School years. You can export multiple transcripts so you can include a comprehensive, all grades one for your files and a more official high-school only one for graduation and college applications. Also included on the transcript are the calculated GPA, points and credits for each year as well as at graduation.

My Thoughts on this Application:

Honestly, I loved it. It was easy to set up, easy to navigate, and easy to use. Some of the things I liked most:
  • The fact that all the calculations are done for you. No matter how you enter the grades- fraction, percent, letter- in the end the grades are listed uniformly how you want them.
  • The customer service is wonderful! Any problems, questions, suggestions, etc you have I have no doubt the creators of this program will do what they can to help. They truly want this to be accessible and useable for all homeschoolers.
  • I loved the transcripts. It's part of who I am, but I have always loved the look of lists like these and I think their transcripts are done simply and beautifully with all the right information included. There is also just enough flexibility so that you can choose certain elements to include or leave out.
The only bad thing to come out of using this program is that now high school is very much on my mind. But I guess seeing as that next year is the last year before we move into high school I guess I should be starting to think about it a little more!

How to get it for yourself:


My Home School Grades is very affordably priced at $49.99 for a yearly membership! You can also pay monthly at a rate of $5.99/month. These rates include any future upgrades and additions to the application as well as unlimited students and free support. They offer a 30 day money-back guarantee, so you can see for yourself how great this application is and how it will work for your family!

**UPDATE: My Home School Grades  has made LOTS of changes and added many, many features since this review was written. My oldest is in high school now and this program has been so valuable in planning his high school classes, activities and keeping track of grades! **


{Goat Milk} Vanilla Bean Ice Cream with Cajeta Swirl

I am waiting on new cultures to arrive before I can make more cheese and we were getting a little overrun with milk. Yesterday I made a half a gallon of yogurt and used another half gallon of milk to make cajeta in the crock pot. We have made dulce de leche in the crock pot before using store bought condensed milk, but I wanted to try it with with our fresh goat milk.

It took all day to cook down, but it is so, so good. It tasted a little like a mix between caramel and butterscotch.

To Make Cajeta:

1/2 gallon goat milk
2 cups sugar
Seeds of 1 vanilla bean
dash of cinnamon/ 1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp baking soda dissolved in 1 T water

You can make this on the stovetop (quicker, but more hands-on) or in the crock pot (much longer, but does not require constant attention). I went with the crock pot so I didn't have to stand and stir for hours.

Place the milk, vanilla, cinnamon and sugar in the crock pot and turn on to high. Stir every so often until the milk is hot and sugar is dissolved. Stir in the baking soda water. Continue cooking on high stirring every so often. I just stirred as I came into the kitchen, maybe once an hour or so. Keep the lid off since the goal is for the milk to reduce and caramelize. It took about 12 hours to thicken up to the consistency I wanted (like a sauce/topping) if you want it thicker just cook a little longer.

And this morning Annika and I made vanilla bean ice cream to go with our cajeta. Sometimes I make the more involved ice cream by making a custard with eggs, milk and sugar but today I went the simple route.

To Make Vanilla Bean Ice Cream (raw):

2 cups raw goat milk
1 cup goat milk yogurt
3/4 cup sugar
Seeds of 1 vanilla bean

Whisk all of this together and pour into a 1.5 qt ice cream maker and mix as the machine instructs. The key here is to have 3 cups of liquid. You can use a combination of heavy cream, whole milk, skim milk etc. The lower the fat the less creamy the ice cream will be. I choose 2 cups of whole, raw goat's milk and 1 cup of yogurt this time to see how the yogurt affected the consistency.

We also swirled about 1/2 cup of our cajeta into the ice cream just as it finished processing.

It wasn't quite all the way frozen by lunch time....but it was still really good!


Garden 2013: Finally Planting


80 tomatoes,  20 heirloom varieties
20 peppers, 8  heirloom varieties
15 eggplants, 4 varieties

300 peas, 3 varities
Kale, lettuce, chard, spinach, broccoli and cauliflower (all but the kale are doing rather poorly at the moment)
radishes and carrots planted in straw bales

 Herbs: Sage, Oregano, Lavender, Thyme, Wormwood, Curry, Rosemary, Calendula and 7 different varieties of basil
Flowers: Cosmos, Zinnias, Marigold, Sunflowers and a few different wildflowers

We stayed in the garden most of the day yesterday, and with this addition I was able to get a lot done. Annika (and the boys) played in the sand ALL day in the shade of the old apple tree. 

The first tomato....on one of the plants I started back in February.


{Review} Come on an Ooka Island Adventure!

Reading. It's one of the most important skills anyone can have. It's also one of the most stressful parts of homeschooling. I have successfully taught 3 of my 5 kids to read. I was not blessed with self-starters or motivated readers. None of my 3 oldest taught themselves, none of them zipped through words quickly and effortlessly, and none read for pleasure for a long time. You would think that having done it 3 times before, teaching #4 would be a breeze. But like with most things, my kids are all very different and what works for one definitely doesn't work for the next. Lakin and I are in a frustrating place right now in his reading journey. He's stubborn, a perfectionist, and doesn't have a huge attention span. We are making slow but steady progress, and I will take any help I can get when it comes to teaching how to read. I am a firm believer that practice makes perfect, so the more words, books, games that have to do with language the better.

Over the years I have used many different computer programs aimed at teaching phonics and language skills. I have used CD based programs, free website, subscription based websites and free trials of many more. So when I was asked to try out Ooka Island I was pretty excited. Like I said- I will take any help I can get in hopes that it will help make reading click!

About the Product:

Ooka Island is learn to read game designed for kids at the Pre-K to 2nd Grade level. It teaches phonics, phonemic awareness, vocabulary, fluency, comprehension. It is a self contained application on your computer, available for both Mac and PC, that adapts to your child based on their abilities as they go through the program.

Ooka Island follows a cycle of guided play, e-reader and free play to help keep the kids engaged and eager to learn. The Ooka Island map is full of fun and games such as Alphabet Mountain, The Cake Factory and Bubbly Trubbly that teach things phonics, blending, decoding and sequencing. The player moves through these games during the guided part of each lesson. Then they enter the Popcorn Library to read and earn books. In this e-reader section they listen to a book and complete comprehension activities. You can even print out a book path for them to place stickers on as they complete each book.

In addition to the application, there is a online component to the game where parents can go to see their child's progress. You can view all sorts of reports and analysis and see how your child is progressing. You can also find resources to use offline such as workbooks, book paths, certificates and even music to help keep your child excited!

What did we think?

Lakin LOVES games like this, and he was so excited when it came in the mail. It is very visually appealing which means kids are excited right off the bat.

What I liked most:
  • I like that is it self adapting. We have used programs in the past that don't adapt as the child progresses and this leads to boredom or frustration as things become too easy or too hard. 
  • This program does a really good job of keeping interest alive. The games change with enough frequency and they have enough movement and story lines involved to keep you thinking. 
  • Extra resources. Games like this are only part of teaching your child to read. It's still very hands on with parental involvement required. The activity books are great reinforcement for what they are learning in the game and the other resources work to keep the excitement alive. 
  • I liked that it had a lot of directed activities. This meant that Lakin couldn't keep repeating his favorite games  and he couldn't skip those he didn't particularly like. 

Things to think about:

We've tried quite a few computer based games in our reading journey, and what I have learned is that they all have good qualities and they all share a common goal. The biggest variable in the equation is your child. Different kids prefer different games, so I have always been a fan of the "free trial" offered by many companies. This way I can know for sure if my child is going to mesh well with the game. Being a self contained application, this might be hard to do, but I think some sort of Demo CD or online sample games might be a good idea so that customers, and their kids, can get a good feel for the game before making their purchase.  That being said, my child really enjoyed his time on Ooka Island, and I can see that his skills improved because of it.

Want to purchase Ooka Island for yourself?

Ooka Island can be purchased from their website for the following prices:

    $12.95 per month or $124.95 annually

Family (of up to 4 children):

   $19.95 per month or $149.95 annually

 And right now you can get up to 30% off your subscription by clicking here!