Everyday Reading - Practical Family Living for Book Loving Parents

July 31, 2015

One Week

This post is sponsored by Green Works

Today marks the end of our first week of school. We've been fairly low-key as we get in the swing of Ella going to kindergarten, but I think it's been a big success.

Originally, I'd assumed she'd go to specials in the morning and then we'd do homeschool in the afternoon, but when I went to register her, it turned out that specials take place in the afternoons.

Also, two days in, the district alerted the school that the policy is that she has to be there at least half the day to remain on the records, so I drop her off just before lunch and then pick her up at the end of the day with all the other students.

I've been really happy with the school and how easy they've been to work with and how they haven't made me feel at all like our unusual set-up is a giant pain for them.

And Ella loves going (although, after the first day, she told me, "there is a lot of standing in line at school").

So now we do homeschool in the morning, which I actually prefer because it makes for a much more laid-back and unrushed morning.

Bart and I wake up before the girls and get ready, and then they roll in around 7:00 or 7:30 and eat breakfast while Bart and I make lunches. They get dressed after Bart leaves, we clean up the house a bit, and then start school around 8:30.

We do about two hours of school (Star usually naps during most of this, and Ani is really good about playing by herself while I work Ella, and then I do letters and numbers and reading with Ani while Ella does some school work on her own).

Every day we do math, reading, spelling, and handwriting (and next week, we'll be adding in geography and memorization) and then we do history twice a week and science twice a week and music or art once a week.

And they seem to love it. On Monday, when Ella got home from school, she asked if we could do MORE school.

My interests, of course, tend to skew toward the liberal arts (hello history major and library degree), and Ella certainly loves nothing more than a good book, but she's also always been really interested in math and science.

For the past two years, she's picked working through her math book on her own rather than coloring during quiet time, and it was only once she finished the kindergarten math book last summer and we didn't have the next one that she was very interested in working on learning to read.

And her absolute favorite part of school has always been science, which I'm really motivated to foster, even though it's definitely the most work for me.

Two weeks ago, I sat in on a Twitter chat hosted by Green Works and the AAUW with a bunch of female scientists talking about their careers and how to get more women into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields, since currently only 1 in 1,000 girls go into science.

I don't particularly care what fields my girls go into, but I want them to pick something because they love it, not just because they feel like other doors are closed to them.

I want them to feel like they are equally strong in STEM skills as they are in liberal arts skills, and to know what sort of options are out there for careers and jobs in various fields, as well as what working in those fields would actually look like, what the opportunities are, and how the pay is. (Bart and I joke that one clue that Ella has an MBA dad is that her favorite game to play with him over breakfast is "careers" where he picks a different job and she acts out what that would look like).

Choosing to homeschool puts a lot of responsibility on me to make sure all of my girls develop the skills they need, but it also gives Bart and me the chance to expose them to all sorts of different opportunities and possibilities for their future. I love this video from Green Works about the importance of mentors in a child's life to help them develop their potential and nurture an interest in the sciences.

And if you come over to my house and the kitchen is a disaster, you know I'm going to pretend it's a science project. 

July 30, 2015

8 Books to Read When It's Too Hot to Go Outside

The first order of business when we moved in was a trip to the grocery store.

I need my yogurt and granola (and sriracha sauce - my mom thought it was hilarious that when I picked up the essentials our first morning in Arizona, sriracha was one of the 20 things I purchased).

The second order, obviously, was to procure library cards and max them out immediately.

During this first week of school, as we've been transitioning into our new routines, we've spent most afternoons snuggled up on the couch, reading piles of books.

It's so nice to be settled again, with all our belongings together in one house, and no move looming ahead of us.

Here are some books that have made themselves at home in our new home:

Picture book picks from a mom and librarian - you won't mind reading these fifty times!

Here Comes the Tooth Fairy Cat by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Claudia Rueda - Oh man, I love these books so much. We read and laughed ourselves silly over the Santa Cat one and the Easter cat one last year, and I'm so happy to have a non-holiday one that we can read without apology all year round. In these books, the cat interacts with the narrator via picket signs and their dialogue is just really amusing. I love how the cat is feisty and a little bit tricky, but also sweet and lovable. If you like Mo Willems (and who doesn't?), you'll like these books.

Naptime by Iris de Mouy, translated by Shelley Tanaka - We're entering that dreaded phase of resisting naps, so it is no surprise that this was Ani's favorite book. All the animals insist that they are not a bit tired as they are rounded up for naptime, making all the same old excuses every child tries. The color palette, the style of art, and the unusual shape of the book all made this just such a delightful read. (Plus it's a French book, translated in English, which makes me feel extra smart, even if that feeling is completely unfounded).

Book of Animal Poetry: 200 Poems with Photographs That Squeak, Soar, and Roar! from National Geographic - This one is definitely the odd-ball on this list because it's a large book of poetry, rather than a picture book. Bart's parents gave this to us for Christmas and I thought, "Well, THIS will never get read" because I am a model of optimism. And then it was Ella's FAVORITE book. She'd read us poem after poem while we made dinner or did the dishes, and the poems were so clever and fun and interesting. Plus, the photographs of the animals are stunning. Don't be a doubter like I was.

Time Flies by Eric Rohmann - In this wordless tale, a bird flies into a natural history museum after hours and through the dinosaur exhibit. When the dinosaurs come to life and the bird is transported with them back into the Jurassic age, it's more of an adventure than she bargained for. My girls LOVED this one and we read it over and over.

Oh No, George! by Chris Haughton - What is it about dogs that makes for such good picture books? I first discovered Chris Haughton with Shh! We Have a Plan, and this one is even more delightful, I think. Harry is leaving George the dog home alone and instructs him to be good. George, of course, has every intention of being very good. But then there is a cake. And a cat. And some trash. What's a dog to do? (You know what a dog will do. . . ).

Sylvie by Jennifer Sattler - When Sylvia asks why flamingos are pink and learns it is because they eat pink shrimp, she wonders what will happen if she eats something purple. Or brown. Or striped. After I read this book, I Googled to see if that's why flamingos really are pink. The answer is yes. We are also big fans of Sattler's Pig Kahuna.

Olivia Saves the Circus by Ian Falconer - I love Olivia so much (well, in the book form - I've never seen the television spin off, so I have no comment on those). She's just so hilariously rascally but basically good-hearted. This one may be my favorite of the whole series (especially when her teacher probes her about whether or not her story of the circus adventure is true).

Home by Carson Ellis - I might be at exactly the right place in my life to love this book as we settle into a long-term home after six years of living in limbo. I love the calm but interesting and detailed illustrations of every sort of home you can think of, from real to imaginary. And I maybe want to frame every page for a whole series to hang in some room of my own home.

P.S. I share more book recommendations every day or two on Instagram, so if you're looking for more suggestions, feel free to follow along! Or check out 100 Picture Books to Read This Summer!

July 29, 2015

Bacon, Potato and Feta Frittata

This is the BEST frittata, packed with potatoes, feta, and bacon. Perfect for any time of day.

This recipe has two really great qualities. 

One of them is that taught me I don't actually know how to spell "frittata."

The other good quality is that it is delicious.

Not that either of my children who eat table food would know, since they refused to even taste it.

Ani carefully slid her slice right back into the pan and Ella explained that she already knew she wouldn't like it because she doesn't like eggs or potatoes and usually not bacon either. Also, were those specks of black pepper in there? Because she doesn't like that either.

Bart and I didn't push it because it just meant there were enough leftovers for us to have for lunch the next day.

This is the BEST frittata, packed with potatoes, feta, and bacon. Perfect for any time of day.

Bacon and Potato Frittata
(slightly adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook)

Serves 3-4

1 ¾ pounds red potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
3-4 slices bacon, cut into 1/2 inch slices
4-6 green onions, sliced into 1/4 inch bits
3.5 ounces of crumbled feta
5 eggs
2 tablespoons milk
½ teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with tinfoil.

Scrub the potatoes and then slice as thinly as you can (think potato chips). Lay them on the cookie sheet and drizzle the olive oil over the top. Toss to coat the potatoes with the oil, and salt and pepper generously to coat. Spread the potatoes evenly on the pan and then cook for 30-35 minutes, flipping them over halfway through. When they're tender, set them aside to cool for a few minutes and leave the oven on.

While the potatoes are cooling, put the diced bacon in a cast iron or other oven-proof skillet. Cook until slightly crispy, then drain the bacon bits on a paper towel, leaving the grease in the pan. Depending on how greasy your bacon was, you may want to drain a little out - I left about 3 Tablespoons of bacon grease in the pan.

Let it cool for a minute or two, then add the potatoes to the skillet and stir to coat. Sprinkle the bacon bits, the green onions and feta over the potatoes.

Whisk together the eggs, milk and salt, and pour over the potatoes. Cover the skillet with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 15 minutes more, until the eggs are set.

Serve warm.


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