Squash Carving

This year we decided not to buy pumpkins, but to use what we had growing in the garden for our jack-o-lantern carving fun. We have a bucket full of jack-be-little pumpkins that the kids have been painting and carving and decorating with. Annika used one of them as her tiny jack-o-lantern.

It was a little small to get a spoon or hand in to scoop out the seeds, but luckily the chickens were around to lend a hand, or beak...

Cohen and Lakin let the Kamo Kamo squashes get very mature in the garden. Kamo Kamo's are like a summer squash when they are picked young, but as they get mature the begin to turn orange and become more like a winter squash. I love the look of them!

Cale's monster pumpkin plant put out a few more flowers after his big ones were picked. One of the pumpkins ended up sitting in a fence and grew itself stuck, so he destroyed it....But the other turned into a nice sized pumpkin to carve.

Here they are, all lit up!


{Review} See the Light: Art Projects

I have always enjoyed art, I am not necessarily an artist, but you can find my doodles on almost any paper that crosses my path and pastels, crayons and markers have always been in my home. As a parent, I have always tried to include art in our day-to-day life. When my boys were all small, we had an "art corner" with free use of an easel and paints, craft supplies, drawing supplies and any other artsy material you can think of. As the kids grew older, and especially once we began homeschooling, I added more directed art projects into our days. While I am big supporter or allowing a child to express their own creativity, I see the use of a directed project of a predetermined subject to help learn certain skills and methods in art. So, while I normally create my own art lessons and reproduce projects I have found online, I was very interested in trying a more "professional" approach to art.

See the Light is a DVD based art curriculum for children ages 10 and up. There are a few different series available: Art Class, which teaches the basics of things like composition, shading, perspective and color and Art Projects, which covers history and technique of a particular artist as the students complete a project in the style of that artist. For the purpose of this review, I received a copy of one of the Art Projects lessons to try out with my kids.


About the Product:


Like I mentioned, the Art Projects series is made up of 9 DVDs, each covering a different artist, and will have the students complete a projects based on the style of that artist. We decided to try out the Sunflowers Project, in the style of Vincent Van Gogh. The DVD is set up with 4 lessons, each lasting about 25 minutes (running time). Each lesson combines elements of art history, art technique and other art education basics. Each lesson requires very basic supplies. For Sunflowers, all we needed was oil pastels, paper and a few towels. There was also a requirement of a bouquet of sunflowers, but since the ones in the garden were past bloom and I didn't want to purchase any, we went without and used pictures from online, and the lesson's bouquet as inspiration.

Our Experience:

We sat down as a group- five kids ranging in age from 2 to 12 and myself- with Rylan's laptop centered for us all to see. The first lesson was all about drawing the basic form and adding the first layer of color. The kids each chose how many sunflowers they wanted to include, as well as the shape of the vase. The lesson really encouraged the kids to do what they wanted, which I really appreciate- even though they were doing the same project they could add their own elements and personalization.

We found that even though the lessons were only 25 minutes long, we had to pause often to allow each of the kids to finish each step and this stretched our daily art lesson to well over an hour. Half-way through the second lesson we decided to split each lesson into 2 sessions, so that we didn't feel as rushed.

The kids were pretty unimpressed (with their art, not the lessons), after the first couple lessons. They didn't see how it was going to come together to look like the completed project shown in the lesson. But once the negative space was filled in they really started to like what they saw.

Each lesson is also filled with a lot of history about the artist. We learned a great deal about Van Gogh and his life. I think the kids were especially interested in the fact that he didn't consider himself an artist and was very insecure about his abilities. One of my children in particular feels that he is NOT an artist and CAN'T draw. But hearing that fact and looking at his finished project he felt much better about his abilities.

Above are our final projects. I was amazed at the difference between the first day and the last. They all really came together and even the parts that they struggled with came together. I can also see the light bulb moment for the kids where they see that that techniques like layering colors, adding shadows and adding highlights make a huge difference in the finished project. These are lessons that they can bring into their own art creations for years to come.

The Bottom Line:

As you can probably tell, we all really enjoyed this Art Projects lesson. I asked the kids when we were finished what they thought and they unanimously agreed that they enjoyed these lessons better than ones we've done in the past. My oldest liked that she did the project along with them so they could SEE what each step was and not just be told what to do.

What I liked most:
  • The lessons combine many visual elements- there is an artist's original print, a finished project, a vase of sunflowers, and the teacher completing a project along with you. All of these elements can really help the kids see what they are doing and what they are working toward. 
  • Although the lessons are for ages 10 and up, they are fully customizable to all ages. We tend to do electives such as art as a family, so this is a big plus!
  • I like that the lesson include art history, while we have completed many projects and worked with a variety of mediums over the years, I have never done much on the history part of art even though I think it is very important. 
  • With high school on my mind, I like that this series can be used to satisfy the fine arts credit. You can even find a PDF download on how to use See the Light to satisfy a 1/2 or full credit for high school on their website.
   The See the Light lessons are Christian based and do include elements of such. We are secular homeschoolers and although the religion-based parts of these lessons were not 100% in line with our beliefs, I would still recommend this product for its intended purpose of art history and instruction.

Product Facts:

For more information about See the Light, or to purchase the lessons for yourself, you can visit their website- where you will find all the information you need plus tips, sample lessons and a blog.

The Art Projects DVDs can be purchased individually for $14.99, or as a boxed set for $99. You can also join a DVD of the Month Club for $12.99 per month.

Also available are the Art Class series, the art-based Bible Stories series and the Art Projects Cartooning DVD.

To read more review of this product or other projects in this series, visit Mosaic Reviews.



Carving Big Jack


Remember Cale's big pumpkins? One exploded all over the house before the fair, and for awhile we weren't sure his second was going to make it, but it did. And it made it back home. The fungal infection that was invading the stem stopped and he was hopeful that the pumpkin would make it to Halloween. But then....the chickens got it... 

See that hole that goes all the way through to the inside cavity? It's from the chickens pecking and pecking and pecking all day long.  So it was carving time!

Because of the location of the hole Big Jack's face had to be facing a different direction than planned. The hole was incorporated into his mouth, and he's facing the sky.

As you can see the chickens were very excited about carving. I believe a couple even tried to go inside once the top was off.

And here he is all lit up!

Cale's already making plans for next year- and now's the time to prep the soil. Last week we heard that a new world record was set- 2032 lbs!


Field Trip Ideas: Western North Carolina

Western North Carolina is made up a lot of small historic towns, all surrounding the bigger city of Asheville. The area is full of life, nature and beauty. From popular tourist destinations to little known treasures there's something for every one. Most of the links below will take you to my posts about our trips to these locations, though some will take you to the location's website.

For the Animal Lover:



  • Western North Carolina Nature Center: The nature center is full of animals that are native to the area, from river otters to bears to coyotes. It is a very natural setting, with paved trails and lots of points of interest.
  • Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary: This is a small, lesser known attraction that hosts a large boardwalk through wetlands and around Beaver Lake. With many places to sit and observe nature and life around you. We've seen, not only birds, but muskrat, fish, turtles and interesting caterpillars and wildflowers.
  • Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education: The center is also located in Brevard, NC. It hosts a large fish hatchery, a small indoor exhibit building and numerous trails around the property. One of the best things about the center is their education program. They offer free classes throughout the year for kids on things like fly fishing, outdoor photography, archery and BB gun safety. 

For the Nature Lover:



  •  The Cradle of Forestry: The Cradle of Forestry is the birthplace of Forestry and is located in Brevard. They have a indoor large education center with a scavenger hunt for the kids, information on wildlife and even an simulated helicopter ride. Outdoors there are 2 trails full of history about Forestry. 
  • The NC Arboretum: The North Carolina Arboretum is a 400+ acre garden located in the Bent Creek Experimental Forest just outside of Asheville. They have areas of manicured gardens and natural forest trails. They also have 2 buildings that host special exhibits and educational events and classes. The grounds are beautiful and my botany-loving kids love spending time here.  Note: all 3 of the links go will lead you to 3 different posts about 3 different trips to the arboretum. 
  • Botanical Gardens of Asheville: The botanical gardens are located on the ground of the University of NC, Asheville. It is a naturally set garden with a paths and trails full of native plants in their natural state. A creek runs along side most of the trail, with plenty of areas to play in the water, jump on rocks or look for nature. 
  • The Blue Ridge Parkway: The parkway runs through most of Western North Carolina with amazing overlooks and view, lots of hiking and waterfalls. You will feel like you are on top of the world! The views are amazing all year long, but the fall is one of the most beautiful! 

For the History Lover: 



  •  Small Town, NC: Surrounding Asheville are tons of small towns rich in history. Brevard, Black Mountain, Waynesville, Hendersonville. Each has it's own charm. For example, Hendersonville has tons of small museums, apple orchards and a charming down town. You can see all about out tour of Hendersonville: Part 1 and Part 2.
  •  Biltmore: This is probably the most well known of all attractions in the Asheville area, and no field trip list would be complete without it.  It is America's largest home, with a lot to offer. They also host a homeschool festival each fall, which would be a perfect time to plan a visit. 
  •  Carl Sandburg Home: Carl Sandburg was an author and poet, who lived in the Flat Rock area of NC. His wife raised award winning dairy goats, and their direct descendents still live on the farm to this day. The home is run by the National Park Service, who run tours of the Sandburg Home and raise and breed the dairy goats on site.

Of course these aren't the only attractions the area has to offer. There's also the Museums at Pack Place. Or a tour of the French Broad Chocolate Factory. You can climb Chimney Rock, slide down Sliding Rock, or visit the sites where movies such as The Last of the Mohicans, Dirty Dancing and The Hunger Games were filmed.

*This post is part of the Hip Homeschool Moms' Field Trips Around the World Series. Check out the entire series to find out more about what other cities around the world have to offer!


Sucre Indulge Chocolate Review and Giveaway!

I have a confession. Okay, so most people who know me already know this, but I have a major sweet tooth. With chocolate being one of my very favorite treats. I am sure I am not alone when I admit that I sometimes save the chocolate in the house until after bedtime, just so I don't have to share. But today I am going to share some chocolate with one of my readers!

Sucré is a Sweet Boutique located in New Orleans, Louisiana. They specialize in making some of the best confections in the world. They not only offer a variety of chocolate collections but also macarons, king cake, and a variety of other handmade treats. They run a storefront in New Orleans, but most of their confections are also available to be shipped as well.

I was given Sucré's 15 Piece Indulge Chocolate Collection to taste. It consists 5 different flavors: rhum, malted milk, wedding cake, hazelnut cream and peanut butter and jelly.  I have never ordered chocolates through the mail, so I was a little worried I would end up with a melted mess if I wasn't home when the package arrived. But the chocolates were packaged safely in a cooler box with cold pack, so they were still in perfect condition!

Like I said, I am a chocolate lover, so it's not hard to sell me on chocolate, but Sucré's collection was beautifully crafted, the fillings were silky smooth, and they are made with fresh cream and butter- which I appreciate. This time, I did share, and my family all enjoyed trying the different flavors. And my chocolate-loving 10 year old drooled over their website pictures for days.

So how would you like to win a 15 Piece Indulge Chocolate Collections for yourself? The giveaway will close on Tuesday, October 15 at 11:59pm EST and is limited to the contiguous US. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: I received the above mentioned product for free in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.