Saturday, October 11, 2014

Homeschool Ramblings and FREEBIES for you!

I've been busy lately at homeschooling my Little Ones... Well, really just the 4 year old, but the 2 year old likes to participate also... especially coloring.  For a little while, anyway, until he's bored and then he's gone. But with the 4 year old, I've started unofficial PreK, meaning that I'm getting my feet wet, hoping to get a feel for it and make sure I can do this before it actually needs to become official.  So far, things are going quite chaotic well. We have our good days and our bad days.  Sometimes lessons show up on their own from the back yard. (I'm talking about bugs and other icky creatures, but hey, I've got boys... good thing I was a tom-boy growing up, or this stuff would really freak me out. LOL)

We've come across quite a few interesting things, such as a giant caterpillar (I really need to keep my camera handy) that I looked up and saw that it will turn into a gigantic moth, (we're talking a half of a foot across... yes, that's right, I said a half foot, 6 inches!  That's just an insane size for a bug!) the likes of which I've never seen around here, so I'm not sure where the creature came from... and I'm not sure I want to!

All in all, it's been quite an adventure, but to see the light bulb come on and see the wonder in my son's eyes as he "gets it" during a lesson, is one of the most amazing things I've ever experienced!  Those are the moments where I realize that it's all worth it, that I made the right decision, and that I'm going to be able to really do this thing!  

Buggaboo loves his cut and paste lessons!

One thing that we don't have quite set up yet, is a designated area.  I want to get the spare room set up as a play room / homeschool area.  That way I can keep everything centrally located and not have to keep using the kitchen table.  But, you use what you have at your disposal. 

Freebies!!

Anyway, while I was looking for homeschooling ideas and getting distracted going through a bunch of stuff online, I came across some free kindle downloads.  I'm not sure how long they'll be free, nor have I read any of them.  I thought they looked interesting and figured I'd pass along the good tidings of "free".  As of this posting, they are currently free for Kindle download, but please be sure to check the price before downloading to make sure they're still free for you when you actually click on them.  I take no responsibility for changes in price or status.  If you do decide to download and read them, let me know what you think about them.  I'd love to hear from my readers if you enjoyed getting this little tip.  All that said, here are the freebies I found:
(By the way, I get nothing from you clicking on any of these, I just felt like sharing some free books I came across.)

(I'm really wanting to grow my own garden, so I'm looking forward to reading this one!)









Friday, February 14, 2014

Quick Tricks to Help You Tighten Up Your Writing

I have a wonderful treat for you for Valentine's Day! It is my honor to offer a very informative guest post by the fabulous C. S. Lakin!

Enjoy her post and please be sure to read to the bottom as we're having a fun Give-Away!


Quick Tricks to Help You Tighten Up Your Writing

Guest Blog Post 
by C. S. Lakin

Writers often think about tightening their writing. Just what does that mean? And how is it done? Is there a way that writers can tighten writing without losing their voice or compromising their writing style?

Like sneaky calories, many unwanted words and phrases find their way into our writing unnoticed and bog it down. The goal should be to write in a concise fashion so that our meaning is clearly understood. It’s not all that tricky to do. And don’t worry—this can be done without adversely cramping a writer’s style.

That’s not to say these tips are a cure-all for major flaws in a story, article, or book. But similar to the get-in-shape-fast programs, here are some simple things writers can do to tighten sentences, shed unwanted words, and tone and shape the whole “body” of work.


1.      Eliminate fatty words from your “diet.” Make a list of your weasel words. Those are the words you throw in out of habit. Often they are pesky adverbs like very and just. Or phrases like began to or started to. Grab a random page of your document and see if you can eliminate at least one or two words from every sentence. It may not be possible, but it’s a good exercise. If the word doesn’t add importance to a sentence, it should go. Then attack the rest of your novel.

2.     Reword passive voice where possible. Whether referring to general passive (“The food was eaten by me” instead of “I ate the food”) or present progressive passive (“The food is being served” instead of “the waiters served the food”), most of the time a sentence will be stronger if the passive voice is avoided. An easy way to seek and destroy unwanted passive construction is do a “Find” for ing, was, is, it was, and there was, to name a few.

3.      Avoid circumlocution. I just love that word, so I have to use it. Don’t use two words when one will do. Don’t use four when three will do. If two adjectives are similar, pick the best one and toss the other.

4.      Ditch the extraneous speaker and narrative tags. If you are writing fiction or narrative nonfiction, you may have dialog in your piece. Be aware that if the reader knows who is speaking, you don’t need to tell them over and over—especially in a scene with only two characters. And remove all those flowery verbs that stick out, such as quizzed, extrapolated, exclaimed, and interjected. Just use said and asked, and maybe an occasional replied or answered. Really. Less is more . . . effective.

5.      Search and destroy repetition. We tend to repeat words, phrases, or ideas in the same paragraph. Sometimes that’s a good thing to do, to drive home a point, perhaps in summary at the end of a section or subheading. But writers often try to say the same thing in a different way, and instead of adding new material they are essentially rehashing what they’ve already said. One great way to catch those repetitive words is to hear your piece read aloud using a  software program like Natural Reader.

6.      And a word about backstory . . . Yes, the dreaded backstory, which novelists have been told to shun in the first chapters of a novel. But really, do you need it? Take a look at all the places you have backstory and boil down just a few lines of the most important information you feel the reader must know to “get” the story. Then see if you can have a character either think or say these things instead of going into lengthy narrative. Look for any passage that feels like author intrusion or an info dump and find another way to impart the information.

If you’re the kind of writer that needs to “add weight” to your skimpy book, you have a different challenge, and the problem won’t be solved by ignoring all the above tips. Remember, it’s the unwanted fat you want to eliminate. Be sure what you add to a skimpy novel is muscle, not fat. And for the rest of us who overwrite, be reassured that by implementing these easy tips, you can help trim those unwanted “pounds” from your pages and tighten your writing.

BIO: C. S. Lakin is a multipublished novelist and writing coach. She works full-time as a copyeditor and critiques about two hundred manuscripts a year. She teaches writing workshops and gives instruction on her award-winning blog Live Write Thrive. Her new book—Say What? The Fiction Writer’s Handy Guide to Grammar, Punctuation, and Word Usage—is designed to help writers get a painless grasp on grammar. You can buy it in print here or as an ebook here.

Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

Now for the Give-Away part! We have a grammar question for you. The first person to answer correctly in the comments below will get a free book from C. S. Lakin! Be sure to put your email address in your comment as well so if you're the winner, we can contact you for your mailing address.

Question: How would you do a plural possessive for a family of people named Jones. Write a sentence talking about this family's car.


Last Day to comment for a chance to win is 

Friday February 28th, 2014!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Resolution Amendment

So, I've been doing a lot of thinking these first few weeks into 2014 and have already thought of some amendments to my New Year's Resolution List...

I want to add the following:

12. Start Couponing... really hard core coupon cutting. I've seen some people do some amazing saving with coupons and I want some of that action.
13. Work on my Documented Life Project. I still have a LOT of "prepping" that still needs done; Month pages (I'm only done through April,) Weekly pages (I'm only done through Feb,) and I haven't done any "tip-ins" yet, except for a few of the projects that I've done already. I'm not sure if I'm going to put them in ahead of time or just do them as I go. I also got some medical paper tape that I want to make my own washi tape out of. It's quite see-thru and I like that because I tend to draw/write/doodle/etc. right to the edge of the page.

Roben-Marie Smith

14. Plan meals better. But this probably should fall under the whole "get organized" portion of the list. But I've been wanting to get going with proper meal planning and cooking in bulk so I can have frozen meals that can just be heated up throughout the week.
15. Read the scriptures daily. I had been doing fairly well at this a while back, but I've slacked severely recently. Now, I've been back at a daily scripture read this whole week and it feels good.
16. Spend more time with my boys. Pay more attention to them and add in some new and fun activities throughout the week. I already spend a TON of time with my boys, being a Stay-at-home-Mom, but I feel like I can give more "Quality" time to them than I do currently.
17. Not waste so much time. Pinterest is a great source of ideas and inspiration, but let's face it, it's a time sucker. (As is Facebook and all other social media, but that's a whole other post!) I get on the laptop to do a couple things and hours later I realize that I've wasted the day.
18. Stop procrastinating. This kind of goes along with #17, but expands it a bit. I tend to wait until the last minute to do... well, everything. And then I'm rushed to finish. I usually do my best work in the Eleventh hour, but I shouldn't have to for absolutely everything. Plus, I tend to underestimate how long it will take me to do something, so that gets me more stressed out. I usually finish and usually by my deadlines, but I just don't need to do that to myself.

So, have you kept any of your resolutions so far? Or have they fizzled out early? Or have you done as I have and added/amended to your list?



Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year 2014!



Happy New Year!

Wow, it's 2014! Is it really the first of the year?

Well, I said I would meet you back here and go over some New Year's Resolutions, didn't I? In all honesty, I haven't had much time to think about my resolutions. Oh, they've flitted through my head while doing other things, sure. But I haven't actually had time to sit and write them down.

Let's start by understanding what a New Year's Resolution is supposed to be. It is something that one decides to do or change about themselves over the course of the next year. Typically, these are things to help one improve oneself such as; lose weight, quit smoking, quit drinking, get organized (a standard for my list,) etc.. Yet many of us make these lists, but never seem to be able to keep them.

Are we making unrealistic goals? Are we just too lazy to keep up with them? Are we not ready to turn over a new leaf on the first of the year? Maybe we make too long of a list and it gets too daunting and overwhelming or too many things to try to remember to do/not do all at once.

Whatever it is, I still like to make out my list at the beginning of the year and see how far I get. One idea I had was to make a list, but start only one of them in January, then start the second one in February, the third in March, well, you get the idea. Since it takes 21 days to make something a habit, I thought that would be a good way of instilling each individual item on the list into my life. Make each a habit, one at a time. Although, now that I'm going through my list in my head, some things aren't under the category of "habit" and are just things that need to be done.

Now, for the list:

1. Organize the house (this may actually take more than one month LOL it actually needs it's own list of different areas)
a. My desk/office area
b. Master bedroom
c. Master bath
d. Guest bath
e. J's bedroom
f. B's bedroom
g. Kitchen
h. Living room
i. The garage (that is a whole entire project in and of itself that will take many months to complete, but leads me to my next main list item)
2. Go through a box a day from the garage
3. Get published!
4. Finish the books that I have started (I've got quite a few in the works and really need to finish them, a few are in a series of their own)
5. Lose weight (I've actually already started on this, having lost 9 pounds recently, but I want to get into regular sized clothing, rather than the "plus" sized stuff)
6. Start exercising (this should take care of the item above)
7. Start a garden (we've been trying, but can't seem to get anything to really "take" in our crappy sandy Floridian yard)
8. Get into major couponing
9. Finish the afghan I'm working on right now as well as one other I have planned as a gift
10. Write daily
11. Keep the van clean (I've got kids, what can I say?)

I've been working on a few of these things for a while, but really want to focus on them this new year, so that's why I've added them to the list. For example, this past November, I did NaNoWriMo, but now have to finish editing and getting the book ready to publish. Also, the afghan I'm working on is a project that I tend to only work on when going on long trips (a drive that will last at least an hour+) when my husband drives because I hate his driving and he hates me screaming at his driving, so crochet. Why don't I just drive instead of him? Well, I'd rather not and it gives me time to crochet when the kids are strapped in their child seats and can't come running up to me and climb all over me and my yarn with sticky fingers and drool. Enough said.

The main "habits" I need to establish are rite daily, exercise and going through a box a day from the garage. Now it's just a matter of prioritizing my list and getting started. The main thing I really need to do is get more organized. I still have Christmas cards that need to be sent out because I lost them! I had them, we got ready for Christmas Day, moved a few things around and *POOF* gone! Totally disappeared. I don't know if the little green men who live in the walls came out and took them or what. (That's something my Dad always said if we lost something; the little green men must have taken it.) So, better organization is my number one priority. With that, everything else should fall into place.

The main problem(s) is(are) that this house is too small (and I'm a packrat) and has no decent storage space. There are hardly any cupboards in the kitchen for pots, pans, glasses and dishware, there are only a few very small closets and the rooms themselves are small, so there's not a lot of space for our furniture. So, organization is a necessity that I've been putting off for waaaayyyy too long.

Starting a garden is also something that I want up at the top of the list because that could save us a ton of money in groceries. We'd still have to buy some produce from the store, obviously, but if I could grow my own bell peppers, lettuce, celery, squash, potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc., that would be a huge help! I've grown celery, but it only grows for a little while (about 3-5 inches tall) and then dies off. I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong with it.

Anyway, that's my New Year's Thoughts and Resolutions. What are yours?

Monday, December 23, 2013

Snickerdoodles

In spirit of the holidays (albeit a bit on the late side) I'm posting a recipe from my mother-in-law for Snickerdoodles.  I'd never eaten a snickerdoodle before, let alone baked one. Now, I have a new favorite cookie! Hope you enjoy! (Thanks Cyndi H.!)


Snickerdoodles

Ingredients:

3 C. Flour
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 C soft butter (2 sticks) at room temp.
1 1/2 C sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs, beaten first before adding
1/4 C milk
Cinnamon-Sugar mixture (for coating)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375° Sift dry ingredients into a medium bowl and set aside.
Put butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and cream well.
Stir in vanilla and eggs and cream well again.
Add the milk, stir.
Add dry ingredients to mixture, mix well, then cream all together well.
Roll one teaspoon of dough in a cinnamon-sugar mixture to fully coat and place on greased cookie sheet (use a sheet with little or no lip) and bake for 10-11 minutes. (time may vary from oven to oven)

Makes approx. 36 cookies.

High altitudes: increase flour by 1/4 Cup and oven temp to 380°

Tip: If you don't have soft, room temperature butter, but need it for a recipe and don't have time to wait for it to soften up, grate it with your cheese grater. Works wonders and it creams up in your recipe well. I did it with this recipe as well as others and it worked great!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Brains —It's what's for dinner

Intelligence is not defined by one's educational level, but by one's own actions, awareness, ability to work through problems, and much more.

Ok, so this post isn't about eating brains for dinner, but it is about intelligence and a little self-discovery in the brain department.

My mother was a very intelligent woman, but had to leave school in 9th grade to take care of her mother who was bed-ridden for 36 years. My mother took care of her, her first two children, her first husband and held a job as a waitress.  Amazing woman.  She continued to be amazing with her second marriage as well as me (I'm the baby of the family and her third child and the only child to her second husband.)  And in her 60's, she went on to become a Certified Nurse's Aide (CNA) and we were all so proud of her.  Yet, unfortunately, since she had never made it through middle and high school nor received a diploma, she thought she was stupid.  I told her over and over again that she was very smart and that just because she didn't have the "book smarts" that she thought she needed; that didn't mean she wasn't smart.

She was the one who taught me long division when my father, who was an electrical engineer, had me on page 3 of a division problem and still didn't have an answer!  Brilliant man with absolutely no common sense whatsoever.

My Mom was the one who helped me through mathematical word problems, history books, studying for spelling tests, etc.  She was more than book smart, she was amazing!

Why am I rambling on about my mother when it's not even close to Mother's Day?  Well, today's Google page is celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Crossword Puzzle.  Well, my mother used to do the crossword puzzle in the paper every week and did it IN PEN!  And she never made a mistake!  Ok, well, maybe once, but that's it.  I'm working on Google's crossword puzzle and I've gotten 11 so far that I think are correct.  And I cheated on gave up on two more.


My disastrous attempt at this crossword puzzle has made me realize just how smart my mother was and how much I've let myself go —mentally, that is.  (Ok, truth be, I've let myself go physically as well, but that's a whole other comparison to my mother, who was in tip top shape until I came along.)

So now what? I have a BA in English, yet I can't finish a simple crossword puzzle. I have been reading on the web about proper grammar and have found many things have changed and there are many things that I –have forgotten.  There's the -hyphen vs the –en dash vs the —em dash, comma splices (which I am dreadfully guilty of,) the Oxford comma, leaving one space after the period instead of two (that's new and very hard to get used to doing. It's more like 'space space backspace RAWR!' It nearly kills me to only do one space after 40 years of knowing it's supposed to be two spaces, which is what I learned back in the day,) and many more grammatical rules to learn and relearn.  Not to mention my loss of spelling ability.  I used to be amazing in my spelling abilities.  Even words I had never come across I could usually guess correctly.  Now, if it wasn't for auto-correct, and that ugly squiggly red line on the computer screen, I would make even more of a fool out of myself than I already do. (Ugh, see, there's that stupid single space that makes my hands nearly convulse.) But times change and I suppose I need to change with them.

So, many of the grammatical advice I've recently received has been from The Write Practice, which is, in my opinion, a wonderful site that has certainly shown me my terrible ways. I'm not sure how I like some of it, such as the single space vs double space after a period, or the comma splice theory, but I do like the blog and enjoy relearning my grammar and they also have wonderful writing prompts and helpful information on honing your craft as a writer. Of course, if you're not into writing, then you might not care for the site, but if you enjoy writing in any form, then I would suggest checking it out.

There's also Lumosity to help my brain out. I enjoy the site, but can't afford to pay for it, so I just visit once in a while (when I remember... ha! ironic, isn't it?) and get the few free activities it will allow. It helps to get the brain going again —or at least, that's what I tell myself.

With the new year coming so quickly, I find myself wanting to make tons of resolutions, but I know they won't last very long. (And I'm sure I'll be doing a New Year's Resolutions post soon.) Which leads me to the need to prioritize my hobbies, my goals, my dreams, etc.. (Does that get a second "." after the "etc."? Hmm, I think so, but again, there's my brain not remembering.)

Many times, I just feel like I'm overloaded and over-worn. Too many hobbies that I want to enjoy, too much housework, then there are the kids, the husband, the... everything! And no time to do any of it. Oh, I get a few things done, but between my two little ones always tugging at my, climbing on me, wanting me to hold them, etc., I don't get much done. And I'd rather enjoy time with them than worry about the dishes. Know what I mean?

So, what's the point in my rambling on in this blog post? Well, the new year is approaching fast. I want you to join me in prioritizing your New Year's Resolution list. We all know we won't keep them —at least, not all of them, but let's see who can keep the most the longest! A challenge. Let's make our lists and meet back here at the first of the year to share them. Then, at the end of the year, let's see who had kept any. Maybe we'll even meet up in the middle of the year and do a "list check" and see what we've accomplished and what we may need to re-try. It's never too late to start again. My mother getting her CNA license in her 60's was proof of that.  And I need to start getting my brain back into shape, before it's not worth anything —except maybe dinner for zombies!


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Some Goodies for my readers

Hello and Merry Christmas!

I've been trying to get some goodies for you and I finally have a moment to upload them...

First a Christmas Wallpaper... What do you think?

Free Christmas Wallpaper
Enjoy!
And here are some more Alphabet pages that I've made.






I'd love to know what you think of them.  Let me know!  Enjoy and check back for more!

Help me bring The Saratov Approach around the world!

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