What I read in June 2020

We had sort of a wonky June. I don’t know about anyone else! So many things happened and we took a couple weeks off school as well.. I did get a few books read though! I need to step it up a notch to get back on track with my Goodreads challenge. Here is what I read in June 2020.
What I read in June 1
American Colonies: The Settling of North America by Alan Taylor – In the first volume in the Penguin History of the United States, edited by Eric Foner, Alan Taylor challenges the traditional story of colonial history by examining the many cultures that helped make America, from the native inhabitants from milennia past, through the decades of Western colonization and conquest, and across the entire continent, all the way to the Pacific coast.

Transcending the usual Anglocentric version of our colonial past, he recovers the importance of Native American tribes, African slaves, and the rival empires of France, Spain, the Netherlands, and even Russia in the colonization of North America. Moving beyond the Atlantic seaboard to examine the entire continent, American Colonies reveals a pivotal period in the global interaction of peoples, cultures, plants, animals, and microbes. In a vivid narrative, Taylor draws upon cutting-edge scholarship to create a timely picture of the colonial world characterized by an interplay of freedom and slavery, opportunity and loss.

What I thought: I appreciated how they included so many things that aren’t in a typical history course. It was well done!
What I read in June 2
American Politics: A Very Short Introduction by Richard M. Valelly – American politics seems to grow more contentious and complicated by the day, and whether American democracy works well is hotly debated. Amidst all this roiling partisan argument and confusing claims and counterclaims, there has never been a greater need for an impartial primer on the basics of the American political system.

This Very Short Introduction gives readers a concise, accessible, and sophisticated overview of the vital elements of American democracy, emphasizing both how these elements function, their historical origins, and how they have evolved into their present forms. Richard Valelly covers all facets of America’s political system: the bicameral Congress and the place of the filibuster, the legislative-executive process, the role of the Supreme Court, political parties and democratic choice, bureaucracy, the partisan revival, and the political economy. He offers as well an original analysis of the evolution of the American presidency and a fascinating chapter on the effects of public polling on political decision-making and voter representation. Valelly shows that the American political system is, and always has been, very much a work in progress–unfolding within, and also constantly updating, an eighteenth-century constitutional framework. In a refreshingly balanced and judicious assessment, he explores the strengths of American democracy while candidly acknowledging both gaps in representation and the increasing income inequality have sparked protest and intense public discussion. Finally, Valelly considers the remarkable persistence, for more than two centuries, of the basic constitutional forms established in 1787, despite the dramatic social changes that have reshaped virtually all aspects of American life.

For anyone wishing to understand the nuts and bolts of how our political system works–and sometimes fails to work–this Very Short Introduction is the very best place to start.

What I thought: I could understand someone wanting to read this that had no idea about American Politics. I found it a tad boring and slightly one-sided…
What I read in June 3
The Indifferent Stars Above by Daniel James Brown – In April of 1846, twenty-one-year-old Sarah Graves, intent on a better future, set out west from Illinois with her new husband, her parents, and eight siblings. Seven months later, after joining a party of pioneers led by George Donner, they reached the Sierra Nevada Mountains as the first heavy snows of the season closed the pass ahead of them. In early December, starving and desperate, Sarah and fourteen others set out for California on snowshoes, and, over the next thirty-two days, endured almost unfathomable hardships and horrors.

In this gripping narrative, New York Times bestselling author Daniel James Brown sheds new light on one of the most legendary events in American history. Following every painful footstep of Sarah’s journey with the Donner Party, Brown produces a tale both spellbinding and richly informative.

What I thought: I enjoyed reading this book. I can’t imagine being in that situation at all. I also enjoyed some of the teaching moments the author included in this book. It was well done!
What I read in June 4
Nothing is Forgotten by Peter Golden – From the beloved author of Comeback Love and Wherever There Is Light, comes a novel about the life-changing journey of a young man who travels from New Jersey to Khrushchev’s Russia and the beaches of Southern France as he finds love and discovers the long-hidden secrets about his heritage.

In 1950s New Jersey, Michael Daniels launches a radio show in the storage room of his Russian-Jewish grandmother’s candy store. Not only does the show become a local hit because of his running satires of USSR leader Nikita Khrushchev, but half a world away, it picks up listeners in a small Soviet city.

There, with rock and roll leaking in through bootlegged airwaves, Yulianna Kosoy—a war orphan in her mid-twenties—is sneaking American goods into the country with her boss, Der Schmuggler.

But just as Michael’s radio show is taking off, his grandmother is murdered in the candy store. Why anyone would commit such an atrocity against such a warm, affable woman is anyone’s guess. But she had always been secretive about her past and, as Michael discovers, guarded a shadowy ancestral history. In order to solve the mystery of who killed her, Michael sets out to Europe to learn where he—and his grandmother—really came from.

What I thought: This book took me a little bit to get into at the beginning. Once I realized more how the book was written I was getting invested with the characters. The ending was frustrating for me, but now that I look back on the book I totally get it…


Well, four books isn’t bad..I guess I made up for reading so much last month. This was what I read in June 2020. Let me know what you have read lately!

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I’m quiet…and that’s not bad

One of the most common things I hear about myself is how quiet I am. A lot of the time it is mentioned with some sort of distaste, like it is a bad thing. But yet it is rare to have someone complain about someone being loud. What makes being quiet so different? I just want to say, I’m quiet…and that’s not bad.

Silence doesn’t mean that something is wrong.

Just because I am quiet does not mean I am suffering or angry or lonely. It does not mean I am being rude. Even if I have major RBF going on, it does not mean that I don’t like you or am judging you.

If you are talking to me and you think me uninterested or bored, that is more than likely not the case.

In a conversation, I listen for a long time before I even think about speaking. In life, I pause and observe. In relationships, I learn from others. On my own, I spend time getting to know myself.

I am not broken and I don’t need to be fixed.

Society almost has it in for us quiet people. The noisy people are regarded as ‘normal’. Quiet people get asked all the time what is wrong with them.

People close to me know that I hold a lot in until I feel I have something worth saying. If I say ‘I don’t care’ or ‘whatever’ I mean it! Once I have something to say, then you know that I have an opinion or have really thought about the topic.

In a group, I am mostly multi-tasking during discussions. I am thinking about what the person is saying, thinking about what I want to say, thinking about how I would rather be somewhere else, thinking about what I need at the store, thinking about the weather, thinking about how I could do this one thing that I thought about earlier. The list is endless.

My blank face doesn’t mean anything against you. Unless it does…but that is a whole different thing…

I don’t like gossip or nosiness.

I honestly don’t care to be in everyone’s business. I’m not interested in what John down the street said or what cousin Sophia is doing. I really couldn’t care less.

When friends and family are gossiping or getting all nosy in my business I kind of shut down.

I could not imagine getting nosy into their business and so it makes me quite uncomfortable when it is happening in front of me.

You will not hear me asking question after question about your life or the lives of people you know. If you volunteer information then I will for sure listen, but again, I will more than likely be multi-tasking.

I notice more than you think I do.

Since I am quiet, I notice so many things that the average person wouldn’t be fazed by.

Looks between two people that are in the early stages of a relationship, the weird attitude that someone gives me when they think I am not paying attention, the mannerisms between family members.

I notice plenty of things that don’t involve people at all! Knowing when one of our pets is slightly off and they appear normal to everyone else, the plant that grew a couple inches overnight, the fence that is going to break any day now.

It is a fascinating world and to observe so much is quite interesting.

If you know someone that is quiet, please don’t just assume anything about them. It’s not better to be loud. I’m quiet…and that’s not bad.


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The Mayflower at Cape Cod by Rebecca Locklear {Review}

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

Reading has been an important part of us studying American History this year. We are reading a lot of books, and quickly! I was happy to check out The Mayflower at Cape Cod – Stories, activities, and research that connect 1620 with life today from Rebecca Locklear.
The Mayflower at Cape Cod CoverBack when we weren’t so involved in senior year we would spend a lot of time doing unit studies. This reminds me of our time doing those! I think there is something for everyone.

The book itself is just seven lessons, but there is a lot in that seven lessons. It would go great with any American History study. Included are 70 activities and 80 research items.

I received an e-book, but there is also a choice to get a printed copy. It just depends on your preference as well as who you are teaching.

Upon reading how the book flowed, I was even more intrigued. Each lesson starts with a story. Each one isn’t very long, but all are very informative.
The Mayflower at Cape Cod activities
Then, there are choices of activities. As you can see, there really is something for everyone. I know kids don’t learn the same, and this really helps you to be able to pick activities that your child is interested in. Or hey, if they are totally into it, you could do them all!

After the activities, the research items are included. For lesson 1  there are eight choices for research topics. They all vary in intensity, so again, there is something for everyone.

Since we just started our school year in February, we were still pretty early on in our American History studies, so this was perfect timing for us.
The Mayflower at Cape Cod objectiveThis objective in Lesson 1 really got me… It can be said up to things happening nowadays as well as things in the past. And that ties in to what part of the title says, connecting the past to today.

We did many of the activities listed, but they were hard to photograph. But one of our favorites was the Survival Essentials Activity. We had just read about the Donner Party and everything that happened with that, so this was perfect for us.
The Mayflower at Cape Cod activityThe activity was choosing ten things that would fit in your pocket that you would take on two different trips. I gave one trip to Kyle and one to Lauren.

Rather than gather all of the items, since we hardly have any of them..or printing out pictures of them because of ink, I just made a list and had them choose from there.

After reading about the Donner Party, I think it was easier for Lauren to pick items from the list. But it really makes you think about things that you might need like that. How often do we just go on trips and experiences without even thinking of emergencies at all?

Also, some of the things that people picked led to discussions on if those items would really be the best thing!

Some of the activities are thought provoking, some are just fun, and some involve cooking. I am looking forward to making the pumpkin muffins!

You could easily turn this into a longer study! One thing could lead to another thing and so on. That’s where I thought it was like a unit study. You could build so many things onto this one thing.

As much as I enjoyed doing this with my two kids, I think it would be fantastic in a group setting, such as a co-op. There are so many activities that would be so great with more people.

Some of the activities were a little young for my kids, but the book is geared for grades 6-12, so that makes sense.

I appreciate the photography and the research that went into making this book. It was also neat since I went to Cape Cod not that long ago and I can just picture that whole area.

Along with this The Mayflower at Cape Cod – Stories, activities, and research that connect 1620 with life today, there is also Exploring the U.S. Life-Saving Service 1878-1915: 17 Student Workshops with 120 Activities which is a much longer study that sounds quite interesting as well!

You can also sign up for her email list and once a month receive teaching tips and other resources.

If you are interested in checking out what others thought of either of these books, feel free to click the banner below. A lot of people might have had kids your age that would help show things more. I am going to check out what other activities people did!
2-Click-Here-to-Read-More-Reviews-2016The Mayflower at Cape Cod by Rebecca Locklear

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Eight years ago..

This date kinda of jumped at me without knowing it was coming! But eight years ago we started on our trek to move to North Carolina! I am so very happy that we finally were able to do it! Every year on this date we take a new picture in front of the house. This year was a little different! Scroll down to see the current dealio!

The deal is that we all just come out in whatever we are wearing. As tempting as it was going to be to all come out in pj’s this year, some of us had to get dressed for something happening. Probably a good thing…









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What I read in May 2020

It hasn’t felt like I have read much at all this past month. Basically I read a little bit at breakfast and that is it! I miss the times that I could just tuck away and read for as long as I wanted, but that has been a few years ago that I have had that. Here is what I read in May. Seems like I read more than I thought!
What I read in May 1
Native American Songs and Poems by Brian Swann – In this carefully chosen collection, encompassing traditional songs and contemporary Native American poetry, readers will find a treasury of lyrics verse composed by Seminole, Hopi, Navajo, Pima, Havasupai, Arapaho, Paiute, Nootka, and other Indian writers and poets.
Selections range from the beautiful, traditional Seminole “Song for Bringing a Child into the World” to the cynical, knowing “How to Write the Great American Indian Novel.” Permeated by the Indian’s deep awareness and appreciation of nature’s beauty and rhythms, these poems deal with themes of tradition and continuity, the Indians’ place in contemporary society, love, loss, memory, alienation, and many other topics.
Taken together, these poems offer an intimate, revealing record of the Native American response to the world, from time-honored chants and songs to the musings of urban Indian poets coming to grips with twentieth-century America.

What I thought: I really enjoyed reading a lot of these poems. Some of the more modern ones I didn’t like as much as the older ones though.
What I read in May 2
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and once girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister’s place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before—and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weight survival against humanity and life against love.

What I thought: This isn’t my first time reading this book, but it has been forever so it was nice doing a re-read. We also watched the movie after and that was fun.
What I read in May 3
The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle – When Sabrina Nielsen arrives at her thirtieth birthday dinner she finds at the table not just her best friend, but also her favorite professor from college, her father, her ex-fiance, Tobias, and Audrey Hepburn.

At one point or another, we’ve all been asked to name five people, living or dead, with whom we’d like to have dinner. Why do we choose the people we do? And what if that dinner was to actually happen? These are the questions Sabrina contends with in Rebecca Serle’s utterly captivating novel, The Dinner List, a story imbued with the same delightful magical realism as Sliding Doors, and The Rosie Project.

As the appetizers are served, wine poured, and dinner table conversation begins, it becomes clear that there’s a reason these six people have been gathered together, and as Rebecca Serle masterfully traces Sabrina’s love affair with Tobias and her coming of age in New York City, The Dinner List grapples with the definition of romance, the expectations of love, and how we navigate our way through it to happiness. Oh, and of course, wisdom from Audrey Hepburn.

Delicious but never indulgent, sweet with just the right amount of bitter, The Dinner List is a modern romance for our times. Bon appetit.

What I thought: Parts of this book seemed to creep along, but yet I was wondering where it was going and it kept me reading. It wasn’t a favorite book, but I enjoyed it all the same.
What I read in May 4
The U.S. Supreme Court: A Very Short Introduction by Linda Greenhouse – For 30 years, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Linda Greenhouse chronicled the activities of the U.S. Supreme Court and its justices as a correspondent for the New York Times. In this Very Short Introduction, she draws on her deep knowledge of the court’s history and of its written and unwritten rules to show readers how the Supreme Court really works.

Greenhouse offers a fascinating institutional biography of a place and its people–men and women who exercise great power but whose names and faces are unrecognized by many Americans and whose work often appears cloaked in mystery. How do cases get to the Supreme Court? How do the justices go about deciding them? What special role does the chief justice play? What do the law clerks do? How does the court relate to the other branches of government? Greenhouse answers these questions by depicting the justices as they confront deep constitutional issues or wrestle with the meaning of confusing federal statutes. Throughout, the author examines many individual Supreme Court cases to illustrate points under discussion, ranging from Marbury v. Madison, the seminal case which established judicial review, to the recent District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), which struck down the District of Columbia’s gun-control statute and which was, surprisingly, the first time in its history that the Court issued an authoritative interpretation of the Second Amendment. To add perspective, Greenhouse also compares the Court to foreign courts, revealing interesting differences. For instance, no other country in the world has chosen to bestow life tenure on its judges.

A superb overview packed with telling details, this volume offers a matchless introduction to one of the pillars of American government.

What I thought: Well, I guess it was as interesting as it could be. I did enjoy learning a few things that I didn’t know previously though.
What I read in May 5
Becoming a Citizen Activist by Nick Licata – Basically all the book is about it in the title.

What I thought: I have no desire to become a citizen activist so this book was not for me. I did enjoy some of the stories though.
What I read in May 6
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows – It’s 1946 and author Juliet Ashton can’t think what to write next. Out of the blue, she receives a letter from Dawsey Adams of Guernsey – by chance, he’s acquired a book that once belonged to her – and, spurred on by their mutual love of reading, they begin a correspondence. When Dawsey reveals that he is a member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, her curiosity is piqued and it’s not long before she begins to hear from other members. As letters fly back and forth with stories of life in Guernsey under the German Occupation, Juliet soon realizes that the society is every bit as extraordinary as its name.

What I thought: This was a cute story, it came highly recommended and I am glad I read it. I love reading about different time periods and especially about people that enjoy books as much as I do.
What I read in May 7
1776 by David McCullough – In this masterful book, David McCullough tells the intensely human story of those who marched with General George Washington in the year of the Declaration of Independence – when the whole American cause was riding on their success, without which all hope for independence would have been dashed and the noble ideals of the Declaration would have amounted to little more than words on paper.

Based on extensive research in both American and British archives, 1776 is a powerful drama written with extraordinary narrative vitality. It is the story of Americans in the ranks, men of every shape, size, and color, farmers, schoolteachers, shoemakers, no-accounts, and mere boys turned soldiers. And it is the story of the King’s men, the British commander, William Howe, an his highly disciplined redcoats who looked on their rebel foes with contempt and fought with a valor too little known.

At the center of the drama, with Washington, are two young American patriots, who, at first, knew no more of war than what they had read in books – Nathaniel Green, a Quaker who was made a general at thirty-three, and Henry Knox, a twenty-five-year-old bookseller who had the preposterous idea of hauling the guns of Fort Ticonderoga overland to Boston in the dead of Winter.

But it is the American commander-in-chief who stands foremost – Washington, who had never before led an army in battle. Written as a companion work to his celebrated biography of John Adams, David McCullough’s 1776 is another landmark in the literature of American history.

What I thought: I enjoyed reading this book.. I don’t think I would like to watch the movie though. The back and forth between the two sides was sometimes hard to follow unless I paid close attention, I tended to be lazy with this book.
What I read in May 8
Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill – Abducted from Africa as a child and enslaved in South Carolina, Aminata Diallo thinks only of freedom―and of the knowledge, she needs to get home. Sold to an indigo trader who recognizes her intelligence, Aminata is torn from her husband and child and thrown into the chaos of the Revolutionary War. In Manhattan, Aminata helps pen the Book of Negroes, a list of blacks rewarded for service to the king with safe passage to Nova Scotia. There Aminata finds a life of hardship and stinging prejudice. When the British abolitionists come looking for “adventurers” to create a new colony in Sierra Leone, Aminata assists in moving 1,200 Nova Scotians to Africa and aiding the abolitionist cause by revealing the realities of slavery to the British public.

This captivating story of one woman’s remarkable experience spans six decades and three continents and brings to life a crucial chapter in world history.

What I thought: This book was fantastic, the writing was great, the main character was very interesting to follow. It all tied in so well together, definitely recommend this book!
What I read in May 9
The United States Constitution by Jonathan Hennessey – Our leaders swear to uphold it, our military to defend it. It is the blueprint for the shape and function of government itself and what defines Americans as Americans. But how many of us truly know our Constitution?

The United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation uses the art of illustrated storytelling to breathe life into our nation’s cornerstone principles. Simply put, it is the most enjoyable and groundbreaking way to read the governing document of the United States. Spirited and visually witty, it roves article by article, amendment by amendment, to get at the meaning, background, and enduring relevance of the law of the land.

What revolutionary ideas made the Constitution’s authors dare to cast off centuries of rule by kings and queens? Why do we have an electoral college rather than a popular vote for president and vice president? How did a document that once sanctioned slavery, denied voting rights to women, and turned a blind eye to state governments running roughshod over the liberties of minorities transform into a bulwark of protection for all?

The United States Constitution answers all of these questions. Sure to surprise, challenge, and provoke, it is hands down the most memorable introduction to America’s founding document.

What I thought: It was ok for a graphic novel. The book got the point across but it wasn’t a favorite to read. Some of the graphics were silly, but I guess that is to be expected.
What I read in May 10
The Herd by Andrea Bartz – The name of the elite, women-only coworking space stretches across the wall behind the check-in desk: THE HERD, the H-E-R always in purple. In-the-know New Yorkers crawl over each other to apply for membership to this community that prides itself on mentorship and empowerment. Among the hopefuls is Katie Bradley, who’s just returned from the Midwest after a stint of book research blew up in her face. Luckily, Katie has an in, thanks to her sister Hana, an original Herder and the best friend of Eleanor Walsh, its charismatic founder.

As head of PR, Hana is working around the clock in preparation for a huge announcement from Eleanor—one that would change the trajectory of The Herd forever.

Then, on the night of the glitzy Herd news conference, Eleanor vanishes without a trace. Everybody has a theory about what made Eleanor run, but when the police suggest foul play, everyone is a suspect.

What I thought: It was an ok book, decent to read, but it wasn’t a favorite. I did want to read to see ‘who done it’, but I could easily put it down and get back to it later.


Finally, this is what I read in May. I didn’t realize it was so many books. At least I put a dent into my reading challenge! Last month I was a few books behind!

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Fermentools Starter Kit {Review}

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

I have friends that swear by eating fermented foods. But all the time they mentioned sauerkraut. I know that I don’t like that. When I was asked to review the Starter Kit from Fermentools, I immediately started researching!

Thankfully, Fermentools has a blog that had a lot of tips and recipes! I am such a newbie when it comes to fermenting things, that I definitely needed this extra help. I decided to try a Fermented Lemons and Mint recipe from the blog as my first attempt at fermenting.

The kit that I received comes with everything you need except the jar and whatever it is you are wanting to ferment. I went to the store and found some cool colored jars that I thought would be perfect. I haven’t really read on if colored jars do anything different, but it seems that for this recipe you only want the jar to have minimal light.
Fermentools lemons
I cut up a bunch of lemons, I tried to keep them as uniform as possible. I always think that lemons are so pretty, especially as the temperatures start warming up.
Fermentools mintAfter putting the lemons in my jar, I added a few mint leaves from this plant. I made the mistake of taking the wrapper off and the whole thing fell to the side almost immediately. Oops! I gave it to my mom who then planted it and she said it is doing great!
Fermentools saltThen I added some water and salt to the mix. It is superfine Himalayan salt. This big bag of salt is included in the kit! The jar is quite large so don’t be deceived by the size in the picture! I was intrigued on the whole lemon thing so I wanted to make a lot.

Before I closed it all up, I sat the included glass weight on top of the lemons to make sure they wouldn’t float.
Fermentools kitI know this looks like a science experiment, and really, it kind of is! But it all just works to help in the process!

The recipe mentioned that lemons tend to take a longer time than other vegetables and fruits, so as much as I wanted to peek, I just left it alone. When I thought it was time, I opened it right on up.

I was hoping that I didn’t mess anything up, but really, is is pretty foolproof. At least this recipe is for me.  I smelled it and it didn’t smell bad, in fact, it smelled nice!
Fermentools finalI am not sure how to tell if it is ‘done’ or not, but it seemed ok to me! They definitely looked pretty!
Fermentools rice
On the recipe it suggested putting it with some rice. We just happened to make some for my daughter and thought I would check it out. It made the rice have such an interesting flavor! My husband cooked up some chicken and I added it to it and had a sort of lemon chicken dish. I never would have thought of adding it to a dish like this!

Even though I added just a little bit of mint to the jar originally, you could still get the flavor from it. I would love to add it to a drink, maybe a strawberry lemonade? Yum!

There are so many things to ferment that I never would have thought of. Just the fruit and veggie category alone have numerous choices. Even if I never make sauerkraut, I could keep busy for a long time with other recipes!
The starter kit sells for $21.49 but you can use the code CREW2020 to get 15% off until June 30!

It comes with:

  • A Stainless Steel Lid
  • One Glass Fermentation Weight
  • Air Lock
  • Two Rubber Stoppers
  • A Rubber Canning Gasket
  • An Instruction Packet

It was also packaged in a nice bag. But if you feel like you want to ferment more than one thing at a time, you might want to get more than one starter kit or check out Fermentools for more ideas!

If you want to check out what other people fermented, feel free to click on the banner below!

Fermentools Starter Kit

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What I read in April 2020

Well, with the virus and Jeffy still recovering from his surgery, I thought for sure I would have a lot more books read this month. We ended up getting a little guy at the beginning of the month and he is staying with us for a while! Thankfully we are still able to get school done in a timely manner, and actually I can get a little bit of reading in for myself too! Here is what I read in April!
What I read in April 1
The U.S. Congress: A Very Short Introduction by Donald A. Ritchie – Many scholars believe that the framers of the Constitution intended Congress to be the preeminent branch of government. Indeed, no other legislature in the world approaches its power. Yet most Americans have only a murky idea of how it works.
In The U.S. Congress, Donald A. Ritchie, a congressional historian for more than thirty years, takes readers on a fascinating, behind-the-scenes tour of Capitol Hill–pointing out the key players, explaining their behavior, and translating parliamentary language into plain English. No mere civics lesson, this eye-opening book provides an insider’s perspective on Congress, matched with a professional historian’s analytical insight. After a swift survey of the creation of Congress by the constitutional convention, he begins to unscrew the nuts and pull out the bolts. What is it like to campaign for congress? To attract large donors? To enter either house with no seniority? He answers these questions and more, explaining committee assignments (and committee work), the role of staffers and lobbyists, floor proceedings, parliamentary rules, and coalition building. Ritchie explores the great effort put into constituent service–as representatives and senators respond to requests from groups and individuals–as well as media relations and news coverage. He also explores how the grand concepts we all know from civics class–checks and balances, advise and consent, congressional oversight–work in practice, in an age of strong presidents and a muscular Senate minority (no matter which party is in that position).
In this sparkling addition to Oxford’s Very Short Introduction series, Donald Ritchie moves beyond the cynicism and the platitudes to provide a gem of a portrait of how Congress really works.

What I thought: Well, it was for school….so for that reason, it is quite helpful. It wasn’t totally exciting, but it wasn’t totally boring either.

What I read in April 2
The Witch of Blackbird Pone by Elizabeth George Speare – Sixteen-year-old Kit Tyler is marked by suspicion and disapproval from the moment she arrives on the unfamiliar shores of colonial Connecticut in 1687. Alone and desperate, she has been forced to leave her beloved home on the island of Barbados and join a family she has never met. Torn between her quest for belonging and her desire to be true to herself, Kit struggles to survive in a hostile place. Just when it seems she must give up, she finds a kindred spirit. But Kit’s friendship with Hannah Tupper, believed by the colonists to be a witch, proves more taboo than she could have imagined and ultimately forces Kit to choose between her heart and her duty.

What I thought: I really enjoyed this book. I admit I thought it would be a little cheesy by just reading the snippet about it, but it was well done. The characters were my favorite.

What I read in April 3
Remembrance by Rita Woods – Remembrance…It’s a rumor, a whisper passed in the fields and veiled behind sheets of laundry. A hidden stop on the underground road to freedom, a safe haven protected by more than secrecy…if you can make it there.

Ohio, present day. An elderly woman who is more than she seems warns against rising racism as a young woman grapples with her life.

Haiti, 1791, on the brink of revolution. When the slave Abigail is forced from her children to take her mistress to safety, she discovers New Orleans has its own powers.

1857 New Orleansa city of unrest: Following tragedy, house girl Margot is sold just before her 18th birthday and her promised freedom. Desperate, she escapes and chases a whisper…. Remembrance.

What I thought: When a story is broken up in different time periods, sometimes that is just hard for me. I was able to keep them straight after a couple chapters. The end was just…meh for me and I didn’t understand some of the point of the book….but it was still an enjoyable read.

What I read in April 4
Wildland by Rebecca Hodge – When Kat Jamison retreats to the Blue Ridge Mountains, she’s counting on peace and solitude to help her make a difficult decision. Her breast cancer has returned, but after the death of her husband, her will to fight is dampened. Now she has a choice to make: face yet another round of chemotherapy or surrender gracefully.

Self-reflection quickly proves impossible as her getaway is complicated by a pair of abandoned dogs and two friendly children staying nearby, Lily and Nirav. In no time at all, Kat’s quiet seclusion is invaded by the happy confusion of children and pets.

But when lightning ignites a deadly wildfire, Kat’s cabin is cut off from the rest of the camp, separating Lily and Nirav from their parents. Left with no choice, Kat, the children, and the dogs must flee on foot through the drought-stricken forest, away from the ravenous flames. As a frantic rescue mission is launched below the fire line, Kat drives the party deeper into the mountains, determined to save four innocent lives. But when the moment comes to save her own, Kat will have to decide just how hard she’s willing to fight to survive–and what’s worth living for.

A heart-pounding novel of bravery, sacrifice, and self-discovery, Wildland will keep you on the edge of your seat to the very last page.

What I thought: I was expecting a little cheese with this book, but it was definitely one that I didn’t want to put down. A little of it had to do with the fact that it was based pretty close to where I live! The writing made it all so exciting like you were there..

That is what I read in April! If you have a favorite book that you have read lately, let me know!

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The Hidden Message of the Great Seal {Review}

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

Like I have mentioned previously, this year we are studying American History. For the first time we aren’t using a prepared curriculum with workbooks and such. It is mostly just books. I love that! Since we just started our school year in February we are still early on in history of our country. One book that I have found quite fascinating is The Hidden Message of the Great Seal from The Hidden Message, LLC.
The Hidden Message of the Great Seal coverI know we have all heard the conspiracy theories out there about the seal. There are quite a few different ones!

The book starts out with a little back story, both from the authors life as well as throughout history. I like how the author explains how he first came across the seal and wanting to learn more about it. I am also wondering if his son was glad he didn’t go to an amusement park like two of his siblings…
The Hidden Message of the Great Seal insde
The Hidden Message of the Great Seal is full of wonderful photographs and artwork, most of them are in color. It is also a great quality book, the binding seems strong and not flimsy. That is important because we always seem to flip around a lot.

For school, we are reading just one chapter a day, since our workload is quite heavy this year. It is slow going, but we have learned so much already!

I have skimmed ahead and realized that the book has so much history throughout. I would think you could break the book down into sections and do unit studies on some of the information in the chapters. They could go off on their own little stories.

The book is quite large at 256 pages, the book itself is maybe 12×9. With the pages being horizontal like that, there is room for a lot of information on each page.

The author really goes into so much detail about each facet that involves the seal. Both sides of the seal are covered extensively.

A good part of the book goes over the early designs of the seal. I think that is important! The author is insistent that when they were designing the seal, that they weren’t just designing it for the times that they lived in. He insists that the designers were thinking about the future and the people in it.
Michael-KanisThe author, Michael Kanis, comes from a background of business. Not what you would expect right off the bat, but with a successful business that has allowed him to travel, it has in turn allowed him to research as he went.

The book brings everything back around to the Bible. Mentioning verses and stories from the Bible throughout the book, he explains how it all ties in together.

Since we are only about 1/3 of the way through the book with school and I have only skimmed the rest of the book, I am definitely looking forward to finishing this throughout our school year.

The chapters do get longer, so sometimes we will be spreading them out over multiple days rather than just one day for each. But this also allows us to do extra research on anything that strikes us as extra interesting.
The-Hidden-Message-Discount-Coupon-Expires-30-May-2020The book normally retails for under $30, but the coupon code HOMESCHOOL will give you 50% off until May 30 of this year! Even if you aren’t learning about American History like we are, I still think this is a valuable resource to have in your book collection!

If you want to read what others thought of The Hidden Message of the Great Seal
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History on Horseback: The Early Years {Review}

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

This year in our homeschool we are studying American History. I am loving all of the new things we are using! It seems like we just did this history, so it is nice to keep it fresh. We have been using a book called History on Horseback: The Early Years from Sonrise Stable Books and it has been great so far!
History on Horseback coverRight away I noticed that the book is nice, the cover is soft, but the nice kind that will last longer. The main part of the book has 183 pages and 53 chapters. Each chapter is quite short, a couple pages is the average.

When we moved to our house, it came with two horses. My daughter has always wanted horses, and although these are older and can’t be ridden, they are still loved by her. She is quite interested in this book, just to hear about horses throughout history. My girl does not get into history on a normal day very much, so this has been fantastic!

Every chapter includes interesting artwork. There are paintings, drawings, and photographs that all help to bring to life what the words are saying.

Also in each chapter there are little snippets as a sort of side note about the story. Quite a few include quotes, or just interesting tidbits that are an extra part to the chapter. I like these also to get a quick feel as to what the chapter is about if the title doesn’t tell enough.
History on Horseback insideSince we are studying American History, we have been reading from this book twice a week so as not to get too far through history that our curriculum is in. It’s nice that we just started our school year in February. We are right about even with our curriculum, if not slightly behind, but I am hoping that we will only ever be a week behind or ahead at any given time. If I see that we are too far one way or the other then we will be doing more or less that week to make it even again.

This book covers the early years from 1493-1866. I know that soon we will probably be reading from this book all five days so as to make it even, since our history curriculum goes to the present years.

The first chapter starts with ‘Arrival in America’ and ends with ‘Beautiful Jim Key’. The first chapters jump pretty far, but then it starts to even out the pace. With more written about throughout history the later the years go, that just makes sense.

If you weren’t already using a history curriculum, I could see using this book as a branching off to learn about the chapter talked about. To me, each chapter almost feels like a ‘behind the scenes’ of different history events. The author stated that horses are strangely absent in history textbooks, and I agree!

Something to look forward to is the current plans for the author to complete a study guide for this book this year! Also, a second and third book and study guide set to hopefully be released in 2020 and 2021 respectively. It will be a full history curriculum once the study guide is complete.

My daughter is graduating later this year, but honestly, I think that she would just read these for fun, and it would probably be something that she kept for a long time!

If you want to read what others thought of History on Horseback: The Early Years, feel free to click on the banner below. I am sure that there are plenty of ages that read through the book that might match the age of your child!



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Home School in the Woods – A Collection of Historical Timeline Figures {Review}

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

The last few years the main curriculum that we have used in our homeschool has suggested we make timelines. To me, it was just overwhelming as I wanted them to look a certain way and I just didn’t know how to start. Home School in the Woods has a Timeline Collection: A Collection of Historical Timeline Figures that makes this super easy for us!

While  the Timeline Collection is available on a CD, we received the download version. It just works better with how we use things like this in our homeschool.

This year we are studying American History and yes, it is asking us to keep up a timeline! Now, we are only five weeks into our school year, so we weren’t too far behind with starting this up now.

Included in the files we received were some tips and tricks. One folder gave suggestions on different formats of timeline. I was always used to the one that went around your room that you hung up on the wall! Who knew that there were so many different formats? I feel like the last to know…ha!

I decided to go with the notebook version. It’s portable, easy to use, and hopefully will be easier to keep tidy.
Sketch book for timeline
We had an extra sketch book that I thought would be perfect for this! It opened on the shorter side so that left the longer side able to be used for the timeline! You could use any book like this, although I imagine you wouldn’t want to use lined paper. Plus, the paper would be so thin. Sketch books, or watercolor…those are typically heavier…
Home School in the Woods Timeline notebook
Then, I just made a quick cover for the outside of the notebook. You could put anything on your cover, we just like things simple. For the younger kids they could color their own cover, which I think would look pretty awesome!
Home School in the Woods Chronological
One of the ways you can search for figures is chronological. I thought this was fantastic! I started out this way, just printing what we were learning about at the time.
Home School in the Woods American
And then I saw this America’s History section! As I clicked on each page in this section, I realized that there were so many things included that we hadn’t studied yet! We decided to print all of the figures in these sections, and if they weren’t in our curriculum we would learn about them. That rounded out our schooling nicely and it didn’t take up that much extra time.
Home School in the Woods Timeline figures
We kept our timeline very simple. While each page gets a different color, it doesn’t mean anything special, it just changes it up a bit. I would have loved to separate it by certain time periods or something…but this kept it simple the way we like it.

Even with just starting our school year last month, we have already gone through the first two pages in the America’s history section. There are so many different figures that I totally forgot about or that just weren’t included in our curriculum. And there are 40 total pages just in this section!

When we went to print these, I just went into edit mode on the PDF file and I could make them as big as I needed. It would be really neat to have a side project and print a large copy of  just the major characters that we learned about and write different things that we learned about that person or time period.

There are so many different options and ways that you can use these figures. For younger kids you could attach them to popsicle sticks or straws with the person on the front and the text on the back. When you have a couple 12th graders, they just don’t appreciate the fun stuff anymore though…ha! But you don’t have to use them in a timeline is what I was getting at. They are so useful!

There are over 1200 figures included with this set. It’s from Creation to the 21st Century, so that would explain the high number. There are some Biblical items included in case that is something you would want to know.

I have used Home School in the Woods for quite some time now! Their products are so unique. We used to do a lot of unit studies and these were so helpful! I will list my previous reviews here!

U.S. Elections – this is a great one for the election coming up!
Project Passport – Ancient Greece – These are great for unit studies!
Wonders of the World – This included different time periods which was nice!
Ala Carte Products – This had a little bit of everything, it was perfect!
Industrial Revolution through the Great Depression – This would work for us again!

If you want to read what others thought of their time with Home School in the Woods, feel free to click the banner below! They used all sorts of different products, and I love reading about the different ones that I may not have seen yet!
Home School in the Woods – A Collection of Historical Timeline Figures

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