Let’s Visit Awhile. . . in England

*This post may contain affiliate links.

If only I was really in England!  No doubt my afternoon reading would absolutely lovely sitting in the English countryside. And that is exactly how I’m spending many of my free moments…reading!

It would probably be an interesting idea to actually post about the wonderful books I have enjoyed with my children and in my own private reading. I could even share about the ones that I sat to the side. It is rare that I don’t finish a book but it does happen! Unfortunately,  I am so far behind in reviewing/sharing what I have read, I don’t even know where to begin.

So, why not just share a book that I am reading and enjoying very much right now?

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep (Joanna Cannon) is set in the late 1970s in a English neighborhood. There is a wide cast of characters but the story is pulled along by Grace and Tilly, two young girls looking for God. If they find God, then Mrs. Creasy will be found. This has a bit of mystery/suspense, diverse and engaging characters, and absolutely lovely language. Ms. Cannon has a lovely way with words that create pictures for feelings, mood, and atmosphere.

“I stared past the vicar to Enid’s coffin, and thought of the ninety-eight years which lay inside. I wondered if she’d thought of them too, alone on her sitting room carpet, and I hope perhaps that she had. I thought about how she’d be carried from the church and through the graveyard, past all the Ernests and the Mauds and the Mabels, and how ninety-eight years would be put inside the ground, for dandelions to grow across her name. I thought about the people that would forever walk past her, on their way to somewhere else. People at weddings and christenings. People taking a shortcut, having a cigarette. I wondered if they would ever stop and think about Enid and her ninety-eight years, and I wondered if the world would have a little remembering left for her.” p 88

I just happened to stumble across The Trouble with Goats and Sheep one evening while browsing Pinterest. I wish I could remember where? Someone had it on a “must read in 2016” type of list. Spending so much time in children’s literature, I have to purpose to make time for adult selections.

“It was strange how different people’s kitchens could be. Some were shouty and confused, like Mrs. Dakin’s, and some kitchens, like Eric Lamb’s, hardly made a sound. A clock tick-tocked above the doorframe and a fridge whirred and hummed to itself in the corner. Other than that, there was silence as we ran the taps and stared through the window and washed our hands with Fairy Liquid. Next to the stove were two easy chairs, one crumpled and sagging, the other smooth and unworn. Over the back of each were crocheted blankets, reams of multicolored yarn stretched together in a shout of color, and on the dresser was a photograph of a woman with kind eyes. She watched us dry our hands and take lemonade from Eric Lamb, and I wondered if it  had been her patience which had woven together the strands of wool, for a chair she could no longer sit in.”  p.182

I’m just a bit over halfway finished with my reading and am eager to see how the lives of this little neighborhood are going to end. I’m taking it slow and enjoying my time sitting on the wall with Grace and Tilly.

“I still hadn’t learned the power of words. How, once they have left your mouth, they have a breath and a life of their own. I had yet to realize that you no longer own them. I hadn’t learned that, once you let them go, the words can then, in fact, become the owners of you.” p.187

What have you been reading this summer?

ArtAchieve – A Review for Every Artist

When you look around my house, you will naturally see books, books, and more books. You will also find sketch books, drawing pencils, watercolors, and more all throughout the house. One of my daughters hopes to one day illustrate children’s books so I am always on the look out for books, tutorials, and other resources to help her. ArtAchieve has allowed us to use and review their Entire Level 1 online art course and Lydia has been the primary student. I’d love to share her experience with you.

Art Lessons for Children ArtAchieve Review
ArtAchieve has five levels of art instruction available online. They do increase in difficulty and skill as you progress through the levels. We chose to go with Level 1 because the lessons were fun, we had all supplies readily available, and I could invite younger ones to join us at times. You can select any of the lessons at any level and learn more details about what that lesson will present to your student. Not only are supplies listed but also the approximate time the lesson will take to complete.


Another great aspect to the ArtAchieve lessons is that you can choose to dig deeper into the subject matter. In Level 1, Lesson 3,for example, is The Hungarian Insects. If you wanted to explore the subject a bit more, you are given links to resources that help you learn about the history and geography of Hungary. A list of picture books by Eric Carle on insects is suggested and a great way to showcase great art work. Science and writing suggestions are given as well. While we didn’t utilize all these cross-curricula resources, it is nice to have that option.

ArtAchieve has FREE lessons available. The lessons on Simple Lines and Shading are beneficial no matter which level of ArtAchieve you begin with.

How did Lydia use ArtAchieve Level 1?

Initially, I had two of my daughters using Level 1 of ArtAchieve: Lydia, 12 and Hannah, 10. Hannah completed a few lessons if she found the picture interesting but Lydia was my devoted student who I really had in mind for this course. Lydia used this independently and most often worked on her art in the afternoons. She would look over the lessons to see what supplies she needed, find a quiet spot, and create a masterpiece. She usually completes one lesson a week. She has looked over the other levels and is eager to give them all a try.

I really liked using this course. Well, I didn’t really enjoy the lesson on shading but it is an important skill to have. This would work really well for younger children as well because it is easy to understand. What you are doing is explained really well. The warm ups that you do are helpful and good practice. It was fun. Sometimes the videos were a repetitive in the beginning. And I didn’t like the words on the screen being read at the same time. I can read faster and like reading it for myself. Lydia – 12

There were a couple of afternoons that some of my younger ones (8 and 6) wanted to create a masterpiece of their own. They would wait for Lydia to finish and then copy her work. With a bit of guidance and encouragement, I think they could work through Level 1 quite well.

Final Thoughts

Overall, we were quite pleased with ArtAchieve Level 1.  The video instruction gives clear, easy to understand explanations. I loved hearing the instructor comment on how no two creations are going to look the same. This is your art. In a house with all of the children constantly drawing, sketching, and creating, we can easily find ourselves comparing our creations a bit harshly.

I appreciated the Warm Up activities for the lessons. I think they are really helpful for the student to get a feel for the lines, curves, and angles that will be used in the art work for the day. Very simple but very helpful.

Crew Members were able to review Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3 of ArtAchieve. So take a moment and see what others are saying about Art Achieve and the various levels of art instruction.


Art Lessons for Children ArtAchieve Review
Crew Disclaimer

The Hole Story of the Doughnut

*This post may contain an affiliate link.

In our home, a great amount of fiction is read and enjoyed. That doesn’t mean that we lack appreciation for a good non-fiction read now and then. About once a month or so, I go to my library’s online catalog and take a peek to see what new non-fiction picture books are heading our way.

Every once in a while I stumbled across a book like Earmuffs for Everyone!: How Chester Greenwood Became Known as the Inventor of Earmuffs that not only share a bit of history and a biography but are super fun to read as well. A couple of weeks ago, I made another such discovery that spoke to my family in a sweet way.

The Hole Story of the Doughnut (Pat Miller). Yes! A book about the inventor of the doughnut! We seriously love doughnuts in our home so everyone loved this read.

Hanson Crockett Gregory, in 1844, went to sea at the age of thirteen. His life at sea began as a cabin boy but he quickly worked his way to cook’s assistant. Gregory continued to work hard and became captain of a clipper (the fastest ship on the ocean at that time).  After rescuing Spanish sailors from the sea, Gregory was awarded a medal of honor from Queen Isabella II.  Clearly Hanson Crockett Gregory was a man of diligence and worthy character.

But, um, can we talk about the doughnuts? This is exactly how The Hole Story of the Doughnut begins; by telling us a bit about the man that Gregory was. Then finally we travel a bit back in time to June 22, 1847 when Hanson Gregory was sixteen.

Breakfast on board the ship was the usual fare of coffee and fried cakes. Balls of sweetened dough were dropped into a pot of hot lard. The smell was delicious. Perfection..until you hit the middle of the fried cake. The middle was left raw and greasy. This earned these fried cakes the name of “Sinkers”.  Yum?

Ah, but Hanson used a bit of creative thinking and solved the problem. A lid from a pepper can cut perfect holes in the middle of these fried cakes. And Sinkers were a thing of the past. Doughnuts were born!

What does young Hansen then do? Tells his mom all about his fried cake perfection and she sets up market in a friend’s store. So let’s all give a big Thank You!! to Hansen Crockett Gregory and his mom.

Is This Really True?

Here is another aspect that we enjoyed about The Hole Story of the Doughnut. Not only did author Pat Miller give us the story of the doughnut but went a little further. You know how sailors’ stories go, right? The fish is always bigger, you know. So a couple of tales were shared about how doughnuts were “really” created.

The story of the creation of the doughnut has been confirmed! In 1941 a man named Henry Ellis challenged the claim Gregory had on the doughnut. But a panel of people came together and agreed that Gregory had the right and proper claim to the doughnut. Ellis later admitted that it was a publicity stunt. Tsk, tsk, Mr. Ellis.

At the age of eighty-nine, Gregory passed away at a sailor’s home in Massachusetts (which I found that tidbit fascinating) and was buried near the sea.  In the 1950’s his headstone disappeared. However, in 1982 Dunkin’ Donuts president, Richard Hart, had a new headstone placed at Gregory’s grave.  If you live nearby in Massachusetts, grab a dozen doughnuts, head to Gregory’s graveside, and share our appreciation for his creativity in the sea-tossed kitchen.

We enjoyed this quick read on the doughnut. The author’s note contains the information about the publicity stunt and the headstone. So my younger ones enjoyed the story of the creation of the doughnut and the older ones and I got a bit of extra info which is always nice. Even the two year old likes this book. Ok, the page with the doughnut with sprinkles is his favorite, but can you blame him? Now it’s time to make the doughnuts.