March 2018 Pictures

We were amused when we looked out one day and saw this truck, with its two very different trailers, stopped on the highway in front of us.


Mr. Intellectual is still working through the Thinking Like an Engineer course that we got for review in October. He recently built this paper marble roller (this is the first step):


Mr. Diligence had to look at an atlas one day for school. He complained about the assignment, but then I found him and Mr. Sweetie studying it for a few days afterward!


Grandma recorded herself reading some picture books that we have, and Little Miss is loving having Grandma read to her! She quickly caught on to turning the pages at the bell, and is good at following along. Even though Grandma lives 9,000 miles away, we can still hear her voice! Esther helped with the first book, but since then, Little Miss is doing it herself.



I chuckled one day when I saw Goofball watching intently as Mr. Imagination told himself a story while he washed his hands!


My garden in March. It looks pretty bad now, since we had a hard frost.


Mr. Imagination was given a toolchest and tools for his birthday, from his brothers and sister, and his daddy and I gave him the watercolor set.


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Apple Cider

There isn’t much fruit grown around here, but because Gayle is still working in Cheviot, he has been able to bring us a lot of apples. One Sunday afternoon, the boys decided to make some of them into cider. They washed the apples and cut them in half, then put them through a garbage grinder (which has been thoroughly cleaned!).


They ground the apples into a clean pillowcase, then pressed the pulp between some boards, using a jack to apply pressure.35-IMG_432236-IMG_432437-IMG_4325

Then, they carefully poured the juice through a strainer and enjoyed it!



From approximately a bushel of apples, they got nearly four gallons of cider.

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Product Review—Princess Cut

I asked Esther to write the review for a movie we were sent recently. Here is what she says:

I love getting things for review, and when Princess Cut, from Watchman Pictures, became available to review a few months ago, I was intrigued. After watching the trailer, Mom and I thought we’d try it out, so we requested a copy.

Princess Cut The Movie

Last week, it came, and the next available day we had to watch it, we took time for it. I wasn’t disappointed. This movie actually pretty-well played out according to my expectations (which isn’t always a good thing, but I guess, in this case, it was!).

The main plot revolves around a girl who would really like to get married but has a hard time knowing how to find a good guy. She isn’t really interested in her parent’s input, either, which means that she’s often left to fend for herself—generally with disappointing results.

When her boyfriend of several years announces that he’s engaged, Grace is crushed. She had expected that he’d propose to her soon, but now his ring is on another girl’s finger. As she tries to sort through the emotional fallout, another guy from a coffee shop strikes up a conversation and soon they are going out on dates. When he starts pushing Grace’s boundaries, though, she realizes she must get out—before anything worse happens.

Finally coming to a place of brokenness, she opens her heart to her parents and receives much-needed guidance. But will the Lord bring someone else into her life, or does He want her to remain single? Can she find joy and fulfillment in the moment, even though things have gone the opposite way to what she thought she’d like?

One of my favorite parts of Princess Cut was Grace’s parent’s involvement. They respected the fact that she was grown up and wanted to make her own decisions, but when she asked for their advice, they gave her very clear, sound counsel. I loved that.

Another aspect I loved was how she did her best to not only learn as much as she could about what God wanted from her, but tried to live that out as well. Although that can be a difficult, time-consuming process to go through, it’s also very good.

As far as the plot-line itself, I wouldn’t consider it anything truly stellar, but it didn’t drag too much, either. I did appreciate the fact that kisses and such-like were only mentioned, and not shown on-screen. This movie struck me as something that you might find in a Hallmark movie (granted; I’ve only ever heard descriptions of one—never watched one to my knowledge!)—basically, a “boy meets girl” story with a Christian twist and (godly) character growth.

For me, the main takeaways from Princess Cut are a little vague. I appreciated the emphasis on getting counsel from older people, and I’ve certainly found that true and very helpful in my own life! I also appreciated the exhortation to young women to cultivate good attitudes and have healthy, God-honoring habits. I’ve learned that this is essential, and, by the grace of God, I’m always trying to grow in those areas! The message of contentment where we are right now, is, too, a big thing—one Mom and I have discussed off and on. It’s very hard to learn (and maintain!), but the results are amazing.

As far as the relationships themselves?—well, this movie could possibly set girls up for unrealistic expectations. They could think that once they give it over to the Lord, and “perfect” the lacking disciplines, attitudes, or fruits of the spirit in their lives, then the right guy will just come along and within a few months, they’ll be happily married!

It happens. I know it does. Perhaps even more often than I think! But I would suspect it’s not very often. Still, one can find joy in the season one is in—if we search diligently for it. And for me, having been on “both sides of the line” so to speak (both dating a guy and then not), I know that while yes, it is difficult to not have that physical or emotional fulfillment, it can be found in Jesus. He is enough, even though it doesn’t always feel like that at times.

I also do want to recognize that while this story may be almost picture-perfect in some aspects, it also almost had to be that way to be a satisfying movie. In all, while it wasn’t the most exciting movie I’ve watched all year, it still was very good and I wouldn’t be surprised if I find myself watching it again someday. It’s very clean, and it does have some good principles—both of which I appreciate.

Thank you for your review, Esther! Something I’ll add is that we are still laughing at part of this movie. At one point, a number of potential suitors show up at Grace’s house (I won’t tell you why, but it’s funny). This part was absolutely hilarious, although the attitudes displayed were all too real. This part has sparked some good conversation about what NOT to be like. Here are screenshots of some of them:

Princess Cut 1Princess Cut 2Princess Cut 3Princess Cut 4

We also loved the little brother. He really added to the story! One thing you might want to be aware of is the fight scene which starts at 1:24:15. No one is hurt, but it does look pretty violent for awhile. One more thing I just thought of. When Esther and I sat down to watch this, we gave the boys the choice of watching or not. They were pretending to gag at the thought of watching a movie about love, but Simon and Mr. Intellectual decided to watch just the first little bit to see how mushy it was. They ended up staying to watch the whole thing!

Princess Cut {Watchman Pictures Reviews} Crew Disclaimer

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Family Walk

One Sunday afternoon, our entire family walked down to the Ahaura River. We went down a road near us that went straight down the hill to the railroad track, then turned to cross a large creek.


Esther was very much not impressed with this old bridge. She calls it rickety, although many trucks cross it every day!


The creek.


After looking at the creek, we walked a long way to get to the river bed. It’s not the easiest place to push a stroller, but it worked all right with the big boys who enjoy pushing their little sister.


We had to cross the creek to get out to the Grey River.


This is the confluence of the Ahaura and Grey Rivers.


Just below where these boys are, the water rushes extremely fast through a very deep chute. They were at the top of it, keeping each other from washing away.


We passed these calves on the other side of the creek on our way home. We sure enjoyed that walk—this is a very beautiful area!


Mr. Imagination picked these lovely flowers for me.


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Product Review—Creation Illustrated

When I had the opportunity, a few weeks ago, to sign up to review some unit studies that Creation Illustrated has started producing, I thought that sounded very interesting. I have never used unit studies, so this seemed like a good way to try one out. I was given the choice of using the Snow unit study, or the one about Pine Trees. Because we are studying botany for science this year, I thought the Pine Trees study sounded like a good fit. I was sent the Snow study as well; maybe sometime we’ll use it. Creation Illustrated Unit Study Pine Trees


CI Fall17 FrontCoverSM








I have found this study interesting. We started by reading an article about pine trees from the Fall ’17 issue of Creation Illustrated, which is linked to in the unit study. There was a lot of information about pine trees (I didn’t know that only one species is native to the Southern Hemisphere!), where they live, how they grow, and what they do for mankind, as well as spiritual lessons that can be drawn from them. After that, we watched several YouTube videos that were linked to. One that was especially interesting was about pine trees in Japan, and another that we enjoyed was about the second oldest Bristlecone Pine in the world. Amazingly, it began growing soon after the Flood!

After our introduction to pines through the article and the videos, we started on the study itself. The first written activity was to learn to spell and define a list of vocabulary words. This was too hard for my 6- and 8-year-olds. The 12-year-old would have greatly struggled with the spelling, since he is dyslexic and these are hard words, so we skipped that part. We did work on definitions, though, by matching the words on one page with their meanings on the next page.

A Bible study about pine and fir trees was the next activity. We looked up the references given, and then decided if the verse talked about pine or fir, and what the wood in it was used for. I was glad that the version used was noted, because once we didn’t notice that it said NIV, and we couldn’t figure out what we were supposed to see! Once we did notice that, we skipped the verse. The last activity we had time for was to name the area in which certain pine trees are native, and then locate them on a map. Because we have had to take several days off lately, when I was sick or we were away, we didn’t quite finish the study, but I plan to next week. We’ll be identifying pine trees in photographs and answering a lot of questions about pine trees, and then doing a page of math calculations based on pine trees. I’m not sure yet if we’ll do an essay or an art project about pines; we’ll see when we get there. The last activity is a word search, so that will more than likely happen.

The Intricacies of Snow unit study appears to be very similar. One thing that would be very difficult for us to do is building an igloo, which is an activity that is suggested! There were more fill-in-the-blank questions in this study, it looked like when I flipped through. This study is based on an article in the Winter ’18 issue.

I have learned, by doing this review, that unit studies really aren’t our style. I’m glad to know that—but if they work well for your family, definitely consider trying out some of these! I like the way nature study, Bible study, Language Arts and Math are all tied together here. Creation Illustrated Unit Study Snow CI-Win18-CoverFront-150dpi




Creation Illustrated is a beautiful magazine. The photography is incredible, and inside both the front and back covers of both of the issues I looked at is a two-page full-color photograph of a beautiful scene from nature, with a Scripture verse on it. I enjoyed looking over the articles and reading some of them. Each article uses some facet of Creation or the created world to bring out spiritual truths. I noticed articles on such topics as how kangaroos care for their young (fascinating!), the Grand Canyon, a man living a self-sufficient life in Alaska, and a family caught in a blizzard. Each issue also includes recipe cards for vegan dishes, a study guide for the issue, and a coloring picture and photo contest. One of the articles focuses on a day of Creation, a different day for each issue that I saw. A unit study is also being written to go along with each issue. If you purchase the unit study, which is especially aimed at 5th-8th graders, you will get a link to a digital edition of the magazine. The unit study is downloadable, so you can use it for multiple students in your family. The unit studies are 30% off here. If you are looking for character-building or nature-study resources in an attractive format, these magazines are great! Subscriptions to the quarterly print magazines are 25% off here, and subscriptions to the digital version will be available soon. Here is a peek at the Spring ’18 issue, which will be available very soon:

CI Sum15 Cover Pages Creation Illustrated Unit Studies {Creation Illustrated Reviews} Crew Disclaimer

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February 2018 Photos

The day before we moved, this cat knew something was awry. She was very restless, but she did settle down in the rag basket for awhile—I thought it looked like she was trying to shut the world out!


The view from our new living room. This is a frequent sight—rain!


Little Miss has started “feeding” her baby lately.


We enjoyed some gorgeous scenery on our way to Christchurch in late February. There had just been a cyclone, and the tops of some of the mountains had snow on them.


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Ahaura River

We live less than one kilometer from a rather large river, the Ahaura, which flows into the Grey River just downstream from our town. One Sunday evening, a couple of weeks after we moved here, the children and I walked down to the riverbed after Gayle left for the week. We had fun exploring down there. Here is the track that goes down to the boat launch from the main road.


We cross this one-lane bridge nearly every day, taking Simon to work and bringing him home. It looks fine from this perspective, and is sturdy, but it sure looks rough on top. It’s an old wooden bridge, with some asphalt on top. You can see every plank, and one day when I crossed, one of the planks had popped up. It was down again when I came back through, 20 minutes later. That doesn’t really inspire confidence!


The underside of the bridge.


This goat is staked out near the bridge.


Looking upstream from the bridge.


A lot of willow shrubs grow in the higher parts of the riverbed. I was interested in how the foliage had been swept in one direction by a recent flood.


Many stock trucks and other heavy trucks cross this bridge every day!


This is the railroad bridge just downstream from the car bridge.


This was the end of our walk. We decided not to try to cross this spot! The main river is just to the left.


Notice the silt? There were large drifts of it here and there. The boys had fun slipping and sliding in it—and then they had an excuse to dip in the river before we headed home!


Both bridges, from downstream.


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Product Review—Carole P. Roman

Most of the time, when I review a product, it is digital. That makes the rare occasions when we are sent a physical copy of something quite special! Our most recent review is one of those; we were sent three books from the Carole P. Roman books and collections. Out of a long list of possible titles, I chose two about American history and one about Kenya. As soon as the books arrived in this house, they were being read—and reread! A couple of weeks later, Little Miss is still loving them!23-IMG_4297

I had never seen any books by Carole P. Roman before, so I enjoyed being introduced to some great new resources for our family. These are lavishly illustrated books, with text on one side of each two-page spread and a picture on the other. Many of the illustrations are full-color drawings; some I noticed were drawings inserted into a photograph. I liked all of them!24-IMG_4298

The first book I chose is If You Were Me and Lived In…Colonial America. Through the eyes of a young boy, this book tells about the reasons that the Pilgrims wanted to move to America. You will imagine traveling on the Mayflower, and surviving the hardships of the first winter in the New World. The main events of that time are touched on, but the main emphasis is on daily life. We are learning about Jamestown right now, and will be studying the Pilgrims next, so this book was a good fit.26-IMG_4301

The second book I chose was If You Were Me and Lived in…The American West. I chose this one because of our study of American History, although it will be a good while until we reach the Oregon Trail. This book mainly describes living conditions on the trail, as if you were a child traveling in a wagon train. A number of the pictures appear to be photographs of a scene, with pioneers, or covered wagons, or a log cabin, added. I really like the effect this creates. One detail I did have a question about was the dates given; the child in this story traveled in “The Great Migration of 1843”, after a relative who had gone to California for gold told the child’s parents about Oregon. 25-IMG_4300

Our last book is If You Were Me and Lived In…Kenya. I chose this one because we have friends who were missionaries in Kenya for several years. I found this brief introduction to the people and country of Kenya to be very interesting. Several words and names that are commonly used in that country are included; thankfully, the pronunciations are given! Foods and games are introduced, as well as wildlife and an annual celebration. My boys did notice in one of the pictures that the children were not holding the cricket bat the same way they do when they play; they said their friend who is a cricket fanatic would have a fit if he saw that picture! Otherwise, I thought the book was accurate.22-IMG_4296

I wouldn’t mind having more of these lovely picture books on our shelf for reference. They are a good supplement to history and geography, and Little Miss loves just looking at them; in fact, I had to get one back from her to check on something just now as I was writing this review! She has the two history books with her at the moment and is making up a story to go with the pictures. In fact, she just informed me that she can read some of the words! In the Colonial America book, there is a picture of a boy holding a lobster. Her interpretation of the text beside it? “A spider is getting a boy to eat.” Maybe these books are good for developing imagination, as well as imparting information?!

One more thing…I noticed this afternoon a note in the back of the Colonial America book that there are additional resources available on the author’s blog. I took a quick look at what was available for the books we have. There wasn’t a lot yet, but for each of our two history books there were a couple of pages of study questions. The books are great on their own for younger children; the questions would help with creating a mini unit study for older children.
Carole P. Roman books and collections {Carole P. Roman Reviews} Crew Disclaimer

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We did something different today. We didn’t have the usual people to worship with this morning, since they are away for the weekend, so we decided to check out a group we heard of in Reefton, a town about 31 minutes drive from us. Because Gayle drives through there on his way back to the other coast for the week for work, we decided to spend the whole day in Reefton and explore some places we were curious about. That way, he didn’t have to drive back here and then go that way again. We figured out a menu for both lunch and  tea, and packed everything we needed for a couple of picnics, including a birthday cake for Mr. Imagination, who turned six today. We had to drive the old van, because our in-house mechanic is in the process of fixing a few things on the new van and, due to difficulty obtaining one part, it was undriveable today. We just took it slow and allowed plenty of time, and enjoyed the scenery!

We enjoyed an inspiring service at the little church there, with the eight people who were present, and then brought food inside to add to their shared lunch. We had a delightful hour of fellowship as we got to know them, and then started out to see what Reefton had of interest.

Our first stop was The Bearded Miners, where you can watch a gold-panning demonstration. This man showed us, and a bus-load of tourists, how to tell the difference between fools gold and real gold, and how to find the alluvial gold in river sediments.


Next, we drove a couple of kilometers out of town to Black’s Point, where there is a small historical museum. Mr. Sweetie enjoyed these dredge buckets outside.



I didn’t take any pictures inside, but the man who was volunteering in there today made the eclectic collection of old stuff very interesting. One little tidbit that we gleaned was that, among other gold miners, were a lot of people from the Southern States of the United States. They had lost everything in the Civil War and came here to try to recoup their fortunes—gold was discovered in this area in 1865. We also saw a cash register that was used in this area in the 1800s, which was made in Dayton, Ohio, near where Gayle grew up.

When a tour group arrived at the museum, we went to the end of the road where an old stamping mill is set up. This was the method used to extract gold from quartz rock. I took a video of the machine working; I’ll try to get it up soon. The rock was fed from a hopper into this machine, where a waterwheel turned cogs that made the hammers go up and down. The rock was crushed to a fine sand and when it was fine enough it washed through a screen. The sheet of copper sloping gradually away from the hammers was coated with mercury, and the specks of gold chemically bonded with the mercury, while everything else washed away. Some bits of gold were still bonded to the quartz, however, so there was a mat in the trough just after the copper sheet. Heavy particles got caught there, and every so often that mat would be rinsed off and the stuff caught in it was put in the large metal pot in the next picture. There was mercury in the bottom of that, too. As that pot turned around, a grinder of some sort pulverized the particles that were put in there, and eventually the mercury at the bottom would bond with the gold particles. After several days, they would run water through that until it ran clear, and then harvest the mercury/gold alloy from the bottom, and also scrape the copper sheet clear. Then, they would pack that alloy, which was the consistency of putty, into a cast iron retort and heat it to vaporize and then distill the mercury, so they could reuse it. The gold would be left behind in the retort. This process was used until 1942, when they switched to a system totally different. He said he wouldn’t even try to explain, because it was so complicated.



When we left the stamping mill, we walked around the building and up a trail along this pipe, which used to be used to bring the enormous amounts of water needed to run the mill. Today, they have a plastic pipe buried underneath this one, which is rusted through in many places.


This is one of the largest toadstools I’ve ever seen! That’s a six-year-old’s feet beside it.


The water to run the stamping mill and generate electricity for the lights in the building comes from this creek.


The moss on the trees is unbelievable!


After we walked around a track in Black’s Point, we went back to Reefton. Our birthday boy was quite intrigued by the flowers on this banana tree. There were tiny green bananas, too.


We walked on a track along both sides of the Inangahua River beside Reefton. This town was the first in New Zealand to be lit with electric lights. The track goes past the original power station.


As you can see, it was a rainy afternoon. It was just a drizzle, not a downpour, so we kept going. I took the first of these last two pictures looking downstream from a swingbridge across the Inangahua, then walked on. As I neared the end of the bridge, the sun broke through the clouds and there was a snippet of a rainbow in the river on the upstream side, but it was gone before I got my camera up to take the second picture.


I heard a few good-natured complaints that we don’t get a day off from school, even on Sundays! Everyone enjoyed the day, though, and Mr. Imagination said it was a very good birthday.

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Product Review—Home School in the Woods

I’ve heard a lot about Home School in the Woods over the years. For awhile, we bought timeline figures from them, but that’s the only product of theirs that I’ve used. When I was offered the chance to review a few items from their Á La Carte collection recently, I decided that a couple of the products would fit in nicely with our history study for this year. Everything in this collection is in the form of downloadable PDFs, which is nice for those of us who live outside of the United States (saves postage and time!). Since we have a couple of good printers, this type of product works very well for us. 1-IMG_4302

The first product we used was The Jamestown Replica. We are studying American History this year; Mr. Intellectual is using a high-school level course, and I’m doing an elementary-level course with the other three boys. Because we start our school year in February, Jamestown is one of the settlements we study early-on; Mr. Intellectual covered it a week or two ago, and we’re reading books about it right now for the younger ones, so this model fit in very well. I had to buy some card stock to print it with, and was thankful to figure out a way to make heavy cardstock go through our printer! Mr. Diligence colored the model, and then Mr. Intellectual cut it out and put it together. He has always enjoyed putting models together, and Mr. Diligence has always enjoyed coloring, so that worked well.

This model seems to be very historically accurate, from what we’ve been reading. It’s nice to be able to see what the books talk about. Mr. Intellectual had a hard time fitting it together right, and was quite frustrated—and then he read the rest of the directions! Apparently, it is made correctly, contrary to his first conclusions, but he didn’t follow directions. It ended up looking good, though. Home School in the Woods  Á La Carte products

Our other product for review is the game, High and Dry. It is intended to teach the meanings of various nautical terms and sayings that come from sailing days. There are three packs of cards to print and cut out for this game. Each card has a term and its definition. One pack is general geographical and seafaring vocabulary, one is specifically sailing terminology, and the other is sea sayings. We had a lot of fun with that one. Where did “groggy” come from? Or “skyscrapers?” And why did a neighbor of ours in Cheviot often say, “Shivers!” as an exclamation of surprise or shock? We found out, playing this game! 1-IMG_4336

We made a couple of minor changes to the rules to make the game work better for us. Before starting to play, I read aloud all the cards we were going to use for that round. Otherwise, no one would have been able to answer very many of the questions. Because we have four boys that I wanted to play, since they are the ones doing history, I read all the questions, and didn’t play myself (there are four playing pieces supplied with the game). We ended up allowing Esther and Simon to help the two younger boys, because they had a lot of trouble remembering the definitions. They got some, and we always gave them a chance to get the answer before letting the big ones help. Our other change was to use two dice instead of only one, because the game got too boring when it lasted a long time.

We probably won’t end up playing this game very often, but I will pull it out when we study the days of exploration or the ocean. It’s a good way to learn some of the terminology from those topics. The younger boys enjoyed seeing some familiar places on the map used for a gameboard, from our study of Christopher Columbus.

It was hard to choose which two products to review! There are a number of other ones that look like good resources to supplement our studies. For example, I sort of wish I had chosen The Progress of Faith From Europe to the Colonies Timeline. That would have been a great thing to add. Maybe I’ll end up buying it, since these products don’t cost much.

À La Carte Projects - Individual projects designed to enhance your studies! {Home School in the Woods Reviews} Crew Disclaimer

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