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Wordless Wednesday: Renovation Update

Today I am driving my oldest son to the airport to catch a flight to Atlanta where he’s going to be staying with my little brother for the week and enjoying DragonCon. I will be crying off and on all day (shut up, I’m allowed, I’m pregnant and paranoid), so I’m trying to focus this post on something much more positive and exciting, the addition to our home! As you can tell from the pictures there is still a ton of work to be done but since I haven’t really shared much I figured it was high time for a little photo update.

Erin Sipes
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Toy Review: Love Your Zelf with The Zelfs!

Disclosure: The views expressed are both mine and my daughter’s, and they are all original and truthful. We received no other compensation for this review other than the doll itzelf.

The Zelfs are one of the newest collectible dolls from Moose Toys, the same group that brought us The Trash Pack, Doctor Dreadful, Mighty Beanz, and games like The Logo Game. Emerging when the twilight moon rises, the Zelfs are from the secret garden of Zardenia where they live in their respective “fab-itats.” Each Zelf has a unique Zelfmark that represents their Zelf power and a head full of crazy hair kids can spend hours playing with and styling.

For this review we received Lunanne the moon fairy Zelf whose power is Discovery! Want to know the first thing I discovered? Even in the package my daughter loved playing with this little critter, as evident by the bent up box. I was charging my camera and wanted her to wait to open it until I could take a picture – woe, the life of a blogger’s daughter – in the mean time she walked around the house dog-earing the package the entire time.

She read the back with her brothers and almost instantly said she wanted to find Miss Clover, the ultra-rare four leaf clover Zelf that I want to find for myself, you know how I am with four leaf clovers! Finally, camera charged and pictures taken she carefully ripped into it and so began her obsession with combing its hair!

The funny thing about the Zelfs is that though they are marketed towards girls, both my sons have had fun collaberating with their sister to come up with zany hair-dos! Together they also had fun posing Lunanne around the house while they begged me to take pictures of her playing on the piano and sharing a snack.


My first reaction when I saw this doll was…it’s a troll. But after visiting the website with the kids, reading about the Zelfs, and catching dragonflies, I appreciated them so much more! The Zelfs have a great background upon which to build even more tales and adventures and my two younger kids are at the right age ( 8 & 6 years old) to let their imaginations grow and expand stories into days of play!

MOOSE TOYS - The Zelfs - Group OOP
Zelfs will be available this fall at most major toy retailers, include a charm, hair accessory and comb, and come in three sizes. Lunanne is a Medium Zelf of which there are 12 to collect, and don’t forget the elusive Clover Zelf.  If you are looking for something fun and imaginative to add to your kids toy box, look no further. Plus, when the kids aren’t playing with them you may find yourself getting all nostalgic as you braid, twirl, and comb that head full of hair! Visit The Zelfs website to learn more about these fun new toys!

Disclosure-again, in case you didn’t see the first one: I received this Zelf for review, the opinions expressed are those of my own and my daughter’s and they are honest.

Erin Sipes
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Kids Craft: Grandparent’s Day Cards

Kids Craft: Grandparent's Day Cards #kidscraft #grandparentsday #crafting
Grandparent’s Day is one of those holidays that I usually forget about but this time it didn’t slip by me and I’m so happy the kids were able to help create a fun and ‘heartfelt’ card to say thanks for being such great grandparents!

These cards would make a perfect school project because they don’t take much to make in the way of supplies, skills, or time. You can keep them simple or you get embellish them to the max, either way you’re sure to end up with a project any grandparent would be grateful to receive.

Erin Sipes
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Mod Podge Wildlife Dresser

Mod Podge Wildlife Dresser #modpodge #dresser #crafting

Today I’m in the midst of a number of projects so I thought I’d share one that we finished a while back. –Erin

While we get the addition finished up my youngest son is still sharing his room with his little sister. But that hasn’t stopped up from giving his room the insect/lizard/jungle vibe he’s wanting. Our first project was this Bottle Cap Beaded Door, and the second was this Mod Podged dresser. We matched the paint of their bunk beds and Mod Podged pages from an old Reader’s Digest Wildlife Guide. Here are the results.

birddrawer  #modpodge #dresser #crafting #furniture
Erin Sipes
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My Mission Statement

You know the horrible thing about giving advice…at one point or another you may be asked to show how you applied it to yourself. Months ago while prepping and thinking about the BlogHer ROYO (You can read the transcript here. Warning many mistakes on who said what.) I wrote that one of the first things to do when you’re trying to reclaim your purpose in blogging, and in life for that matter, is to write a mission statement. I explained what I did to come up with mine but I never shared mine…why? Because I never took that last step of turning a handful of blubbering sentences into ONE succinct statement that summed up everything I want my blog to be. Then one of my fellow speakers suggested we share our own mission statements during the session. Um, okay.

Funny thing is, at that point I’d already done all the hard work so it was easy for me to write that last point and well this is what I came up with:
Erin Sipes
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Orange Glazed, Brown Sugar Cake


I’ve had a horrible sweet tooth lately and I desire to make something new. I’d seen a recipe like this for brown sugar cookies and thought why not make it into a cake? The finished project reminds me a lot of cornbread but without the gritty texture. The top and sides have a nice crunch to them and the cake itself is very yellow (and hard to photograph). I decided to top our cake with a bit of orange marmalade but the possibilities are endless, I think it would also be good with macerated berries and whipped cream…hmm, maybe we’ll give that a try tomorrow.

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • orange marmalade

Orange Glazed Brown Sugar Cake

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cream butter and add sugar. Separate yolks and whites, first add the yolks to the butter mixture and blend well before adding the whites. Add milk and be mindful of splashing. Add the flour and baking powder until everything is well blended. Spray a baking pan. Spread the batter into the pan, bake for 28-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

While the cake is cooling cover it with half a cup of orange marmalade. You could substitute for another jam, more jam, or icing.

Erin Sipes
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Ultrasound of Baby Boy

My goal today was to talk more about my BlogHer 13 Room of Your Own experience and to announce that I plan on sharing more of what was discussed in the coming months. That was the plan, but this week has been a little crazy and I’m feeling so very thankful for my life and the little one growing inside me I thought I’d rather talk about that.

This Monday I went in for my first Doctor’s appointment. I never did tell the whole story of how I ended up pregnant because, did I? Remember when I talked about Trigeminal Neuralgia? Sometime after that I was diagnosed with a chronic case of it and had to start taking an anticonvulsant to control the pain. The neurologist suggested I see my gyno because the pain fluctuated with my cycle. I was also instructed that, while on the medication, no matter what DO NOT get pregnant.

So, I went to see my regular Dr. and we decided to go on a low-estrogen birth control pill to first try to get my hormones back on track (they’ve been off for a few years now) and secondly as a form of well, birth control. After a few months things did get back to normal and I felt much better, that should’ve been my first sign something was up! The medication cancels out the effectiveness of birth control. So once my hormones leveled off I was a sitting duck.

When I first peed on the stick I have to admit panic set in, I mean I was ON the pill and I was not supposed to get pregnant. After pacing around the house for a few hours I finally called my Dr. and they scheduled me to come in the next day. The little spot was in my uterus, like it should be and I was told to stop taking everything, immediately. A few weeks later I had another ultrasound and got to see a heartbeat. Everything looked good but we wouldn’t know anything until more time had passed and another ultrasound could be done.

Flash forward 11 weeks to yesterday. Okay wait, don’t go too forward yet, in my infinite wisdom I looked up the neural tube defects that could be caused by the medication. This was a horribly bad idea. Though I felt everything was fine and I told myself to be positive there was still this voice in the back of my head saying what if it doesn’t have a brain, what if it’s missing a spine, and other terrible thoughts.

Back to yesterday, I had the ultrasound. I saw, with my own eyes, a correctly shaped head, a beautiful, complete spine and a penis! Some things seem to stand out on those hard to read images! The Dr. also explained that because of when I stopped the meds the baby hadn’t officially developed a placenta (i.e. attached to my blood stream) so we were at no greater risk than any other ‘over 35’ set of parents. 

With all the worry that had been accumulating in my head it was such a relief to see that perfect, squirming, little boy. In a state of gratitude I felt even more humble watching the news and reading updates on Facebook concerning the flash flood that consumed our neighboring town of Waynesville. It took the life of a four year old boy (and more than likely that of his mother and other family members who’ve yet to be found) and has impacted so many of my former co-workers, family, and friends.

With more rain in the forecast, I’m reminded that the hardest day to smile and say thank you is the same day it matters the most. The direction of your life directly correlates with where you choose to put your attention and energy. Be mindful of the gifts you were given and don’t stop expressing that gratitude through your positive thoughts and actions. It can change lives and make even the most unbearable moments bearable. Besides, having a bad attitude never makes anything easier, smile instead.
Erin Sipes
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Homeschooling: Year-Round Lesson Planning

As we enter our third year of homeschooling and delve into new territories I’m reminded that the one thing you can always depend on is change. After spending a summer feeling lost and aimless I’ve decided to join the ranks of other (usually much more experienced) homeschoolers and make the switch to year-round schooling. So far things look hopeful, but I am still in the planning phase.

There are so many reasons to school year-round first there is the obvious and that’s less time spend reviewing at the beginning of a new year. Knowledge is lost over summer breaks, it’s inevitable, but with YRS you’re never getting out of that learning mode of thought so the transition from one grade to the next is that much easier.

Secondly it will hopefully curtail the “I’m bored” summer mantra. During a normal homeschooling day I usually let the kids take a quick break between each subject to run outside for a few minutes, build a Lego creation, or play a video game. Just like adults look forward to their weekends the kids looked forward to their breaks. Then summer time came and it was break time 24/7. An adult vacation can only last so long before the need to be productive kicks in, or at least it should, and the same is true for kids. They’re going to get bored because they’ve gone from being constantly challenged and learning to a time of constant play. Plus, where we live the summers can get unbearable and going outside to play is not an option.

For me the biggest reason to make the switch is the flexibility it will allow. I’m due in January which means the months leading up to the actual birth will be filled with Dr. appointments. My husband is usually off every other Friday and though I’ve tried to work around that in the past those days are usually shot and nothing gets accomplished. So when I fill in our calendars I end up erasing and moving lessons around, which leads to the second thing we’re doing different this year.

This year I’m not using a calendar. I mean sure, I’ll use one to set a basic rhythm for our schedule but on the actual lesson plan I’ve left the dates blank. It’s been a lot of work writing out a year’s worth of lessons but it has also made me breath a sigh of relief. NO MORE ERASING!! You have no idea how liberating it can be! In the past I also kept track of grades in a different database than the schedule. With the new sheets I’ve created, it’s all in one spot! Yay! They’re really simple but here’s a quick overview and link, I’m showing our Science plan for the year, I know it’s hard to read but hopefully you get the idea.
Science 2013-2014

First column is for the dates that will be filled in as each lesson is completed. The only exception was for writing. We use Writing With Ease which runs on a four day weekly schedule so I made adjustments to the table to accommodate, there are four date boxes for each week.

Second column is the actual lesson. For some of the subjects I was vague and just listed the lesson number but for others I wrote out the pages that would be read and the workbook or review questions assigned. It’s really up to you but I would recommend getting specific, that way you won’t have to do as much writing and adjusting when you’re in the thick of things, especially for the high grade levels. 

In the third column set the score possible for each assignment. I’m not one for grading on a curve or any other nonsense, you either get it or you don’t and if you don’t we need to work on it not cover it up with creative grading!

Fourth column is where the grade achieved is recorded. I teach many subjects to both my 1st and 3rd grader together so for those classes I added another column.

At the bottom of all the pages I added a row for totals, when you get to the end of the year it will be much easier to add up three pages than it would be 100 lessons.

We’re starting our school year in a couple of weeks so wish me luck and be on the look out for updates! This year I’m planning on writing my own Art curriculum and intend on sharing them as they are are completed or possible as an e-book. Decisions, decisions!

Erin Sipes
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Craft Lightning Summer Edition: Stick People Bookmarks

Summer isn’t over but I’m still eager to get in a back to school frame of mind. This year we’re kicking up our reading plans so while these bookmarks have been working hard we're going to need more! These fun stick people are functional, creative, and best of all you can make a handful in less than 15 minutes!

Erin Sipes
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