Homeschool This Year – First Grade (Charlotte Mason)

Emma reading the McGuffey's Primer

Emma reading the McGuffey’s Primer last year.


Added: Since this post we have done YEAR 2 //plan here// and are now in Year 3 //plan here// 

I like to share what we are doing for homeschool each year because I think it helps to dialogue with others. As many of you may know we follow a homeschool method call Charlotte Mason which is a more a way of doing life/school than it is a curriculum. It is more about atmoshpere, discipline and living examples of literature and resources (twaddle free) than it is about textbooks and dry facts. Outdoors and Nature are also a big part of the Charlotte Mason method, which can be so lovely, learning about birds and species and the natural world around us. I fell in love with Charlotte Mason’s ideas of how to instill a love a learning in children that never dies and I can already see it in work in my little six year old as she embraces things I was scared of as a child, like Math.

This year our curriculum is a hodge podge of different things, mostly Charlotte Mason friendly, some that I can make more Charlotte Mason friendly. Also, I will recommend something that we are using for scheduling and to keep track of attendance and our daily/weekly schedule. It is an ipad app called Homeschool Helper. It helps me when I am pulling from many resources for school, to keep it all organized and us on track.

We started school two weeks ago and it has already been a lot of fun for Emma who was itching to start back all summer. So far this year these are the things that we have been doing:

Bible: We are continuing forward with Long Story Short which is a 10 minute devotionals that cover all of the old testament, with a following volume that covers the new testament. The lessons are very short, they are meant to do in 10 minutes or less which fits in well with Charlotte Mason’s concept of short lessons no longer than 15 minutes. The lessons give you the corresponding verses to read in whatever version of the bible you choose. We use the ESV for the verses and read from a Children’s Bible as well to tell the story more plainly.  There is an accompanying Story Bible, that you can choose to use or not, the Gospel Story Bible, that has all the stories that you will do in Long Story Short. It is an excellent text with wonderful language and beautiful pictures that helps Emma and I really get it sometimes. I highly recommend as it is a beautiful living text that blends well with Charlotte Mason and any style really. This Bible and the Jesus Storybook Bible are two of the best illustrated Children’s Bibles I have seen.

Scripture Memory: We are using the SCM Bible memory guide at a slow pace. As soon as she has one verse down, we move to the next. They have a memory system that you can read about on this page, we are not moving fast enough right now that we have actually utilized much of it yet, but that’s what is great about CM, is that you can move at the pace of a child on purpose.

Character: Last year we did a habits training book but this year I wanted to do something more literature based to discuss with her since she is getting older and starting to grasp these concepts better. We are just reading through Parables of Nature, it uses animals to espouse certain lessons in a story formed way. For example the first story is called Lessons of Faith and it shows us a Caterpillar that learns to have Faith that they will one day become a butterfly, even though it doubts the wise Skylark that brings Her this news. Emma seems to enjoy it so far and it opens a natural dialogue for us.

Literature: We are doing the Literature portion that is lined up for Year 1 from Ambleside Online. The selections are solid classics and you really can’t go wrong with things like Aesop’s Fables, Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories and Shakespeare.

Free Reads: These are books that we read aloud daily through out the year at our own pace. Right now we are reading Alice in Wonderland and it has been a true pleasure. I am actually surprised how much my daughter will sit for considering the language isn’t common 21st century language. Ambleside Online (AO), has great recommendations for free reads as well as Simply Charlotte Mason (SCM). I am incorporating most of their suggestions and adding a few modern twaddle free contemporary selections of my own.

Poetry: Reading selections from A Children’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson. We just read poetry daily and talk about it if we are up to it.

Math: Math Mammoth is cost effective and easy and encourages the use of an abacus for a tactile learning experience. Emma has exclaimed that she loves Math now and makes up her problems in her free time, so that sounds like a win for me since Math was always a struggle for me in school.

Reading/Phonics: McGuffey’s Primer, McGuffey’s Primer, McGuffey’s Primer! McGuffey’s Eclectic Primer is the only text that you need initially to teach reading. My daughter calls it the cat book because of the picture of a cat on the front of the lesson notebook. You can spend a lot of money buying reading curriculum or you can spend a little time teaching basics, phonics and occasional sight words one sentence and paragraph at a time. You can find this online for free, it is a tried and true resource for teaching children to read. Modern Day Public Schools have lost the beauty that is Primers and it would really serve them well to move back to Phonics based teaching so that children can build skills that will help them with reading their whole life. Emma gets so incredibly excited when she can read a new lesson all the way through. Here is an example of the text from lesson 2:

The cat has a rat.

The rat ran at Ann.

Ann has a cat.

The cat ran at the rat.

There happens to also be a Mcguffey’s app in the Apple app store that has the same lessons. We are going to use fridays as a slow day for reading lessons and I’ll let her do a lesson in the app for review at the end of the week for a change of pace.

Copywork: We are doing very simple copywork sheets from Classical Copywork based on our Mcguffey’s lessons. Check them out, it’s only a dollar for the set.

History: Beautiful Feet Books has one of the nicest History curriculums out there, I’ve talked about it here before when decided to push it back from K to First Grade because I thought she would get more out of it a tiny bit older than she was last year. We started back at the beginning with Vikings and Leif the Lucky and she is in love with it. The books are living books that you can find in your local library, so you can purchase the Study guide from Beautiful Feet and check out the books or if you have the finances to, you can get the guide and the books in a bundle for purchase on their site. We needed a cost effective method for our non-existent budget so we are doing the first option. I am so grateful that it is even an option and that we are able to still use this quality curriculum. This is a Charlotte Mason approach to History that I have fallen for, I expect to stay with Beautiful Feet as a resource for Emma as long as I can, which is all the way through High School if things go as expected.

Spanish: We are doing a very simple method that I read about in Charlotte Mason texts called the Gouin Series, originally used to teach French, the concept can be used for any language. You simply use dialogue and translate it into the language you are learn each phrase at a time. So far Emma has learned “My Dad is Kenny” (Mi Papi es Kenny) and is learning “He is a librarian” (El es un Bibliotecario). With the help of a native speaker, if you don’t already speak the language, you can choose any simple paragraph that would interest your child such as paragraphs about their favorite shows like Transformers or Avengers, what a great way to hold their attention and learn a language.

Read more here: Fisher Academy

Handicrafts: The plan this year is to use fridays for handicrafts and piano lessons, we have yet to start handicraft lessons but will doing sewing as our main handicraft and cooking as a secondary. We will just be going through simple stitches starting with chain stitch by hand until we are ready to move to a real sewing machine (hopefully we can get her her own for Christmas). Cooking lessons are helping in the kitchen and learning to bake simple desserts.

Piano: We are continuing with the resource, My First Piano Adventures which uses a fun illustrated workbook and audio cd with catchy songs to teach the basics of the Piano. They learn posture and technique from a host of multicultural characters that sing their instructions for the Piano. This one was a no brainer and we will continue with it as long as she doesn’t get bored with it in the higher grades. A great alternative to hiring a piano teacher.

Art, Composer, and Nature Study: This is the thing I am most excited about this year. We are starting a local Charlotte Mason co-op with local moms to do Art, Composer, and Nature Studies. We will pool resources and knowledge to teach these things in a CM friendly way and also have plenty of Masterly Inactivity and Socialization in the process. Emma and I both cannot wait for co-op to start in September.

This has already started to be a great homeschool year and we are enjoying each and every day, I hope this post can be a good resource and makes a lot of sense for those interested. Leave me feedback or let me know what you guys are doing, I’d love to know.  I’ll continue to post about the year as it progresses.

For more information about Charlotte Mason, look here:  Ambleside Online (AO) and Simply Charlotte Mason (SCM)

Check out other posts in the Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival

Check out other posts in the Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival

Print Giveaway

Giveaway! In honor of and to promote our new instagram feed @bensbensonco for our Etsy Shop we are giving away two “Life is an Adventure” prints to Instagram followers: There are two ways to win this print: 1. Simply follow us, we are going to select by random one follower to receive this print on July 5th. 2. not only follow but Repost this image (screenshot is fine) with a happy thought including @bensonbensonco and #bensonbensonprintgiveaway in the description and we will select a winner in a very special way Friday, the 5th. Can’t wait to see who wins!

Contemporary Twaddle-Free Books – Picture Books Part 1

You may already know what twaddle is or you may never have heard the word before. Twaddle is a term to describe dumbed down literature or really anything subject that is a waste of mental time. If you are familiar with the Charlotte Mason approach to Schooling, you would be very aware of this term and her views on Twaddle.

Twaddle is something that does not add value, that is lacking in substance, it may talk down to the reader and is most likely mindless and predictable. For example in television terms, twaddle would be watching The Kardashians
versus Planet Earth, both are television programs that people find interesting but only the latter is mentally challenging and leaves you enriched. When it comes to adult literature it’s much easier to distinguish Twaddle from what isn’t. Most dribbly romance novels are Twaddle, I’d argue that Nicholas Sparks novels are twaddle, they fit a lot of the criteria, but something like Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice transcends time as a quality romance story. Don’t kill me over my opinion of Nicholas Sparks novels.

Sifting through children’s literature can be confusing, because a lot of it can be subjective, which can leave disagreement about what is and isn’t twaddle. Some say to stick only with the classics, that you can’t go wrong. I love the classics and they should definitely be a part of your children’s reading lists but I worry in the quest to give our children quality literature we aren’t allowing them to access whole new worlds and aren’t equipping them to sift through the twaddle amongst modern offerings, as they grow. What I mean is there are millions of books in the World and every year there are really good books put out, let’s not forget them. Now don’t get me wrong we aren’t a completely twaddle-free family, although we attempt it, reading the occasional twaddle story will not be detrimental to your child, kind of like one fast food meal a month won’t ruin them forever, yet you wouldn’t want them to live off fries and burgers, that would be harmful for them. I am just trying to sift through some of the children’s literature muck for homeschooling and reading in the home. My six year old is learning to read and so she isn’t at the point yet where she reads on her own, but I hope by keeping quality books at home, she will choose quality books on her own as she grows.

So I wanted to start a series of posts discussing contemporary authors and books that I consider twaddle-free, subjectively. This first in the series will be on Picture Books, My favorite kid of children’s lit. These are a few Twaddle-free authors and titles we love:

1. Author – Oliver Jeffers
Book- The Heart and the Bottle (Also any title by this author)

Oliver Jeffers is an artist that became a children’s author so the visuals he creates matches the words beautifully. The first book I ever read by Jeffers was Lost and Found and as a family we fell in love, truly. We own almost every title by this author and follow each upcoming book with anticipation. The Heart and the Bottle is a gorgeous story about loss, real loss, the loss of a parent. We watch how this little child deals with her loss by putting her fragile heart in a bottle and how she eventually learns in the best of all possible ways to use it one again.

The Heart and the Bottle spread from

The first time I read this to Emma I wept, sloppy, loud weeping, it is that good. It is genuine through and through, and not dumbed down even though the topic is a difficult one. This will always be in the top of my favorite picture books.

2. Author-Jimmy Liao
Book- The Sounds of Colors

Cover and a couple spreads

The Sound of Colors is a multi sensory experience through words. A blind girl explains how the world feels, smells, sounds as she gets lost in her city. You learn about her desires in such a beautifully aching way as you peek into her world that is colorful and inviting, despite knowing she cannot see anything. I love reading books to my daughter that show us how different the world is, we can dialog about hard truths in safe ways, and the next time she sees someone blind she will know a little bit about what life must be like for them.

3. Author – Neil Gaiman
Book- Crazy Hair

Some people use the term silly to refer to Twaddle, I think you have to be careful in using the word silly, because it doesn’t mean silly in a fun sort of way it means silly in an empty headed way. For example Shel Silverstein’s books are not Twaddle but they are beautifully silly, just like this title above. There is value in fun and far fetched fantastical stories. Crazy Hair is a family favorite, in fact Neil Gaiman is a family favorite, my husband and I have been enamored with his adult books for a long time even the comics he lends his voice to (He’s just awesome), So we were excited to introduce our daughter to his work. Crazy Hair is not a scary book, in my opinion but Dave McKean’s illustration style is sometimes described as dark like seen in MirrorMask, I personally love it. Although if your child is easily frightened you could possibly wait a year or two on some of Neil Gaiman’s other children’s titles for example The Wolves in The Walls. Emma is not easily startled and loved The Wolves in the Walls, so it’s up to you.

4. Author -Alvin Tresselt
Book-The Mitten

A beautifully illustrated Ukrainian folk tale about how a little boy’s lost mitten provides shelter for animals on the coldest day of winter. This is not to be confused with other children’s stories titled The Mitten, I almost ordered the wrong one from our local bookstore, so make sure you remember the author’s name.

5. Author- Peter Sis
Book-The Wall

NY Times

This award winning book describes life for one boy behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War and how he perseveres by secretly listening to the Beatles and reading banned books to foster his creativity. Lovely Illustrations and a lot of facts intermingled into a narrative of hope that shows us that you cannot squash creativity regardless the circumstances.

So, there are a few titles that you can look into and I hope to continue this series as long as people are interested. Next will be another selection of Picture Books, with posts about books all the way up to YA. There is good YA and there is definitely Twaddle YA, so hopefully this is intriguing to some out there.

On Friends, it’s hard.


I’m in my thirties, with a husband and kids, the stay out all night-ness of it all has long passed and I do miss those days sometimes. It’s much harder to make friends in your thirties, your responsibilities give you less time to make new ones and it’s hard to find them. The secret club of friends is not taking on new members at this time or ever. For me, unless it’s a homeschool thing or a church thing, I rarely meet new people, and I thrive on meeting new people. I do have friends, the good ones are so good and not that many, which is preferable to me. I’d rather have five close friends than a gaggle of acquaintances. Forever friends (the ones that will be there for you at every important milestone and vice versa, the ones that will grow old with you and never judge you, no matter how messy your house is, or your life) are hard to come by. This article in the NY Times articulates it well. You are so right, NY Times.

I didn’t go away to college when all my high school friends did, I stayed in town and went to ASU while everyone left to form those lifelong friends I didn’t know existed. I grew up always moving not able to stay in touch with my childhood friends. I wish I had. I was always jealous of people that maintained the same friends since they were kids, what a luxury. While I struggled to stay in touch with people from my past either because I was the “bad” friend back then or our paths became further and further apart. I wonder how I could have made things different. I have a few suspicions.

I am incredibly thankful for some amazing people in my life. If we are close, you and I both know it, there isn’t any guessing about it. I hope I am as tenaciously loyal as I wish to think I am. also, I may not always be an easy person to love; I speak my opinions with confidence but it’s not always the right time and place, I don’t like being left out (a lifetime of rejection has insured that), I’m often misunderstood (might be perceived as rudeness), I can be too much personality for some people and sometimes people can’t deal with the level of closeness I expect out of friends. So, to the people that have stuck around through all of that, Thank you.

I especially struggled with other girls or woman nowadays. I hear a lot of woman say this but then alot of those woman have close girlfriends, so they are wrong. Growing up all of my closest friends were boys, they didn’t judge my tomboyishness or unnecessary roughness. I was at home with their jokes, their demeanor, their boyness. Girls didn’t know what to do with me and I much preferred hanging with the guys, going to shows, talking music, making jokes, etc. Then I got married and there was only one boy I could truly be friends with. You can’t hang out, in truly platonic ways, on the couch listening to music and talking about the world with other people’s husbands. That isn’t cool. I am happy that I still have a boy I can do that with, though, my husband is a truer friend than I will ever know. Girls though, I was as lost as ever, never a bridesmaid, only a bride, that one time.

I never had a best friend. I mean someone I called “best friend” and they called me. That may seem weird, I know. I had close friends and people that served in that capacity but never anyone that called me their best friend, with the exception of my husband (who is my best friend, truly) All my closest friends all had best friends already. A lot of times in my life I have perceived a closeness that in the end wasn’t recipricated and so my quest for BFF-dom was lost. Even to this day it stings when I hear my closest friends talk about their “best friends”. I am happy for them and maybe more than obviously jealous. I don’t know what magic has to happen to make friends, best friends, a mixture of stage of life, kindred spirits, time of year, aligning of the planets, data points on a plot chart, I don’t know, it’s far beyond my understanding and seems to me impossible, but it obviously isn’t. I’ve learned to manage expectations, somewhat. We can’t all have friends like “Friends”, do I want friends like “Friends”? I am thinking more along the lines of Ann Perkins and Leslie Knope, if Leslie Knope was mashed with Daria in a very bi-polar sort of way, that would be me. Now for my Ann?

So back to making friends in your thirties…It sucks. It’s either really difficult or non existent. I mean it’s hard keeping friends in your thirties let alone making them. It’s especially difficult when your friends are at very different stages of life, such as kids, marriage etc. it feels like the worst thing in the world when all your “single” friends or “couples without kids” friends do stuff together without you, or invite you out last minute when it’s far too late to make arrangements for kids, work, school, sleep etc. I’ll just cry about it assured in the most hyperbolic way that they “hate me” and then give them the benefit of the doubt and laugh maniacally to myself, in the quietest possible way, “One Day, One Day”. That’s probably horrible. I’m getting better at trying to show grace in these situations. So I think to myself, “Make new friends, ha, I can’t even keep the ones I have”. There are exceptions, you know who you are, a friend made in my thirties, a nice surprise. All in all I’ve learned a few things about friendship, some do’s and don’ts mostly for my sake also for others, learn from my mistakes and experiences:

-hit your friends. This may see obvious to most, but obviously not to me, current friends and past friends can attest, I’m a bit heavy handed with the jabs.
-get overly upset over being “snubbed”, people aren’t always out to get you, they don’t mull over that kind of evil, it’s usually not intended.
-blurt out everything you are thinking. God only knows I’ve frightened many people away with brashness. Although I have one or two friends that truly get it and are equally such.
-hold grudges, just don’t.
-overwhelm them, even though I get so excited about friends I want to send 500 texts, calls, emails, Facebook statuses, twitter @’s, etc. The worst feeling is no response, so don’t be too much, temper yourself when needed.
-be selfish of time, energy, gifts etc.
-get angry when you feel they are being inconsiderate, perhaps when it comes to making plans you could not ever make arrangements in time for like spur of the moment fun. They are being gracious enough to not forget you, they aren’t in that stage of life where things are better planned ahead.
-get jealous when you aren’t the selected “best friend”, even if you did introduce the new besties to each other. Be happy they found each other.
-cancel plans repeatedly, it’s a bit much if there isn’t a valid reason, like illness.
-be disingenuous. Say what you mean. Don’t tell someone you want to hang out and then avoid their attempts to do so. Don’t tell someone you miss their conversations but are always to busy to have one.
-be so cynical, so know-it-all, so you know.

-forgive always. Explains itself.
-return texts, calls, emails etc. Don’t be that friend that doesn’t respond to your friends texts. Being bad at texts or emails is not a good excuse, and is just that, an excuse. You will have a reputation amongst your friends that you will not want. Take two seconds to respond with at the very least, “can I text you later” and then actually text later.
-manage your expectations, these people aren’t fictional tv characters and won’t act as such. Your dream to lunch like the SITC girls or be as close as HIMYM crew may never happen, that is television this is real life.
-say thank you, a lot, for any kindness shown you. I’m working on this.
-be Gracious.
-get excited for them when good things happen, there is no need to compare your life to theirs or get jealous when things go their way, regardless how hard things may be for you.
-contact frequently, friends that are married with children have a lot on their minds, so remind them that their your friend by a kind text every once and a while. Single and couples friends need love too.
-be considerate of their time and circumstances. Some people can’t afford to hang out all the time at expensive eateries and bars, some don’t have time after long work shifts ( make time when it’s convenient for them) that need post shift sleep before their next shift, some friends need consideration if they have children, you can’t take babies to bars and they have to be home to get their kids to bed early, so give them time to make arrangements or make outings family friendly, don’t start events so late that it’s not even an option.
-be genuine, real, honestly interested, not distracted.
-be thankful you have friends, some will never have the luxury.

I myself am working on all of these, and im sure there’s more I’m not thinking of. It may all sound silly talking about making and keeping friends in my thirties, but it’s a battle, one worth fighting. Here is to your continued happiness with friends you love and admire. Am I forgetting something?

In the interim

To blogging again, It truly has been a flurry the last few months since we brought home this little life.

She as been a true joy and has kept is on our toes since she got here. I thought I loved being a mother before but with another child in my home, I can’t get over the beauty of motherhood. Also, Emma loves her sister so much and has declared her the queen of babies. This queen of babies has my heart.

Alice you’ve changed me, I can only suspect for the better.

So, my first little mama is growing into a beautiful little lady, right before my eyes. It is a bittersweet thing because as a mother you will always see firstly that baby you carried that changed your life so completely in the best possible way.

Emma, my first child love, you take my breath away when I see you in the rear view mirror, My heat skips a beat when you enter the room. When I hear your beautiful little voice singing from afar, I am beside myself. You will always be my first, the first time my heart learned to love more completely than I ever had before. You turned six this month and I can’t wait for every year, every month, week and day ahead.

Yesterday was Father’s Day, and I am thankful for my Father and beyond blessed by the Father of my children. My Father (Poppy) taught me to love SciFi, comic books, superheroes, science and reading, also that it’s cool to be a square. My husband has enjoyed all those geeky things with me and has taught me so much about sacrifice.

Babe, Lets do dates like this more often, you’re cute dressed up.

That’s the Walmart parking lot, by the way, because we are classy people.

I am beginning to feel human again after a trying pregnancy. Pray to God that you never get preeclampsia, bronchitis and gestational diabetes in the same pregnancy ever and then deliver a baby with all that going on, that honestly was the worst pain I’ve ever been in. I survived and it was so worth it.

Alice on the breathing machine when she came out with complications, Thank God she is perfect now.

Kenny and I have been trying to refocus on art after years and years from art school. He’s been screenprinting a lot in the shed we got this year and we opened an [etsy]( for our prints. I’ve mainly been sketching my ideas out right now, working my way up to printing a few. I have a love affair with printing of any kind and sorely miss college late nights printing etchings and wood prints in the studio all alone. Although its been a while, we will be fast friends again. I’m also working on a photography series’s that I would like showing locally in the Fall that touches on some deep things in my life. I’ll explain more as those images come into fruition, they are just images in my mind.

So now we are trying to settle into our new normal and getting this house to feel homey. Also, praying about some opportunities for Kenny career wise and more. Life is an adventure, we are attempting to take it one step at a time.

A Great Weekend

Y’all now I haven’t been blogging as much as I would like because of sheer pregnancy exhaustion. I’ve also been somewhat of a hermit except for doctors appointments, ballet runs and occasional playdates. So, it was so nice to get out of the house for the weekend for a sweet shower for me in honor, thrown by my dear friends Elisa and Gracie. I am really blessed by the people on my life, and so grateful for the love they show me. The food was amazing, as well as the company and we got some much needed things for baby Alice. So Thankful.
Take a look:




We also took a quick overnight trip to Atlanta to do something special with Emma before the baby comes and get some things from Atlanta we needed for the girls room. We took Emma to the zoo because she loves animals so much. I’d never been to the Atlanta Zoo and it was a lovely experience. Emma said it was the best day ever, so I guess we did good on that front. She was really excited for the Pandas, who wouldn’t be? All in all it was a great weekend and I was super thankful we had time with family and friends this last weekend. It really lifted my spirits.
Also, some Instagrams from the zoo and our trip.





2013 Favorite Apps for iPhone

I love technology…I do. Even though I feel like we as a society may over do it with our technology addiction at times, it is a wonderful tool and I am amazed to live in a time where good technology is so accesible. When I was in middle school, we begged our parents for pagers and nintendos and that was the coolest technology we could imagine. A lot has changed since then and we couldn’t have imagined some of the amazing things we have now. Touch screens, wi-fi, smart phones, etc. I personally have an iPhone that has been an amazing tool for helping my procrastination and distraction filled self to get more organized, and also have a little enjoyment on the side. We plan in the near future to save for an ipad to help with homeschooling and general things, but  I wanted to share some of my favorite apps in this new calendar year for an iphone.


Productivity Apps


Fantastical is a calendar app that is simply, beautiful. It is smart enough to use natural language to register all that you input into a New Event and translate it into all the details of your event. This is such a time saving app and is a great app for moms who have to quickly jot down the details of something, like a doctor’s appointment, without wasting time entering each field of details. It syncs with your ical and google calendars, so you don’t have to start from scratch. I access my husbands icalendar as well through Fantastical so I know what his work schedule will look like that week. It is always different week to week, so this has been extremely helpful. There is a cost for this app, but it has been worth the money.

photo photo (1)



I’ve said it before friends, Wunderlist is wonderful. It really is. Wunderlist is a great app for your to do lists and staying on task. Send reminders to yourself or schedule when the task must be completed by. It is simple, clean and easy to use. I don’t need a lot of messy apps for staying on task, all I need is this.

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This is a given, dropbox fans, you are probably aware of this app, but if you are not, if you aren’t familiar with dropbox, get familiar. It is a great way to archive and share information straight from your phone or computer and being able to access and send files while on the go is priceless, so it’s nice to know this is a free app, as well.



Google Drive

Google Drive is a stand alone  app for your google docs. Access your documents, spreadsheets, images etc. You can create new documents within this app for whatever you need it for. I haven’t used a wordprocessing program since I fell for google docs because of the ability to create documents, spreadsheets, etc. in Google Docs and save as a word document or pdf or what have you. I love being able to access my documents from anywhere, I don’t know why more people don’t use google docs/drive instead of expensive and wonky word processing software, plus this app keeps all my documents at my fingertips and I love it.

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Camera Apps


I have a lot of camera apps and I have finally settled on Afterglow. Being a retired photographer, I love being able to adjust exposure, temperature, brightness etc. right in my phone. It is an all in one camera app, a beautiful and seamless app which makes the powerful little camera in your iphone incredibly useful. I am able to send my edited images straight to Instagram or whatever social media app I choose from this app.

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Social Apps


Instagram is an obvious pick. Everyone loves Instagram. It is photo microblogging done right. Share images with friends and family of what is going on throughout your day, or just keep it to yourself for memories in the future. It’s quick, easy and fun, I do wonder how new apps like Vine will affect apps like Instagram, if at all, only the future will see.

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Flipboard is like a selective newspaper filled with only the stuff you want to read. You input what feeds and sites you want to stay on top of and can do it here without ever opening a reader. I browse every morning from current big news events but also the funniest things that come across the web to balance it out. They are only so many boxes for content so it makes me have to be selective in what I include and I like that, because information overload is a real thing, at least for me.




TocaBoca apps

If TocaBoca makes it, there is a guarantee that we will most likely love it. There are a variety of apps, both free and paid, by this developer and we love everything we’ve tried. There’s Toca Tailor Fairy Tale, Toca Hair Salon, Toca Band, Toca Doctor, and much more. These are well designed, kid smart apps, that parents will get a kick out of too. Emma loves to shave Santa bald and play dress up with her Fairy Tale girl, but most of all making music with the Toca Band. I highly recommend anything made by TocaBoca.

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PBS kids

I have a secret, we aren’t a TV free household, (you’d definitely know that if you follow me on any social media platform, I love good television) but all good things in moderation is a definite goal for us, especially when it comes to keeping tabs of Emma’s TV intake. No TV before homeschool and none until school and chores are done, and even then we are trying to keep these shows to educational shows and at a minimum, with the occasional super hero show thrown in (because what child doesn’t need an education in Kicking Butt Awesomeness?). I really like the PBS kids app on the iPhone and can only assume how much better it is on iPad. You can watch a large variety of clips and shows from quality PBS, also  you can customize tv times and know what your kids are watching.



Game Apps for Grown ups


I’m a little obsessed with this game. I like puzzle games mainly, I am not your typical iPhone gamer, and it has to be a challenge or I bore easily of it. Vubu is a great challenging puzzle game and the first that I have found that I haven’t gotten bored with. It’s not that easy and that’s why I like it. I’ve moved through the standard stages at this point and am in the advanced ones, I play a little at a time, when I can. It is true leisure play for when I’m waiting at the Doctor’s office or just trying to pass some time. I won’t explain how it works and let you figure it out for yourself, but this is my favorite game on iPhone.



These are some of my favorite apps right this moment, I may share some more I really like in the future. The world of apps is always changing and getting better which is exciting for nerds like me. Do you agree with my list? What are some of your favorite apps?


Blank Bulletin Boards


The New Year has begun and as I watched the Golden Globes Sunday night in my finally clean house after a beautiful time with friends at our belated housewarming, I couldn’t help but look around and be extremely thankful. He is so good to us. In comparison to the celebrities across the screen fancily dressed and awaiting the adoring press, my life may seem sub par, but it is far from that. Everything I desire,need is here with me, in my home, in my life. There is nothing material that can make me happier than what I have here.

My wonderful little family that is growing plus one in a matter of months, is an overflowing blessing. The way my Husband understands me and loves me, the way that we’ve spent these years just getting to know each other better than I know anyone on this planet, all of it is blessing. The way my daughter is a mirror of me in nature and in showing me what resides underneath even though she does not even know she is doing so, beautiful. She is lovely and healthy and blesses me daily, teaches me to love better, be better. Never forgetting, the way He has always provided for us when we thought we couldn’t make it through the day or week or year, yet we did. Yes, there are material things we bookmark and put aside for later but those things of the least importance, the fillers that are nice but not necessary for living right where we are with joy and gratitude. I always love hearing Ann Voskamp’s reminder to live fully right where you are. The last few years in our life has been an unraveling of sorts. The thread unraveled and we didn’t know what to do, but we didn’t truly understand that all things we’re working together for good. So the thread begins to wind the way it should have in the first place and we are blessed because of it.

This is my first post of the New Year, I took a much needed break to focus on the important parts of my life and it was really good. I don’t really believe in resolutions per se, I believe in refocusing on what is important. For more than a year I have been doing C.H. Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening and was struck by the simple request to make continuing in prayer our resolutions or focus. It’s so simple, yet we often forget. I never want to forget to bear all things to the One who has taken us through all we’ve faced so far in life. The other part of that resolution/non resolution is to simply love God and love others. I want to love all the people that come into my life, and the ones that have been here since the beginning. Most importantly let me never forget to love God for all the blessings above and below, for the gifts He gives, for everything I see He is doing and because simply, He is God. 2013 could be a very revealing year for us if we hold to these truths, which I believe it will be. Kenny painted this old bulletin board he got from the library and it is blank for us to add all the beautiful reminders of love and thankfulness in our lives. We just started filling it and I am excited to see what is made from the collage of our lives this year, while we create and love and abide.
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It’s an Alice!

So, we went to the doctor a few weeks ago for our ultrasound and received a wobbly answer of girl for the gender of the Baby. The sonographer told us she was pretty certain, girl…so, if that does not change we have our name…

Alice Jane Elizabeth Benson, very literary and perfect in my opinion. We went again with a nod to Jane Austen, Emma was named after the novel of the same name and this time a middle name in homage of the beloved Author. Alice, well, of course cannot be mistaken for any other than the curious little darling who goes through the looking glass. Emma loves the name Alice, she is going to be Alice (Alice in Wonderland) in the Christmas Parade this weekend again for the second year and she thinks it is pretty special that the baby would be named after the book character. Emma and Alice does sound pretty darn cute together.

Last week was a great week of family time and I am looking forward to some downtime as we get back into our home life schedule and anticipate the start of Advent. Our Advent Calendar starts this week and we are pretty excited about it, It is one of my favorite traditions. Hoping things are looking merry and bright where you are.



Make this and this

This week is a baking week, lots of caramel and really delicious recipes coming to the blog, but here is what I have baked recently.

Pumpkin Snickerdoodle Whoopie Pies

(modification for recipe link below: I used slightly less pumpkin than in the recipe, I would suggest you add to taste, too much can be overpowering for me, that loves pumpkin only in moderation and I also used Maple Syrup instead of Vanilla (which is an appropriate and yummy substitute because I had run out))

They were a little messy, but oh so delicious. You have few more days to get in all your pumpkin goodies.

Recipe: Curvy Girl Kitchen

White Cake with Pink Ombre Buttercream Frosting

This Best White Cake Recipe I have ever had…..

You may remember this cake from Emma’s birthday. Well it is the same cake. I just made more layers for Emma’s Bday.  This one I made for Kenny’s grandmother that turned 90 this month, which is amazing accomplishment. The only difference is the ombre effect made by mixing three different colors of pink icing and layering. This recipe is in my favorites and although being labor intensive is the best white cake I have ever eaten.

Recipe: The Merry Gourmet

Enjoy! I have more food posts coming soon.

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