We are so glad you found us and Welcome you to join our family as we travel through life’s adventures and discover new routes together!
Mike is a self- employed General Contractor, an outdoors-man, a carpenter, a runner, and a hands-on dad who loves his kids, traveling and creating new things.
Adriana is a retired documentary film producer, full-time mom who loves her children, gardening, cooking, crafting, traveling and a simpler lifestyle that incorporates a slower pace.
We have rediscovered our routes through striving to live simpler, traveling in our travel trailer and being a full time family. We hope to inspire you to rediscover yours! Join us on this journey as we navigate life as a family of six, home-school, travel in our camper, care for the environment, and practice living in a better way.
Here are some fun summer stories I have enjoyed reading, 11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass, Unplugged by Gordon Korman, Flush by Carl Hiaasen, Summer at Forsaken Lake by Michael D. Beil and The Candymakers by Wendy Mass. Happy reading!!
11 Birthdays is the first book in the Willow Falls series. The main character is a girl named Amanda. Amanda shares the same birthday with her best friend, Leo. Every year since they were born they’ve celebrated their birthday together. But this year’s different, they are each having separate parties and Amanda hasn’t spoken to Leo for a year. But then something absolutely crazy happens: Amanda’s birthday starts repeating itself. What’s happening? And can she find a way to fix it?
This is a great book if you are looking for some laughs, an awesome friendship and a little magic.
Unplugged is a book about a spoiled son of a billionaire, his name is Jett Baranov. Jett’s always gotten everything he’s always wanted. But then his dad’s private jet drops him in the middle of some forest in Arkansas, in a nature camp called the Oasis. He is forced to hand over his most prized possession, his cellphone, then eat disgusting vegetables, and join in on a bunch of boring wholesome activities with kids he doesn’t want to hangout with. As the weeks go by Jett actually starts to enjoy being with some of the kids, especially when he and three others find a baby lizard pet that they name Needles. Jett realizes there is something fishy going on with the adults at the Oasis. How can he prove to his ‘friends’ that he’s not just some stuck up brat and figure out what’s up with the adults before it’s to late.
Flush is a story about a boy named Noah. Noah’s dad is positive that the owner of the Coral Queen, a local casino boat, is dumping sewage into the water. But there is no proof. Well, other than that going for a swim at the beach nearby is like diving into a toilet that someone forgot to flush! So, Noah’s dad decides that sinking the boat is the best idea. He was wrong. In a few days the Coral Queen is back in business, and Noah’s dad is in jail. So it’s up to Noah to find proof and stop the casino boat from dumping stuff illegally into the ocean…..if he can. Along the way he gets-to-know some interesting people-Shelly, a bartender on the Coral Queen and a pretty tough lady; Noahs younger sister, Abby, who is filled with trouble; and a mysterious old looking pirate. Noah has to come up with a plan to stop the crooked Coral Queen once and for all.
Summer at Forsaken Lake is a really fun story. Three city-kids, Nicholas and his twin sisters are going to stay with their Great Uncle Nick for the summer, while their Dad goes to Africa for Doctors Without Borders. The summer starts off great, Nickolas learns how to sail, he finds out about his dad when he was a kid, and Nickolas makes friends with a local girl named Charlie. But then he finds an old movie his Dad made about a legend called The Seaweed Strangler, but his Dad never finished it. Nickolas and Charlie decide to finish the movie and along the way they find out some surprising things about the past.
The Candymakers is a book about four unusual kids who are picked to come to the Life is Sweet chocolate factory, owned by the candymaker and his wife, to create their own type of candy. The fist kid is Logan, the candymakers son. He’s been around candy his whole life. The second is Philip a boy who wears a suit and tie and rides in a limo. The third is Daisy a smart cheerful girl who likes to read out loud to herself. Last of all is Miles who is allergic to weird things. This is a fun, mysterious, and friendship-filled book with a lot of candy mixed in.
If you’re looking for a fun summer treat that holds some of the best tastes of summer, look no further and give these Lemon Blueberry Scones a try! This was Lily and my first time making scones and the recipe we followed was fantastic. The scones were moist, not too sweet and full of lemon blueberry flavor. A great treat for a weekend breakfast or tea party!
The recipe we followed is for Mixed-Berry Scones with Lemon Icing from Jean Van’t Hul’s The Artful Year.
For the Scones
1 Cup White Whole Wheat Flour
1 Cup All-Purpose Flour
1/4 Cup Sugar
1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
Zest from 1 Lemon
6 Tablespoons Butter, sliced
1/2 Cup Plain or Vanilla Yogurt
1-2 Cups Blueberries fresh or frozen
For The Lemon Icing
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
1 Cup Powdered Sugar
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Grease a cookie sheet with butter or canola oil.
Measure all the dry ingredients, including the lemon zest, into a food processor. Run for a minute to mix.
Add the butter pieces to the flour mixture. Pulse several times until the butter is pea size or smaller. You could also mix dry ingredients and then cut the butter into them using a pastry blender or knife and fork. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.
Whisk together the egg and yogurt. Make a well in the center of the flour and pour in the egg mixture. Stir the batter until it’s combined and the dough starts to come together.
Fold in the berries.
Turn the dough out onto the counter and shape it into a disk about 1 inch thick. Cut it, like a pie, into eight wedges.
Bake the scones for 20 minutes or until they’re cooked through and toasty brown on the edges. Let them cool slightly.
Make the lemon icing by whisking the ingredients together. Drizzle the icing over the scones. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Looking for something special to make for Dad this Father’s Day – If you’ve never tried Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp (with rhubarb & strawberries fresh picked from the garden), it’s a fantastic treat you’re sure to look forward to every spring!
Rhubarb is rich in antioxidants that have anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. It’s extremely easy to grow. It’s a perennial that requires little work and comes back every spring for you to enjoy. You can eat it raw, straight from the garden, but it has an extremely bitter taste. Our favorite ways to enjoy rhubarb in our house are in Strawberry Rhubarb Oatmeal muffins, Strawberry, Rhubarb Apple Sauce and Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp! Below is our Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp recipe! Enjoy!
Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp:
2 to 3 Cups Rhubarb diced
3 Cups Strawberries diced
1 Cup Sugar
3 Tablespoons Flour
For the Crumb Topping:
1 1/2 Cup All Purpose Flour
1 Cup Packed Brown Sugar
1 Cup Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats
1 Cup Butter at room temperature
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Mix Rhubarb, Strawberries, Sugar and 3Tbs. Flour in a bowl and put into a 9×13 baking dish
Make Crumb topping by combining, Flour, B. Sugar, Oats and Butter. Mix with hands until crumbs form.
Sprinkle topping all over the Rhubarb Strawberry mixture
Bake in oven for 45 minutes or until topping is golden and mixture is bubbling
Our favorite is to top it off with some vanilla ice cream!
Wishing you all a Very Special Father’s Day Full of Love, Sunshine and Something Sweet!
Any man can be a father, but it takes someone Special to be a Dad.
If you’re looking for a great family read aloud this summer season, this book won our hearts! I don’t know how I didn’t come across the adventures of Caddie Woodlawn sooner over the years, but am so happy we found this and shared in reading it together as a family. All the kids, even my 11-year-old, were drawn in to this classic story.
Caddie Woodlawn is a true adventurer. Her courageous, charismatic, down to earth spirit is contagious. Caddie’s story is special because it’s based on the life of the author, Carol Ryrie Brink’s grandmother, the real Caddie Woodlawn. Caddie is a headstrong pioneer girl from Wisconsin who along with her siblings moves from one thrilling adventure to the next. She’d rather hunt than sew, plow than bake, and bravely befriends the Native American Dakota tribe defusing a potentially deadly conflict with the settlers. Caddie’s story and family life is truly inspiring and uplifting.
One of my favorite theme’s of the book is Caddie’s relationship with her father and her struggle to fit into the confined expectations of what it means to be a woman. Her relationship with her father is extremely touching. He encourages her to be wild and free and to figure out her path in life.
“A woman’s work is something fine and noble to grow up to, an it is just as important as a man’s. But no man could ever do it so well. I don’t want you to be the silly, affected person with fine clothes and manners whom folks sometimes call a lady. No, that is not what I want for you, my little girl. I want you to be a woman with a wise and understanding heart, healthy in body and honest in mind.”
For those that homeschool there are so many historical events in this book that you can explore further with your children; the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln, Slavery, Native Americans of the West, Pioneers of the West and many more. For further reading and projects we’ve used the books below as great resources and inspiration.
I hope you enjoy this award winning book as much as we did! Here’s to reading together and inspiring our children through history!
A Mother’s Love is something that no one can explain, it is made of deep devotion and of sacrifice and pain, It is endless and unselfish and enduring come what may, For nothing can destroy it or take that love away
Helen Steiner Rice
I don’t think anything quite prepares you for being a mother. With each new development as your child grows and with each new child, you are always learning. It is the most demanding job, yet the most rewarding. My children are my greatest accomplishments. They have taught me to slow my pace, to appreciate the simple things, to find humor in everything, to practice patience, to make the world a better place one day and action at a time and to live life with purpose, love and appreciation for each new day and moment. They don’t have college degrees or an elite elementary education, yet they already know what makes life special and how to live it to the fullest. They teach me something new about myself everyday, only when I slow down and have eyes to see it. I am forever grateful for the gift of being a mother.
My children are always crafting and creating. Two of my favorite Mother’s Day crafts they did for me at their nature preschool when they were four years old. They are simple crafts able to be done independently or depending on their age, with a little help from older siblings or mom.
Rainbow Tissue Paper Bouquet
Mason jar or glass bottle
Apply tissue paper strips to glass mason jar with glue/water mixture using a paint brush
Cut three different size circles out of tissue paper to make your flower. Layer each circle biggest on the bottom. Twist them together at the bottom and then wrap a pipe cleaner around the bottom twist.
Make as many flowers as you like!
Sculpey Clay Thumbprint Necklace
String/yarn or twine
Create a small, flat circle out of Sculpey Clay and have your child push their thumb into clay to create a thumbprint. Create a small hole at the top using the point of a pencil for string to pass through. Follow direction on clay to bake in oven.
String some beads and Sculpey Clay Thumbprint onto string!
Wishing all of you mother’s and grandmother’s a beautiful Mother’s Day! Take some special time for yourself today to appreciate the amazing woman and mother you are and to nurture yourself with love. You play a priceless role in our world, raising happy, confident, successful children who will make our world a better place just by being in it! We may not get a day off, but we sure can take a day or everyday to celebrate the enormous importance of the job that we do!
The kids and I have been having a very exciting time exploring ancient Egypt in different ways over the past couple weeks. Although we haven’t left the house, we’ve traveled through the Egyptian desert, explored the tombs of ancient pharaohs, ridden down the Nile river, studied ancient hieroglyphs and worked with papyrus. Egypt is a fascinating country to explore, rich in history, art, geography, math and mystery. This school year I purchased Oak Meadow’s sixth grade curriculum and have been extremely happy with their Ancient Civilizations and English course book. The course book includes historical information, stories, discussion questions, writing assignments and projects. I have found that I can adapt it as a useful resource for all the children in our Egyptian explorations. Egyptology is also a fantastic resource book for all ages that is beautifully illustrated and extremely informative in a creative way.
The Egyptians were the first people known to divide the day into 24 hours. The Egyptians used a shadow clock or a sundial to tell time. One of our first Egyptian projects was to create a giant sun dial and keep a record of the time. To do this, Ava simply put a large stick in the ground and observed the shadow every hour marking each hour off with another stick. It was interesting to see how the shadow length changed with the hours of the day. If you’d like to give this project a try in the warmer weather you can try putting a large piece of paper in a sunny spot and securing it down with rocks. Place a piece of clay or play dough in the center and insert a pencil. Follow the shadow at each hour to mark the time. Another fun way to do this is with a large stick placed into the center of a sunny sandbox and watching the shadow each hour. If you live near the beach this is fun to do while you pass the time away in the sun!
I purchased some papyrus paper on Amazon and the kids had lots of fun making origami papyrus boats and bookmarks that they decorated with ancient hieroglyphs.
Another great find that both Ava and Lily have loved is Highlights Top Secret Adventures Book Club. Each mystery kit includes a world travel guide, puzzle challenge and detective game. The kids have traveled to many countries solving the mystery challenge using deductive reasoning skills, math, reading, puzzle games and other activities. Egypt just happened to land on our doorstep at the right time! This adventure series is something Lily, my 9-year-old, works on independently and loves! Leo, 7, also enjoys this adventure series, but needs my assistance in working through the clues and reading the guide book.
Reading Rainbow has an excellent episode on Egypt for grade school children.
We also enjoyed watching this NOVA special on Amazon Prime about the ancient pyramids
This National Geographic Special on Tutankhamun’s Tomb is fantastic.
And no lesson would be complete without some travels with Rick Steves! He has two great episodes exploring Egypt yesterday and today.
It’s the most Wonderful time of the year! Yes, it’s spring and signs of nature’s fertility are everywhere around us. Spring in New England is tricky. We had a short snow squall yesterday morning, yet by afternoon it was 50 degrees, sunny and the crocuses were all aglow. Spring is a very special time of year. Watching the grass turn green and spring plants shoot up out of the warming earth is rejuvenating. It gives me this new found energy and deep renewal of the soul. I find getting my hands in the dirt and growing our own food so therapeutic and rewarding.
The kids and I have been planning our Spring/Summer garden for months now. A favorite winter activity is to look through the seed catalogs and have each child plan their garden. I have found that when kids are involved in the process of selecting what they would like to grow and given a place in the garden to grown their own food, they have a new vested interest in what goes into their bodies and where it comes from. It is a responsibility that is so rewarding and will stay with them for life.
About a week ago we started most of our indoor seeds. Mike made a temporary shelf unit in our living room window housed with warming mats and grow lights. We started about 134 seedlings, mostly tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, onions and lots of different herbs for my cottage garden. Fortunately, we have had so many sunny days that I haven’t had to use the grow lights. Have to admit, I prefer not to as they light the living room neon pink and transform the space into a nightclub feel. The kids don’t mind, it inspires them to put on dress ups and dance around like crazy people!
After about a week most of our seedlings have sprouted! It’s exciting! Truly amazing that one small seed can provide us with so much life.
If you haven’t ever used a garden planner, I highly recommend it. They are very user friendly and help you plan when to start seeds indoors in your area and when to plant outdoors for both spring and fall gardening. I got mine at Seed Savers Exchange for around 5 dollars.
Two of my favorite Garden Activity Books when Gardening with kids are Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots by Sharon Lovejoy and The Garden Classroom by Cathy James.
Hope this adds a little inspiration to starting your own personal garden, with your children or with your grandchildren. Whatever space you have big or small, it can be a small start to a big adventure! Growing your own food is so rewarding to your soul and your health. It is a tradition that has been lost for many of us in our modern day food culture, but it’s never too late to learn and to teach your children! Giving them the gift of homegrown, healthy food, will last with them forever; in health and in heart!
Spring; A time for Reflection, Renewal, Rebirth and JOY!
Our house is a buzz with Spring Feaver! Spring has sprung; crocuses and daffodils are springing up in the garden beds, buds are popping out on the trees, garden seeds are getting started indoors, the chickens are laying eggs again, baby goats are being born on the farm across the street, it is a time of renewal, rebirth and joy! After a long winter and a time of great reflection, the earth reminds us that brighter days are ahead.
Dying eggs for Easter is an age old tradition. In some European countries children place fresh leaves onto the eggs wrap them in gauze, tie a string around it and place it in a pot of boiling water and onion skins. When unwrapped the beautiful image of the leaves are impressed onto the eggs. It is no surprise that eggs, symbolic of new life, have become tied to the Easter theme of rebirth. Many European cultures dye the eggs red to symbolize the blood of Christ and serve the hard boiled eggs with their Easter meals. We have tried many different egg dying techniques over the years and a favorite around here at the moment is dropping bits of crayon shavings onto the hot eggs to melt into beautiful, bright colors spread across the egg and then dip them in some food coloring and vinegar water to add an added splash of color and joy in honor of spring.
Butterscotch Birds Nests
These are a tradition around here to celebrate spring and Easter. They are a favorite from my childhood and a no-bake treat that my kids look forward to making every year!
1/2 Cup Chocolate chips
1/2 Cup Butterscotch chips
3 Cups Chow Mein Noodles
Cadbury mini Easter egg candy
Melt chocolate & butterscotch chips in a double boiler on the stove top
When chocolate mixture is melted, add the chow mien noodles and mix
Line a muffin tin with cupcake paper and spoon small scoops of noodle mixture in nest like shapes into tin
Place Cadbury eggs in center and let cool
Lily making Italian Easter Wheat Pie “Pastiera di Grano” A favorite from my childhood that my Nonna would make.
This is a traditional Italian Easter pie made using wheat berries, ricotta, lemon zest, eggs, sugar and vanilla. The taste and smell of it baking brings me back to my childhood Easter gatherings at my Nonna’s house. I haven’t yet mastered making it as good as my Nonna’s and not sure that I ever will, but we’re working on it each year!
A great historical educational program that we really enjoyed watching is Rick Steve’s European Easter. Full of history, tradition and Hope.
Wishing you all a Blessed Easter and a Rejuvenating Spring!
Brighter Days are Ahead!
“The beautiful spring came; and when Nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also.”
Nothing says New England quite like Sugar Maples and fresh maple syrup. The roots of modern American sugaring traditions lie heavily in Native American history and culture. In the early 1600’s before the arrival of European settlers, Native Americans were already tapping sugar maples and making maple sugar. The Native Americans in New England used maple sap to make cake sugar, grain sugar and wax sugar. During maple sugaring season, New England Native Americans would set up sugar camps. They would collect the sap in wooden buckets by creating V-shaped slashes in the tree to allow the sap to pour out. Since they couldn’t boil the sap in the wooden buckets, they would add hot rocks to help boil away the water and create a syrup-like consistency that would be made into products like brown sugar, maple sugar molds and wax sugar which was a taffy like maple confection made by pouring hot syrup on snow.
Sugaring was a skill that European settlers learned from Native Americans. Instead of making V-slashed cuts into the trees, the settlers drilled small holes into the trunk that allowed the sap to drip into metal pots which could later be boiled down over a fire. The settlers poured the syrup into wooden molds to create sugar blocks. The sugar blocks stored well and were used throughout the year for baking.
What started long ago, still carries on strong today. The hills of Western Massachusetts are dotted with Maple Sugar Shacks that come alive this time of year. It is amazing to visit these establishments and see how the sap is collected, stored and turned into syrup! Each year my kids have loved volunteering at a local Maple Sugar farm to help transport the sap down to the sugar house. They have learned so much about history and the hard work that goes into one gallon of Maple Syrup. Usually, about 40 gallons of sap are needed to make 1 gallon of maple syrup! That’s a lot of sap!
Maple syrup can be made from any species of maple tree. The highest concentration of sugar is found in the sap of the sugar maple. If you have some maple trees in your yard, it is a simple and very rewarding process to start tapping your trees. We picked up some sap buckets and taps from our local farmer supply store, but you could also use plastic food grade buckets. The best time to tap your trees is when the day temperatures stay consistently above freezing, but the nights still dip down below freezing. When we’ve collected enough sap we just put it in a pot on the stove until it boils down to syrup. It’s a great family tradition to share with your children. Who doesn’t love homemade pancakes and some homemade syrup!
Two of our favorite books about the Maple Sugar tradition and process:
Here’s a little glimpse in to a New England Sugar Shack Maple Sugaring Process:
Wishing you all a Very Healthy and Sweet Start to Spring!
These three books, The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart, Pax by Sara Pennypacker and The Girl With More Than One Heart by Laura Geringer Bass are stories about overcoming hardships and sadness with hope and love. These books taught me that life is not always going to be easy and we need to live, enjoy and cherish good times.
The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise is a story about a girl who lives in an old school bus with her dad. Five years ago she lost her mom and sisters in a car crash she hasn’t been home since. Now she finds out that the park where she, her mom and two sisters buried a memory box is about to be torn down. She has to get her dad to drive 3,600 miles without him knowing were he’s going. As she starts on a trip back home she is joined by five interesting people and one surprise guest. I liked this book because it had an exiting adventure, taught me that memories are important and that you can find strength from bad things that happen.
Pax is story about a boy and a fox. Peter has had Pax since he found him as a small kit cold and all alone. When his dad enlists in the military, Peter is forced to return Pax to the wild and move to his grandfather’s home. He knows he did the wrong thing, letting Pax go. So, Peter embarks on a journey to get Pax back. He has to travel 300 miles to where he left Pax. Along the way Peter has some trouble and meets Vola a woman who lives alone in the middle of nowhere. Peter realizes that Vola can help him and that he can help her. This book is a story of friendship and about fighting for someone you love.
Sometimes we can feel like we need another heart to get through hard times. When Briana’s father dies, she seems to grow another heart. A heart that talks to her and it sounds like her dad. The heart says things like “Be Your Own” and “Find Her!” Briana has no idea how she can be herself when she is struggling with her mother not getting out of bed, taking care of her little brother and dealing with her friends treating her different. How can she live without her favorite parent? This is a beautiful story that is filled with love and tells us that even in times of misery and sadness there is always a path to hope.
I hope you find some inspiration from these great books –