Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Bookmarks: Sea Creatures Picture Books

Will your summer include a trip to the seaside? Maybe you can see some of God's amazing sea creatures up close. But even if you are a landlubber like me, you can still learn much about octopuses, lobsters, hermit crabs, and other sea creatures through the pages of these picture books.

Please note that some of these books did not glorify God as Creator (i.e. millions of years).

This post contains Amazon affiliate links.


Lobster Boat by Brenda Z. Guiberson
A boy joins his uncle to check his lobster traps. Muted illustrations describe lobster fishing while teaching about the lobster life cycle.


Crab Moon by Ruth Horowitz
Lovely paintings share a boy's adventure with his mother watching horseshoe crabs come to the beach to lay their eggs. Includes information about horseshoe crabs – which are not crabs at all but sea creatures more closely related to spiders.


Unlike most crabs, the hermit crab does not grow his own shell but must find an abandoned snail shell. This simple story with lovely illustrations tells of one hermit crab's search for the right home.


A lovely tale sharing the life story of a land hermit crab. From a tiny floating creature to a wandering crab in search of a home to an adult returning to the water to lay her eggs—we learn more about these fascinating creatures in this book from the Smithsonian Institution Oceanic Collection.


Gentle Giant Octopus by Karen Wallace
Detailed paintings tell the story of the amazing octopus as she jets through the water and hangs her eggs.


About Mollusks by Cathryn Sill
With short sentences and detailed watercolors, this book gives easy-to-understand information about the amazing mollusk family. Squid, snails, ocutupuses, chitons, and whelks are only a few of the creatures featured. The back of the book gives more information on each page for an older child who is still curious.


Seashells,Crabs, and Sea Stars by Christiane Kump Tibbitts
This book combines great illustrations and fascinating details with beach projects such as a shell wind chime. I like that instead of trying to describe an entire family of sea creatures, they focus on one kind. For example, this book explains why early Spanish explorers thought the coon oyster climbed the mangrove trees. Amazing glimpse of God's variety in creation.


With photos and simple explanations, Markle peels back the mystery of the giant squid.


Star of the Sea by Janet Halfmann
Follow a starfish through its day and learn of the remarkable skills God gave to him to avoid danger. A simple story with good illustrations and more detailed information at the end of the book.


Pagoo by Holling  S. Holling

This is longer than the other picture books listed here, but this older book is well worth searching for. The short chapters tell the story of Pagoo, a tiny hermit crab, and his adventures in the tide pool world. Many sea creatures are described with fascinating detail and Holling's detailed drawings add immense value to the book.

What are books are you and your children reading?

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Sourdough Chocolate Cake



Sourdough and chocolate? I wasn't so sure either. But my sister-in-law shared the recipe for this moist, light cake. I can't pretend it is healthy just because it has sourdough but it is fun way to use up some extra starter.

I sometimes use whole wheat flour instead of white which makes the cake heavier but my family still eats it.




Sourdough Chocolate Cake

1/2 cup starter
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
2 eggs
1/2 cup cocoa powder

Mix starter, milk, and flour together. Sit mixture in room temperature for 1 to 3 hours. Then add remaining ingredients and mix well. Pour into a well-greased bundt pan or two 9-inch round cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes (less time for round pans). Cool for ten minutes before removing from pan. Dust with confectioners sugar if desired.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Springtime Travels

Last week our family went on vacation.

Now, of course, moms don't go on vacation. Not when they take their children with them. (And dads might leave their job but find they are busy every waking moment too.) But for a week I had no distractions of weedy flower beds, dirty windows, or even email.

But that was all here when I came back. Which is why we've been home a whole week before I even looked at the trip photos.

And because I like to hear of other's adventures and get new ideas of vistas (and meals-on-the-road) here is the short version of our week.



This was our family's first trip in the camper and the children were giddy when we headed out on Friday.



We stopped at Ohiopyle State Park for lunch and some exercise. The river was running high and, as we would say many times in the next week, the spring-green of the trees was perfect.



We enjoyed the brand-new visitor's center and took a short hike over the railroad bridges on the rail trail.


Throughout the trip, the two-year-old taught me how to slow down and notice things like bugs, flowers, and cracks in the sidewalk.

Our few hours in Ohiopyle convinced us that we need to make plans to spend a couple days there.

Back on the road, most of us napped while Ed drove to Ohio Wilderness Boys Camp. We arrived in time to enjoy some wood-fired pizza with the camp staff - including my brother Todd. The children played games and looked at a buzzard nest while the parents planned the next day and enjoyed conversation.


We started Saturday morning with a breakfast casserole to fuel our bodies for the Red Bud Trail Challenge held each spring at camp. The above picture shows the runners from my family in the early morning sunshine before the run. My parents are on the left, my brother Todd is on the right, Ed is center back and the rest are my children, siblings, niece, or nephews. Most of this crowd completed the 5K but my youngest brother did 20K, a feat that makes me tired just thinking of it. I stayed at the finish line with my youngest two daughters to cheer the runners.


Ed and our seven-year-old cross the finish line. 

Our children had been training for this run for the last number of weeks and it paid off. I was impressed by their time - just over a half an hour. The challenging part of this run is the steep trail. Most of Ohio is flat but this corner of Ohio is all mountains and the trail appeared to see how many times it could go up and down those mountains.

After enjoying a great lunch of burgers with all the toppings and I had my own chance to walk the mountains. Ed kept our two younger girls while I walked back with Todd to see his campsite. Just a glimpse of those steep trails gave me more admiration for those who completed the whole trail. With Todd as a tour guide I could learn more about his life at Ohio Wilderness Boys Camp helping troubled boys conquer their problems.


We planned to have a cookout by the lake in the evening but rain curtailed that activity. We quickly roasted hot dogs and fled to the porch. But the children didn't mind getting wet and we had a batch of muddy clothes to hit the washing machine that night.



On Sunday we had breakfast burritoes before joining the camp staff in the dedication service for their little church. A highlight for me was the rare opportunity to hear my dad preach. Immediately after the service we were back on the road, eating hot pockets in the camper for lunch and arriving at our campground on Sunday evening.



We took a walk around the campground and watched the baby ducks but another rainstorm ended our hot dog roast and drove us inside again. This wouldn't be the last time. I had several opportunities to listen to rain on the roof and be thankful we had not chosen to tent this week.


 Monday morning Ed fried french toast for us before heading over to the Creation Museum.


The Creation Museum was even better than we expected. The displays were high quality and the programs were informative and held even our children's attention (at least the older ones.) It was good to be reminded of the dependability of God's Word.


We took a lunch break of subs and enjoyed the gardens before heading back into the museum.


The swinging bridges were the favorite. We even ran into Ken Ham himself at the petting zoo while observing the zorse and zonkey (a zebra/horse and a zebra/donkey).

(By the way, if you want to visit the Creation Museum, right now, until the end of June, they are giving four free children's tickets with the purchase of two adult tickets.)

In the late afternoon we were back on the road with another batch of tired children. We drove to Hocking Hills State Park where we enjoyed a supper of poppy seed chicken. The children took a walk before bed and found a puddle with spring peepers. I couldn't believe such tiny frogs could make such an ear-splitting noise.


Hocking Hills has many rock formations and great hiking trails and after a pancake breakfast on Tuesday morning, our children were eager to hit the trail.


This area was called Rock House and had a large cave. My boys would have enjoyed spending hours exploring but I didn't handle it well. I always thought I was a reasonably calm mom but walking on trails with huge drop-offs with children scrambling on ahead, made me panic. Behind the boys in this picture is at least a 100 foot drop. For the sake of my blood pressure, Ed decided we should moved on to a less stressful trails. If that was possible at this park.


We had a selection of lovely spots for our taco salad lunch and, at this time of year, we had much of the park to ourselves. Perfect for crowd-haters like us.


In the afternoon we hiked at Cantwell Cliffs, another part of Hocking Hills State Park. 




I think Ed and I should get extra points for the extra pounds we were packing.


Ed usually does a good job at choosing campsites. This one was at the very end of the campground, as far as possible from the main road, pool, and shower house. A perfect spot with huge pines - and all to ourselves at this time of year.


This was the first night that the weather cooperated. It seems that during the day we would have good weather but most evenings/nights it rained.


Real camping: Sitting around the campfire eating s'mores.


But the children were so tired, we were finding our bunks before it was even dark outside.


Wednesday we had a quick breakfast of cereal and head out to discover more areas of Hocking Hills. Old Man's Cave was our first stop.


The abundant rains recently made all the waterfalls even prettier.


Conkles Hollow was our next stop. The trail led into a gorge which became increasingly narrow.


Until it ended in a waterfall.


But one hiker had seen enough waterfalls for one day. We escaped to the camper to wait out another rain shower and enjoy our lunch of chicken quesadillas. Then headed up the trail to Cedar Falls. Hocking Hills consists of numerous areas and many short trails that lead to scenic views.


Our last hike was to Ash Cave. I thought I had seen enough rocks and water for one day but this was another hike that was worth the walk. 

But we were all tired and the rain was beginning again so Ed turned the camper toward home. We took an impromptu break at North Bend State Park and ate our supper of wraps. A friendly camp host told Ed about the North Bend rail-trail so Ed and the children unloaded their bikes and loosened up their legs with a two-mile bike ride through a couple tunnels and discovered another place to return tosome day.

We decided that we were close enough to home that it wasn't worth camping again. The children got comfortable in their sleeping bags and, besides stops for gas and ice cream, we didn't stop until we found our own driveway soon after midnight. Some of the children decided to finish the night in the camper but I was glad to find my own bed again.

Sometimes the best part of a trip is coming home.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Bookmarks: Picture Books on Birds

We are enjoying watching birds recently. My boys had made several bluebird boxes this winter and we placed them within view of the house. A few days ago I saw a robin struggle with a long string that had tangled in a pine tree. Her efforts were finally rewarded by freeing the string and I assume the string is now part of her nest. 

Spring is a marvelous time for bird watching, as birds return from the south and begin making nests. Here are a few of our favorite picture books to enhance bird study. (Note: Some of these books contain evolutionary information.)


White Owl, Barn Owl by Nicola Davies, Illustrated by Michael Foreman
Lush paintings and a sweet tale of a young girl and her grandfather combine with facts about the barn owl. Includes hints on how to build a barn owl nesting box. Don’t miss this one.


Woodpecker Wham! by April Pulley Sayre, Illustrated by Steve Jenkins
A fun to read story, fascinating illustrations, and several pages of woodpecker facts give a well-rounded view of the many species of this amazing bird.


Arrowhawk by Lola M. Schaefer, Illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska
This is the true story of a red-tailed hawk and his fight for survival after being pierced by a poacher’s arrow. Includes information on raptors, birds of prey, and why they are a protected species.


This Way Home by Lisa Westberg Peters, Illustrated by Normand Chartier
How does a small bird navigate the 1,000 miles from Minnesota to the Gulf and then find its way back again in the spring? Lovely watercolors share the story of the journey and facts about how the Savannah Sparrow uses the sun, stars, and the earth’s magnetic field to find its way.


The Robins in Your Backyard by Nancy Carol Willis
We’ve all watched robins in our backyard, but the detailed drawings and information in this book will teach all of us something new about these common harbingers of spring.


Owls by Gail Gibbons
Vivid watercolors show the details of the twenty-one types of owls living in North America. Learn about the characteristics and habits of these nocturnal birds.


Thunder Birds: Nature's Flying Predators written and illustrated by Jim Arnosky

Arnosky’s nature books are always treasures but this book is magnificent. Fold-out flaps depict incredible life-size paintings of the largest predator birds in North America. Learn about hawks, herons, eagles, vultures, and more in this stunning book.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Meatball Sub Casserole



I love meatball subs but it is such a mess to serve to children. I also love one pan meals that are hearty and satisfying. This casserole meets both needs.

I adapted this recipe from a recipe found in the Food for Life cookbook. This cookbook was created to meet the needs of those following the Trim Healthy Mama diet. I don't know much about THM (something about separating fats from carbs?) and don't follow the diet myself (Okay, my real-life friends can quit rolling their eyes at the thought of Gina dieting.) but this cookbook looks like a great resource for those who do. It is a lovely cookbook with lots of photos that makes one just want to try a recipe.

I glanced through a friend's copy of the cookbook and found this meatball sub recipe, which has become a new family favorite. 


I layer thick slices of sourdough bread in the bottom of a pan. You could use any kind of bread that you have on hand.


The creamy cheese layer is what makes this casserole so delicious.


I swapped the meatball recipe in the cookbook with my favorite meatball recipe. You could do the same.


Pour pizza sauce over the meatballs.


Layer on the cheese, slide in the oven and prepare for a yummy meal.


Meatball Sub Casserole
(Adapted from Food for Life)

2 lb ground beef
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup bread crumbs
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 eggs
1/2 cup tomato juice
6-7 thick pieces of sourdough bread (or other bread)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp pepper
1 quart spaghetti/pizza sauce
2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese

Mix ground beef, onion, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, eggs, and tomato juice. Shape into balls (I use a small cookie scoop.) Place on pan and bake in oven for 30 minutes at 350 degrees or until cooked through. Cool.

Layer bread in a greased 9x13 pan.

Mix mayonnaise, Parmesan, cream cheese, Italian seasoning, and pepper. Spread over bread, sealing edges so the bread does not get soggy. Place meatballs over creamy layer.

Pour sauce over meatballs. Sprinkle on cheese. Bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

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