Wednesday, November 20, 2013

::Right Now:: & A Christmas Quilt

Mr. November himself!
I just love this one

Our November garland
November circle time
Our Indian corn experiment

Right Now I Am..

...Revelling in the quilt I just finished. I am happy to say that I am done with Jonas' Christmas quilt. Deirdre got a quilt at age 4, so Jonas was due for one. However I lost the fabric in the move I originally wanted to use so I decided to embroider his squares. It took a week and a half start to finish. The squares were all hand embroidered by myself and I just freehanded the designs with a pencil from some online images and by Jonas' request (Thus the Christmas bat!). It was my first time using the quilt as you go method and I am pleased. 
...Recuperating once again from a series of colds and busyness. I just can't seem to stay well. Boo. 
...Admiring the autumn leaves. Right now we're at the peak here in Yorktown. I think we've got one more week before most trees are bare. 
...Finishing up our month long turkey and pilgrim theme. We've had a fun time growing Indian corn, making pilgrims hats, and even gourd turkeys. I have to say, I really am loving homeschooling. Deirdre even got to meet some local wild turkeys at our Living Museum during a program they had. 
...Gearing up for December. We're going to take a break of sorts from homeschooling that month. We'll still be reading and our theme is advent but most of our crafting and trips will be geared towards the holidays.  
...Feeling so blessed to have such amazing local freinds. There was a time when both my best friends moved away that I was very angry about once again being alone and then new friendships were made and old ones deepened. I love my ladies (That means you Anya, Abby, Emily, Lila, & Sherry)
...Soaking up this time with my kiddos. I love that both D and J are old enough to list and be thankful for things. I love keeping our thankful tree. I am going to save it's leaves for years to come. It's a good lead into Christmas- as well as it compliments Martinmas. 

November, I love you! 

Our thankful tree- next to it is a collection box for Mission India
(which we've been participating in it for Martinmas)
Thankful leaf
Our November table
Some of our Martinmas lanterns
Our gourd turkey
One of my favorite blocks from the quilt

Until Next Time, 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Hollow Thunder :: Author Spotlight with Nicole R. Ordway

Today is a rare treat for me on the blog. I get to connect you all with a good book from an old college friend, Nicole R. Ordway. It's like I get to play matchmaker, and who doesn't love that?

I am alway so happy to celebrate the successes of old friends. I know I have mentioned my alma mater, CNU, a few times here. Nicole and I were lucky enough to take Latin with Dr. Pollio (who by the way is an amazing professor. He even can make you excited about and enjoy Latin!) as well as a few Classics and History courses together. We were 2 of the 3 Nicoles in that class. The other being my friend Nicole Link (who happens to now to encapsulate placentas in Richmond- and did Brynna's for me!) Thanks to good old social media we've been able to keep in touch, so I was thrilled to see she has self published her first novel, Hollow Thunder.

But I digress... I had a chance to chat with Nicole a bit about her book and writing. Here it is!

So Nicole, tell us briefly about yourself and your new book!

Writing has been my passion at least since middle school, and probably longer than
that. I say probably because my memory’s made of Swiss cheese: full of holes!
While studying for my BA in English, I always told myself that ideally I’d get
published but I’d better have another plan in place instead; I actually laughed
at the people who were there getting a degree with the single purpose of being
published novelists. I realize now that they were simply charging ahead on a
trail after their dream and lifelong goal, rather than not trusting enough in
their abilities to put the horns down. Careful Capricorn doesn’t get there
quickly, but we get there in the end. I finished and polished my novel and
submitted it to about fifty agents before I met Dave Lee with Hatton Cross
Steampunk (HCS) Publishing. He hadn’t finished more than the first two pages of
Hollow Thunder before he forwarded my manuscript to his editor-in-chief with
high praise. Boom – the rockets were lit and off we went.
He’s the one who first described Hollow Thunder as a “colonial paranormal.” It’s set in a time period based off 18th century Colonial America, but that’s pretty much where the similarities end. To quote off the back cover: “When six rebels – William and Richard Cooper; Lady Claire and Sir Thomas Scott; and Matthew Hatter and Anne Tybbot – set out to assassinate the Royal Governor and take control over the colony, their carefully laid plan disintegrates rapidly into a struggle for survival. But who can you trust when everyone has their secrets to keep and their agendas to fulfill?”
There’re betrayals, blood-shed, strategies, brief flickers of love, brotherly loyalty, questions of identity, a psychic and a werewolf! I’d say there’s something for everyone, which wasn’t the intent necessarily but I love how it turned out.

What was your favorite part about writing your book? The most challenging?

My favorite part was when I’d read back over bits for editing (or to remind myself
what I’d written, since the whole thing took about eight years to compose all
together) and I’d get completely sucked back in. I’d find myself wanting to
know what would happen next – and I wrote it! It was those moments that really
kept encouraging me to not give up on it.
The most challenging part was overcoming procrastination inclinations. I kept saying to myself “I know I need to write some tonight, but I’ll work on it more tomorrow,” but a book never gets finished if you don’t write it! There’s a quote from Jim Butcher (author of the Dresden Files series) that has really helped me out in moments like that: “Put your Butt In the Chair and start writing. Period. No excuses. There is no substitute for BIC time. It's part of the price you pay.” So true.
Where did you draw inspiration for your book from?

The initial inspiration for my book came from Shield’s Tavern in Williamsburg, VA.
There is a wine/storage cellar in that restaurant where you can sit to eat, and
it’s lit only by electronic candles and lanterns and the wood-burning
fireplaces. It’s full of rough-hewn tables and wood-slat chairs with woven
grass and layers of leather for seats. When my folks and I sat down there to
have lunch while visiting Colonial Williamsburg, I had the notion of a group of
Revolutionaries meeting together in secret to plot a rebellion…readers will
recognize the opening scene and first chapter from Hollow Thunder here. The
whole book was born from that experience.
Do you have a favorite character?

Hahaha, that’s not a fair question! Do you have a favorite child? All of my characters
have quirks that I love about them and which endear them to me…even when you
just want to smack them in the face sometimes. No, I don’t have a favorite
character, but I encourage my readers to choose their own.
Is there a special place that inspires you when writing?

I generally am inspired the most when writing at home or parked somewhere in the woods,
anywhere away from people really, but in Hollow Thunder’s particular case the
setting of Colonial Williamsburg in Williamsburg, VA, is a big inspiration for
me. There are many little spots in that town which foster a quiet and
inspirational atmosphere for writing about the 18
th century.
Can we expect more books in the future?

Absolutely! I am currently working on several projects all at once: a sequel to Hollow
Thunder; a steampunk novel called Shiprat; a collection of short stories about
shape-shifters from various folklores called All Vox of Life (yep, that’s a
Latin pun); and I’m trying to get my completed children’s book published. It’s
meant to be a picture book, and it’s called Max’s Empty Dish.

Where is your book available for purchase?

As of right now, Hollow Thunder is available through CreateSpace as a paperback novel. In a few days of this writing, it will be available on and I’m also working on creating a Kindle version of it which should be out soon. In about mid-November it will also be available at Barnes & Noble and Books-a-Million.

So my dear friends, there you have it! Please check out Nicole's book. You can purchase it directly here and from Amazon here. If you want to keep up to date with Nicole and her writing, you can also find her on Facebook here and her blog is here. Supporting independent authors is a good cause and it's incredibly tough to self publish. Not to mention, Hollow Thunder is great read, I just got my copy a few days ago and I can't put it down! 

Oh and last but not least, Nicole doesn't have any dirt on me and isn't forcing me to do this for her, ha! Hollow Thunder is genuinely a gripping novel and Nicole is a talented playwright and author. Praise is given where it's deserved, and this is well deserved here!

Macte virtute! Factum optime Nicole!

Until Next Time,

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Owl Learnings at Maymont Estate

Jonas identifying the Barred Owl in our field guide on Owls. 

He was sleeping but after we were there alone with him for about ten minutes he woke up and stared at DD after she hooted at him!
Some days are just idyllic. 
Our little trip to Maymont was one of those. 
It is days like that which make homeschooling so very worth it on a personal level. 
I know mentally that this is the right choice for us. 
I know that scientifically this type and way of learning is nonpareil for my children at this age. 
But sometimes we need proof and an anchor point for all that mental data. 
I can cite you article after article about why hands on and project based learning is amazing. 
Or why Waldorf really works. 
But then to see it in front of me, really hits home. 
I mean how many kids, after learning about Owls, get to go see them up close and study them?
I certainly won't forget this anytime soon and I doubt my kids will either. 
This trip was a great conclusion to our owl theme. I highly recommend a visit to Maymont if you're in Virginia. It is free, but they suggest a small donation. We spent about 3 hours there and only got through 1/4 of the estate. It took us a little under an hour to get there. They have tons of animals, a children's farm, a nature center, the estate itself, and just beautiful grounds. Stunning. I have lived in Virginia my whole life and I am just shocked that I had never been here before.

I will be back in this place a little later this week to share a new book with you as well as our pumpkin trip and some bat crafts. I just still can't get over how lovely of a day we had. I just love this time in our lives. 

PS: I am linking up with Linda at Natural Suburbia  Nicole S at Frontier Dreams, and Carrie at Crafty Moms Share. These are also some of my favorite blogs so hop over for a look! 

Recording her observations in her nature journal (which also happens to be her main lesson book this year)


Until next time-
Love and Light,

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Wise Old Owl Crafting

The wise old owl sat on the oak
The more he heard, the less he spoke
The less he spoke, the more he heard
Why aren't we more like that wise bird?
These are very easy to make. The only thing I did was hot glue the wood disk to the base of the pinecone and the kids did the rest! Watering down your glue and using paint brushes for it helped get in all the pinecone crevices. We also had toothpicks on hand to stuff the fluff in.

I highly recommend all of these owl books for ages 3-6!

We've had a fun week here in the Kleemann household! Despite more tummy bugs and still some job stress, things keep on going. I find during these more uncertain times that sticking to our family rhythm helps keep stress down and promotes peace. At least it does for me. I also find that when I am more at peace, so are the children. So it's a win-win! 

We're getting close to the end of October, so we're about to switch our monthly animal from owls to bats. Since Halloween is this month the kids asked to do an extra spooky animal. I was happy to comply and we settled on bats, however I did gently remind them that bats aren't really spooky at all! 

Primarily this week we focused on Owls during circle time, versus pumpkins and trees. I read and told lots of owl stories (I have had them all month in our school book bin, but this was the first time I introduced them to circle time).  Our crafts this week were also owl themed. I have been trying to use more 'found' materials in our crafts, so owl pinecones fit in perfectly. The kids then were able to use their owls during circle time to help act out our littlest owl play and an owl paid a visit to Sylvie from "Pumpkin Moonshine"- our monthly book. 

We also made toilet paper roll owls and of course carved - or drilled- an owl pumpkin! I was pretty proud of how our pumpkin turned out. It was a neat way to combine both of our monthly themes. (If you're new or curious about how we homeschool and use monthly themes as well as project based learning- there posts here, here, and here might help fill you in a bit!)

Since the beginning of the month, we have visited the Virginia Living Museum 2 times a week to go observe their Eastern Screech Owl and write about him in our main lesson book. For circle time this month we have a Screech Owl puppet too (the kids named him 'Woodsy') so Woodsy tags along on these trips too. 

I will be back in this place tomorrow for the other half to this post. We also took a special field trip to go see some more owls up close and personal. I can't wait to share!

If you want to see more owl and pumpkin crafty goodness, I have 2 Pinterest boards dedicated to them here and here. I use Pinterest a lot to help me organize homeschool ideas, project based learning plans, and themes. They might be helpful for you too, so feel free to use them. I am happy to share.

PS: I am linking up with Linda at Natural Suburbia  Nicole S at Frontier Dreams, and Carrie at Crafty Moms Share. These are also some of my favorite blogs so hop over for a look! 

To trace the outline on I used a toothpick and poked small holes into the outline. Then I drilled! 
Miss B thought she was hot stuff climbing up to the big table and making her own craft!
Do you have any owl crafts of your own? Please comment and share for the rest of us to see!


Monday, October 14, 2013

Family Time :: The Peninsula Fine Arts Center (& Why Art Matters)

Mister J and I had some Mommy one on one time the other Saturday. Our wonderful local Arts Center, PFAC, has free weekends once a month so I had pre-planned on going.

PFAC has rotating themed exhibits. The one we saw was "Aquatic" which was perfect for Jonas since he is such an ocean and shark lover. Then in the back of the center the have their "Hands on Art" kids center.

It is chock full of art books, manipulatives, art games, art puzzles, craft materials (that you're free to use), and more.

As you can see from above we made full use of all of their goodies. Jonas is a block and puzzle lover so he gravitated toward those first. Then he spied the art supplies and was off. He pulled out various pieces and decided he'd make a dinosaur puppet. All on his own. No prompting. I love how they just stock lots of open ended materials and let the kids decide what to make.

I also loved it because I could just be one on one with him. My older kids have to share me a lot because of Miss B. Which is fine and is just the life stage we're in but I still try to make a point to have Mommy dates.

Another reason why I enjoyed this trip so much was that Jonas got to be totally immersed in art. His creativity was unhindered. There was no agenda. He was able to freely express himself and had multiple mediums to do so.

I've been reading and researching a bit more on child development and more specifically differences between boys and girls.

In particular earlier on boys tend to be weaker when it comes to fine motor skills, which seems be related to how boy's parietal lobes process sensitive tactile data. At times this can deter them from certain art mediums. Boys also learn best experientially at a young age due to the amount of grey matter boys have in their brains which makes their brains less able to multitask. Having lots of manipulatives out and keeping verbal instructions to a minimum are best. (Gurian 124)

So with that in mind art matters quite a bit. No only does it encourage boys to use fine motor skills in fun and engaging ways, which then helps build up their parietal lobe, but it also allows them to learn experientially and hands on. I think most importantly is that- for both boys and girls- art is a whole brain activity, like music. All hemispheres are being stimulated when kids are allowed to make art in an open ended environment with minimal direction. Plus since our brain is a muscle, when little ones are using all of it- their brains are getting a workout, in a good way.

So all in all it was a great day. We had fun. We slowed down and enjoyed one another. Moreover Jonas got to do something he loves and that consequently gave his little brain a  workout, and he didn't even know it!

If you're ever in Newport News, check out PFAC! Admission is cheap and it's worth it just on the money you'll save on art supplies. Plus there's a gorgeous park and trail nearby and a neat wooden playground right next door.

Ps: Linking up this week with my dear friend Nicole at Frontier Dreams for Keep Calm and Craft On!
Love & Light,