Category Archives: travel/trips

Carlsbad Caverns

At the end of August, the girls and I were able to take a field trip to New Mexico, my home state. We visited a couple of sites that are pretty special to me and enjoyed our time there and with family quite a bit.

This is the highlights of our time in Carlsbad. We did see the Bat Flight program the night before we hiked the cavern but it is not safe for the bats to have any kind of a device on, so we turned off the cameras and phones and just enjoyed watching. The estimate was that there were about 500,000 bats the night we were there. The Brazilian Free-tailed Bats are a migrating bat so they are not there year round. We truly enjoyed seeing them. The next day, we hiked the cavern and saw lots of beautiful sights. The girls really seemed to enjoy it and we had a pretty good time.

Carlsbad was a specific destination for us since watching the videos about the National Parks. This was one that Miss E has been asking to visit. It was not difficult for us to get there and we definitely enjoyed checking this one off her “bucket list.”

Enjoy our pictures.

At Home.


We Stood Upon Stars ~ a book review

We Stood Upon Stars review

Travel is such a unique, inspiring opportunity. It is different for each person travelling the road, even following the same directions. And, when you approach it from the aspect of looking for God and meaning no matter where you are heading, it becomes something that shapes your life.

We Stood Upon Stars by Roger W. Thompson will take you on the adventures you dream of, finding peace and life and hope in the wilds of the continent. From a secluded fishing spot to the highest peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park and back down to the lowest lows of Death Valley, Mr. Thompson explores life at its fullest. Because in those adventures, life happens and meaning, purpose is found.

Full of tidbits of life learning, I found myself smiling along with the adventures filled with beauty and biting my nails when there was tenseness. From a family outing with his children to remembering the outings from his own childhood, there is much wisdom to be found by looking at nature and what God has placed all around us.

While the presence of God is found throughout the many stops in the book, Mr. Thompson’s observations are right in line with a peaceful, pleasant outlook. The magnificence of God’s handiwork is just part of life and it is treated that way in these memories. It is there and there is no denying it. This was so pleasant and encouraging to read.

Not to be ignored are the wonder-full maps that express some of the beauty and special places along the road. These hand-drawn, personalized maps show not just the main stops along the book’s discussion but they highlight many other moments that can help you find yourself and connect with friends, family, and more importantly, God.

Read about Roger W. Thompson or read the first chapter or just look up more information on We Stood Upon Stars.

I have had a desire for a while to take my girls to many of the natural wonders of our nation and this book just solidifies that desire within me. Finding these peaceful, hopeful, and inspiring outlooks from nature, seeing God through his world, that is what We Stood Upon Stars shares with the reader and what I want to take my girls to do. And this book? It just might be a guidebook to take along.

At Home.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

The Cutest Travel Book

T Travel Book
I am cheating a little bit today so that I can use Travel Book for my letter T in the Blogging Through the Alphabet series. But I have to tell you about this darling book! I am currently planning a trip to England now because of this book! Seriously – I would go tomorrow and I just finished the book today.

Traveling is a dream. I like to do it but I don’t like to plan it. This book, well, basically plans my trip for me. Of course, that is not her purpose, but it works for me. 🙂
T Travel Book cover

A Fine Romance: Falling in love with the English Countryside by Susan Branch is her diary of a 2012 trip she took with her husband to England. She talks about where the dream originated and then goes through their two month trip (yea – 2 whole months!) through all the dreamy places in England that I would want to go.

The visit begins on the voyage over, aboard the Queen Mary 2. They visit Tenterden in Kent, Aylesbury, London, Wirksworth in the Peak District, Ambleside in the Lake Distict, the Yorkshire Dales, The Cotswolds, Bibury, Tetbury, Chawton in Hapshire. They visit the homes of Beatrix Potter, Ellen Terry (actress), Vanessa Bell (sister of Virginia Woolf), Rudyard Kipling, Vita Sackville-West (author), Jane Austen, and so much more. There were stunning gardens galore. Beautiful footpaths that led through breathtaking views. And plenty of foods to experience.

While all of these diary entries are unique and fun and interesting, the pages have been illustrated in watercolors done by the author herself. They are beautiful! Words cannot describe. This is a stunning beautiful book. I have spent quite a bit of time just looking at how lovely each page is. The watercolors, sketches, and photographs are a story in and of themselves.

T Travel book page

I cannot forget to tell you about the quotes. Throughout the book, Mrs. Branch puts quotes from various authors and other people that fit in well with the place they visit or the idea she is expressing in her writing. They are often hand-lettered and add such whimsy and character to the book. Just another part of what makes this book such a joy.

Add it all together and this is a “not to be missed” kind of book. I am kind of sad that I have to return it to the library because it is so pretty and so interesting. But, I am keeping track of the title and if I ever get the chance to spend some time just wandering the English countryside, this  book – A Fine Romance: Falling in love with the English Countryside by Susan Branch – will be my guidebook.

At Home.

This is part of the Blogging Through The Alphabet series.

Please visit A Net In Time and Hopkins Homeschool and link up your ABC posts.

Fun-Schooling for Everyone


I had hoped to publish this review last week but here it is now. Three additional Thinking Tree journals for you:

We have used each of these in quite different ways than the previous review so we’ll just jump right in.

Mom’s Fun-Schooling Handbook


This is a very thick journal – about 130 pages, front & back – of help for the homeschooling mom. If you are looking for a relaxed format to help organize your thoughts, this is it. Designed to inspire you, it is an open-and-go journal for mom (or dad, even).moms-fun-schooling-basket-page

It starts out with some ideas to help find joy and feed curiosity in both you and the student. From creating beautiful baskets of learning to thinking about how learning occurs, guidance is done gently through both written and visual prompts.moms-fun-schooling-visual-list

There are a variety of pages that repeat throughout the journal. These include finishing doodles, creative journaling, coloring pages, to-do lists, and more. A couple of my favorites are the word studies and the “learn a new skill” pages. They pique my interest and encourage me to keep learning myself. Page titles include: Finish the Doodle, Creative Journaling, Reading Time, What’s On Your Mind, Funschooling Ideas, Color Together, Learn a New Skill, Fun Things to do Together, Thinking Time, A Hope/Prayer/Memory, Illustrated To-Do List, Goals For My Home, Mom’s Word Study, and Listening Time.

The one think I have not figured out with this journal is how to use it consistently. The pages, while repeated, do not seem to be repeated in any specific or consistent format or order. Which for me means difficulty in finding a daily – or even weekly – use for the journal.

This journal is truly designed to encourage creativity, turn a new twist to learning, and add plenty of fun. If you are looking for something different, this might just be for you.moms-fun-schooling-written-list

Travel Dreams Fun-Schooling Journal


Travel Dreams is “an adventurous approach to geography & social studies.” This funschooling journal is packed with 30 different cities from around the word to study. Each city is approached the same way through journal page themes repeated for each city. There are also several blank pages at the back to choose other cities of interest to your family.

At the beginning of the book, there are a series of maps. These maps are used to mark the locations of the cities studies. The maps are separated by continents (mostly) with a page for each map to list the cities that are found

For each city you will study food, clothing, landmarks, the flag, events, and a quote or proverb. There are pages for documenting the cooking of a food you choose from that city and writing the recipe and step-by-step preparation instructions. For each city, the students choose what should be known about the city if you were planning to visit as well as studying up on an event in that city’s history. There are also pages for the students to document the resources consulted for the study of each city.

We have been using this as a family, studying a city by watching documentaries and visiting websites. The girls take turns drawing and writing the necessary information. Preparing traditional foods has definitely been the most exciting part so far. This is a fun, relaxed way to approach geography and social studies.

The Four Seasons Spelling Time


Spelling Time is a journal that gently encourages and reinforces spelling in youngsters. Miss J, age 7, is using this book daily as part of her spelling work. This soft back journal is about the size of a piece of notebook paper. The pages are white with black printing and are numbered, which is unusual for Thinking Tree journals.spelling-time-example

The book approaches spelling through a few different activities. The first is rhyming poetry set in couplets. Each poem relates to a particular month, starting with May and going to April. We haven’t worried about trying to line up the month to what month we are in but you certainly could. The poem is covered twice, with specific words boldly written in highlighting for copying. First, the words are outlined so the student can trace and color the letters. The second time, there are blanks where the words go and the student writes the words in. Each poem has an activity page to accompany it. The page might be a coloring page or it might be one where the student completes the drawing.

The second section dwells on the four seasons. Each season has some words to focus on that are then used in a four-stanza poem. Each poem page is accompanied by a color or activity page.

The next section is one where the student takes some responsibility for words they need to learn to spell and they write them into a list so they can practice them. Then the student begins to use the words in writing a story. There are other writing prompts, too, such as “make a list of 15 things to do in spring.”

The final section allows the student to create their own calendar. We plan to begin this in January.

Throughout Spelling Time encourages students to use words, not just learn to spell them. Gentle and easy to incorporate, this has been a great addition for Miss J.spelling-time-writing

So, there you have them – three more journals from Thinking Tree. These have been an interesting additional to our family and our learning times. I still struggle with the Mom Journal but I really like it so am working hard to find a way to make it a productive addition. The Spelling Time – it has been fabulous and Travel Dreams is a fun alternative for days where we just need a change of pace.

Thinking Tree has lots of other journals. Be sure and check out all that they have created. There is something for everyone and it is a pleasant shake up for your homeschooling routine.

At Home.

W is for … water and wildflowers

W water and wildflowersIf you are in Texas, know someone in Texas, or used to be from Texas, maybe even if you are within 1,000 miles of Texas, you know that it has been bluebonnet season down here. Everyone goes crazy for bluebonnets. Even me. And I am not a Texan. (I’ve been here for a long time now and once in a while, I’ll claim Texas but I will always be a New Mexico girl at heart. Just sayin’.)

I love the bluebonnets, though. They are beautiful. They are fun. They smell amazingly sweet. They brighten up my days for about two weeks. And then they are gone until the next year. So, I take pictures of them and of my girls in them. There is nothing better to mark their growth than an annual picture. And Texans tend to choose to do them with bluebonnets. (Yep, there’s one of those times that I guess I have to claim being a Texan.)

W smiles in wildflowers

We took a fun field trip to hunt down a really good, publicly accessible field of bluebonnets. And Indian paintbrushes. Because around here, they grow together. We drove about 20 miles and found a lovely little lake to have a picnic by, explore a bit, and enjoy the bluebonnets. It even had a cute little playground for the girls to play at.

W pirate ship playgroundW study wildflowers

After our picnic, the girls sat down and drew the bluebonnets. They got down on the ground and studied them. It was interesting to see the differences in what they noticed about the flowers. And, of course, we took pictures in the bluebonnets.

W water

We also spent an hour or an hour and a half, exploring the edges of the lake. Climbing over limestone, seeing the erosion water creates, finding shells from freshwater clams, seeing how trash gets trapped and rots (gross but educational), and so much more.

It was a terribly fun day. We enjoyed Water and Wildflowers.

At Home.

Weekend Experience

Ever had one of those weekends that you know has just renewed your desires and strengthened your resolve? This weekend was one of those for me.

We attended the 2015 Lads to Leaders convention with our church family this year. I had attended another convention of a different type several years ago but it was very different from this.

What we saw this weekend at L2L was inspiring. We want our kids involved and we want to see this available at a high level to all of the young folks in our congregation, not just our girls and not just elementary aged students.

2015 L2L collageWe fell in love with the love of God and encouragement we saw among the youth at the convention. We found great encouragement in the encouraging they did with each other – not just our youth to each other but from youth to youth that didn’t even know each other. When someone was on stage and waiting for the announcement of winners, they were high fiving, hugging, and telling each other what a great job they did. There is nothing that can replicate that. Yes, they cared about placement but not nearly as much as the new friends they had made. One of our girls spent time chatting and braiding hair with another of the participants while they waited to be called back to the main participation room. Another of our girls made a friend that she was sad she didn’t get a phone number for. We sat down on the floor in the middle of everything and sang songs of praise to our God with 30 people. We didn’t know their names, may not see them again until next year, if then, yet we are family and had a bond of connection that made praising God together a joyous experience. L said that was her favorite part of the whole weekend – sitting and singing with others, lifting our praises to God together.

Seeing kids that didn’t know each other shake hands and encourage, seeing the help given when someone was struggling, seeing the smiles on faces when a young lady was struggling to get through a speech without tears, the pats on the back, and the camaraderie – we need to have our kids involved in that as often as possible. They need to see that the world of Christ is so much bigger than their Bible class, their congregation, their sight. They need to see that there are others across this nation and world who are striving along the same path they are and want them to succeed. Christ is so much bigger than they know and every opportunity they have to see and learn that is one that needs to be embraced.

We met another homeschooling family who lives 30 or so miles from us. Our girls now have new friends close by and we are in the process of making plans to go visit their farm and get to know them better. We met them during the final night of ceremonies and we chatted until the kids were running out the doors without us parents. We also attended Sunday morning worship with the L2L participants. A worship service with 1,000 people! That is not an every day experience for us and I hope it was an encouragement to the girls. It was a tremendous service hearing the young men lead singing and lead our minds in thoughts regarding the theme of ONE. What a wonderful way to close out the weekend.

At Home Dad and I are going to be doing a lot with our girls. We will be doing it, digging in deep, and helping them learn a lot. I encourage you to research Lads to Leaders and participate. Bring your children to a deeper love of the Lord and stronger knowledge of who He is and how to serve Him. We can do nothing better than to prepare our children for a life of service to God and what better time to start than now.

At Home.

F is for … Finding New Mexico

F finding NM

There is an ongoing joke amongst New Mexicans. Well, it is not really even a joke. But it can be heard in any number of different ways. But they often go something like this:

New Mexico? Isn’t that south of the border?
You’re from New Mexico? Can I see your green card (or visa)? (Seriously! I was asked that growing up!)

New Mexico is an amazing state that is, in fact, part of the United States of America. Since 1912. You can find it between Texas and Arizona. It is an amazing state and I am proud of having grown up there. I am thankful that I can travel home (my parents still live there) several times a year. It is always beautiful. It is always peaceful. It is always relaxing. There is just something different about New Mexico. It is enchanting. Thus it’s nickname: Land of Enchantment.

vacation 2013

When you are looking around, you will see amazing vistas. Mountains, plains, lakes, rivers, trees, grass, mesas, plateaus. It is all there. One of my favorite views is sitting on the porch at my parents house, a glass of iced tea in hand, no bugs bothering me, staring out at the mountains in the distance. Peaceful. Another favorite: driving across the plains but surrounded by mountain ranges on all sides. It is just so beautiful.

I could talk forever about why I love New Mexico. But, you might quit reading. I’d rather you keep reading and find something interesting to do to help you find some of the enchantment that New Mexico holds.

Tradition is huge in New Mexico, especially this time of year. Last year we shared with you all some of our traditions, including luminarias and bizcochitos. Other traditions that you could study include any of the puebloan Indian tribes and their dances. Las Posadas is a tradition among many of the Spanish speaking people worth a study. It is fun and interesting. We read “The Night of Las Posadas” by Tomie dePaola every year and enjoy it each time.


There are tons of amazing foods from New Mexico. Christmas enchiladas make my mouth water just thinking about them. They aren’t really anything fancy but we call them Christmas enchiladas when we would like to have enchiladas served with both red AND green chili sauce. YUM! Anything made with chilis is good, if you ask me. I shared a recipe with you for Green Chili Goat Cheese Burritos. It isn’t a traditional recipe but it is one that is very New Mexican. Bizcochitos are a cookie that is traditionally made a Christmas time but, really, is good any day of the year.  (You can find a picture of us making these cookies in the post E is for Enchantment.)

We took the girls on a New Mexico vacation last year where we did some learning. We visited Carlsbad Caverns. We went to White Sands. We saw The Last Escape of Billy the Kid and walked through Lincoln. We studied the desert, its animals, and its plants. I shared a post with you about the vacation books that I made for the girls. It included lots of links and information so you can make your own or use the links to learn more about New Mexico.


Little footprints in White Sands


Other posts I have shared about New Mexico:

Vacation 2013 – New Mexico Desert – A synopsis of our vacation time in New Mexico.

Carlsbad Caverns – A beautiful place to visit with unique opportunities. From the amazing underground cavern to the mass exodus of bats at sunset, this is a stop that is worth making.

Smokey Bear – This is a must-stop place in my opinion. Of course, I grew up with Smokey so he is very closely associated with New Mexico for me.

E is for Enchantment – This is a book about New Mexico and I shared some ideas about things to do with the book. It has some little known information about New Mexico. It is not your typical ABC Book.


I hope you have found something fun and new to study about New Mexico. Thanks for stopping by as part of Learning through the 50 States, a link up hosted by

 photo af476399-be9e-4d50-a2d2-1a3a7c3fe9dc.jpg

At Home.

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