Thursday, November 27, 2008

New homepage for Best Family Adventures

I've been wanting to revamp the Best Family Adventures site for some time now. Tonight I uploaded a much improved front page. It would be great to include some music or fantastic graphics or script games, but I feel fortunate to have been able to figure out the HTML for this! Perhaps I'll work on a new, improved, fancy face for the next edition.

Please drop by, check it out, and let me know what you think. Find a dead link? Let me know!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Haiku today

After math, science, history, reading and chores today, we went to my current favorite blog for a writing assignment we all could enjoy. Today: turn around with your eyes closed. Open your eyes. Write haiku about the first thing you see.

Here's mine:
Bookshelf, tall and full.
Such great potential awaits.
Need more time to read.

Here's E's:
My little sister
Looking at me from the door.
And smiling. So nice.

Here's V's:
Street, black, wet from rain.
Houses on the other side.
No cars are there now.

I did mine in the allotted 60 seconds. This was the girls' first try, so it took a little longer for them, but not bad. Post YOUR Haikus here in the comments box! :)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Story #3 - Getting into the Swing Again

I'm a lot happier this week with my writing. This week's published piece seems much more detailed and it's written better than either of the previous two pieces. Perhaps I was just out of practice. Or maybe it has something to do with writing it the way I thought it should be written, without worrying about story length. My old friend Vern would certainly agree that I've NEVER had a problem filling the pages!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Research - This is the Life!

If you're receiving this note by e-mail, click on the post headline to get to the blog where you may view the latest BFA photos.

In the name of research, the girls and I loaded up Junior this past week and headed for the American Riviera - Santa Barbara. We camped at Carpinteria State Beach (great if you love sand, surf and regular visits with passing trains), El Capitan (fine if you like camping atop a cliff from whence the sound of the freeway drowns out the crashing of waves).

We really enjoyed our morning walks along Carpinteria Beach where we found fantastic shells and rocks. They grow 'em BIG around here!

I introduced the girls to long photo exposures by showing them how to "paint with light." I'd wanted to capture some nighttime shots of Junior with the warm glow of the light shining through the curtains, but it was too dark out...until we introduced the flashlight and a 15-second exposure.

That led us to painting on the beach, and these images.

We visited almost every beach on the south coast to (and a bit beyond) the Ventura County line, learned why north county residents are so envious of the parks plans for south county ( they have a lot of parks down there), and stumbled upon some other local treasures.

We also visited the Nina...what a disappointment! The "historically accurate" boat travels the world collecting $6/adult, $3/child for the opportunity to board. Once on board, well, you can see everything you've already seen from shore. No big surprises. Heck, no surprises at all. Even E said, "That was $11 we could have used better."

The next publish - or not to publish.
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Monday, November 17, 2008

A Writer's Life

One of my favorite books about writing is On Writing, by Stephen King. If you've read much King, or heard about it, you probably think a guide to the art of writing is unlikely for him. After all, he largely focuses on horror: Cujo, Christine,The Tommyknockers, It ... and now Duma Key: A Novel. But he's a colorful writer no matter what genre. Clearly he enjoys writing, entertaining and being entertained.

In On Writing King writes, "...if you expect to succeed as a writer, rudeness should be the second-to-least of your concerns. The least of all should be polite society and what it expects. If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway."

Well, if I learn to write with as much honesty as I tend to speak, I'll be a bestseller someday, too.

If you're interested in writing, I urge you to pick up this book and give it a read. It won't take much time, and I guarantee it's worth it.

Rollin' in...paint

Another busy week as we prepare for a trip to Santa Barbara for some research, then home to prep for Thanksgiving at home! :)

Managed to paint the trailer interior and put it back together this week. While I was at the landfill last weekend I remembered someone telling me paint can be picked up free there. Drop off your half can of latex and someone else may use it for their house, garden toys or, in our case, trailer. I picked up a can of tan and another of a green that matches the original olive green stove, though the paint's a couple of shades lighter than the stove. I added some white to a bit of the tan to make a lighter shade for the walls, then used the green to paint the beveled edge of the drawers and cabinet doors, then used the original, darker tan for the faces of the cabinets and drawers. The girls helped paint the drawers, doors and interior. They're really into rolling on paint now!

A little closer.

The orange kitty wasn't very impressed.
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Friday, November 14, 2008

Playing in Vectorpark

I know I should be doing any of a number of things besides fartin' around on the computer. Here are a few of them: sleeping, painting the trailer, making Christmas shopping lists, documenting today's homeschooling activities, writing freelance stories about our trip, submitting any of a number of my children's stories (again), doing laundry, brushing my teeth, cleaning the catbox, mopping the floors, mowing the yard (ok, maybe not at this hour)...

Instead, I'm playing in Vectorpark. Go ahead. Try it. See if YOU don't get hooked! :)

(Figuring out WHAT to do is the first step toward doing something completely fruitless, but entertaining, with your valuable time, too.)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

One Minute - Technology

I recently discovered this blog which promotes writing, even in tiny installments. The blog owner posts one question every now and again (weekdays?) and gives you one minute to answer the question in writing.

Today's question: What modern technology would you have trouble living without?

Start the timer! :)

The computer would be tough to live without, but only because I'm ADDICTED! Either to e-mail, or working my stories here, or researching topics for the girls, for me, for stories, for books, searching for dream properties.

Then again, life would be so much simpler without this distraction.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Customer Service 101

Things are changing in Pismo Beach, and they may not be for the better.

Today the girls and I enjoyed a spectacular day at Olde Port Beach. The weather was amazing, the tide ran out so far we found loads of the largest crabs I've ever seen on shore. We had a picnic lunch with Grandpa, met some really nice people, made new friends and enjoyed each other's company. The craziest thing was seeing a large crab (6" body) rise from under the sand where we'd been walking moments before.

We decided to go to one of our favorite Pismo Beach restaurants on the way home to grab some clam chowder and a great people-watching from the window seats. Pismo has opted to start charging for parking, something I forgot completely about! I didn't notice the little signs, and after a lifetime of visiting without paying for parking, it didn't even occur to me to LOOK for the parking pay box. Fortunately, the girls can read now and V pointed out the sandwich board propped in the middle of the street just outside the restaurant. Ooops!

After gathering coins from a merchant's cash register and doing my duty with the parking permit box down the street, the girls and I decided to dilly dally a bit, window shop, and finally do some research at what was, until today, among my favorite magazine shops.

Apparently, the woman working there has decided she doesn't need to treat customers with respect, even given the current debate about whether permit parking downtown will impact businesses adversely. There was a man reading newspapers on one rack, the girls were looking quietly for their favorites (horses for V, anything kid friendly for E), and I was trying to find magazines to which I might want to sell some freelance work. (Editors like it when you actually KNOW the magazine, have read it, know its departments and its style. It's also best to put the current editor's name on the query letter and envelope.) The woman behind the counter didn't bother the man, but she started staring me down shortly after we entered the store. It was pretty apparent she wasn't just staring into space. As soon as the male customer left the store, she said, "I suggest you use the internet."

WOW! For all she knew, I could still have been shopping for just the right magazine. (In fact, I already had two I'd never seen before in my "to buy" pile.) The girls and I had only been there five minutes, tops, hardly enough time to select one (or ten) magazines, and there were three potential customers here.

My eyes popped wide in surprise and I said, "Really? Is there a problem?" I told her what I was doing (researching magazines). That's when she smugly threw in, "Try the library." As I gathered the girls and headed out the door, I asked why she hadn't bothered the man that had stopped in to read (not buy) magazines. She didn't have an answer.

She's right. Why support a long-time local business? Take it to the web. That's how we support our communities, right?

Don't worry, Mag Lady. We won't be back. We have a great new library right here in town.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My Little Curator

Do you get tired of me going on about how great homeschooling is? I just can't help myself!

The girls have been much better about cleaning up since we returned home. Maybe getting used to living in very confined spaces has helped them a bit, or maybe they're just growing up (sniff!) a little bit. Last week, during some random down time while I was doing a chore, the girls decided to clean off their bulletin board. The most miraculous thing (beyond the cleaning itself) was that they AGREED and worked TOGETHER.

Yesterday, the girls decided to use that space to create their own little museum of sorts using items they'd collected. They have more items to add, but have opted to string visitors along, enticing them back with the promise of "additions to come."

Here's the curator. (Her assistant was camera shy.)
The fine print:
Title of exhibit: The Indians' Lifestyle
Under the fern frond: They ate plants.
Under the bone: They hunted animals.
Under the arrowhead: They used many tools.
Under the chunk of pyrite (aka Fool's Gold): The forests were rich...if you were a fool.

Yesterday our homeschooling adventure took us to our friend Karen's place where we all learned to make apple butter and to can. I'm SO excited to have had some canning pointers. My grandparents all canned, and some of my aunts still do. We have a garden, but have been storing anything we don't EAT in the freezer, which is PACKED at this point. I needed to learn to can to make better all-season use of our bounties.

Thanks, Karen!
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Monday, November 10, 2008

How NOT to write a travel story

Well, fortunately the local paper is lenient. Second story from our trip, but I don't like it much. I'm having a tough time translating our trip into newspaper style, though the section editor doesn't particularly WANT newspaper style. Conversational is ok with her, and so is the use of "we." Too many years writing for print without including "me," "we" or "I."

Must get a mag story or two published. These are where it's at for me, style-wise and income-wise.

Today we're headed out for an apple-butter-making lesson and chicken chasing with my friend, Karen White.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Coming together

It's been another great homeschooling week in which things just came together beautifully. We'd taken a break after weeks on the road studying our nation's geography, history, nature and people, journaling about it, earning Junior Ranger badges and meeting people from around the world. We all deserved a bit of a break, and I needed some time to decompress, and plan ahead, so the girls have been reacquainting them with their garden, neighborhood and toys while I've been sorting and planning and catching up on records.
I use a nice piece of software to track our homeschooling activities. What I like best about it when I keep up with my records is that it prints out a nice, easy-to-read summary of what we've done all year. The only problem is that it's VERY time intensive to record everything we do that might include teachable moments captured, particularly if I fall more than a day or so behind. And because I don't record EVERY moment we spend together reading or crafting or practicing math or talking about theoretical solutions to the world's problems, it doesn't accurately portray our homeschool experience. But it gives a pretty good indication of what we do, and it'll be a nice record to look back on as the years pass and memories fade.

After inputing the information from our trip, it seems we've far exceeded the state's requirements for "minutes of instruction" for this school year. It would have been difficult NOT to with all the time we spent at each fantastic historic, scenic, scientific, artistic or simply experiential opportunity. But there's always more to learn, isn't there? So we're back on track with reading, writing and 'rithmetic with the arts and p.e. in the mix as well as a look at the Middle Ages and science (particularly for V).

Plan or not, the pieces continue to fall just right. Today we finished reading The Invention of Hugo Cabret" by Brian Selznick. I'd picked it up at the new library earlier in the week on a whim. Hadn't ever heard of it, but it was sitting atop the Enchanted Forest shelf, yawning at me, displaying some of the 156 pencil drawings that help to make this book different. I started reading it aloud to the girls as we traveled through town (stop lights) and at home. Then E took over and read most of the book to us as I drove, or here on the couch, or in bed. It's a great story, full of suspense, with some basis in fact. It refers to early movies by the Lumiere Brothers and others.

After we finished the story, I logged on to the internet where, you guessed it, I found LOTS of great stuff including this film, featured prominently in the book, from the turn of the 20th Century. (Be sure to pause the music on the PlayList sidebar before this takes off or you'll have competing audio.)

It's interesting rocketry and space travel keeps finding its way into our lives, in one form or another, perhaps in spite of my plans. We watched the launch on September 24th, which, if you're a follower of this blog, you know lead to a decent discussion of rocketry including the history, science and future of it. Today's story got a bit into space travel. And, coincidentally, V's math resulted in the creation of a rocket on paper today. I couldn't PLAN this stuff better!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

SERIOUSLY miniature art!

I know, this has nothing to do with our family or what we're up to today, except that perhaps it shows we find all sorts of interesting, perhaps even inspirational, stuff on the web. Today, it's art. I can't seem to embed this video here, so click to find out what our family is talking about this evening.

It's never to early to read?

I came across this today and thought I'd share. We love to read here. But it never occured to me to begin this early.

I'm pretty amazed, but it does make sense. Just as a baby recognizes the shapes of things and learns to relate them to the spoken word, so could a baby recognize shapes of words and relate them to language. The seriously whole method!

He seems to enjoy it.

This is more what my babies looked like when they "read" in those early months.

Es Claro

I came across a Spanish homeschoolers' blog. I figured reading the blog might be a good way for me to dust off my rusty Spanish skills, but in the course of my browsing, I discovered I was reading the Spanish version of many of my friends' thoughts and comments. I hadn't realized homeschooling was taking off in Spain as well, and that their liberals are thinking the same thoughts about the state of capitalism as our liberals. This pretty much sums it up. Even if you don't speak Spanish, I think you'll get the gist. (If your kids speak Spanish and "puto" isn't a word you want them to hear or learn, you may want to send them out of the room.)

My favorite shot is the one of the baby.

OH! You may want to click "pause" on the Playlist (left column, down a bit) unless musical conflicts don't bother you! ;)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Gifts from the Central Coast

A few days ago I wrote to friends and family who know the Central Coast and all its local goodies. I was putting together a thank you package for the family in Nebraska who housed us and gave us pretty much free rein over their ranch. I'd thought of a few things, but knew there'd be some good input from other local experts.

The package, all 30 pounds of it, is ready to go, complete with a photo album for them with some of the best pix I took during our stay. While I didn't include ALL of these things in the box, I thought I'd post the list of Central Coast goodies here in case anyone else is interested in giving the gift of California goodness.

- Cattaneo Bros. jerky or sausage
- SLO Roasted Coffee (aka Central Coast Coffee Roasting Company)
- Joebella Coffee Roasters
- Coastal Peaks Roasters
- Jack Creek Farms jams n' jellies n' other goodies
- McLintock's Beans
- McLintock's Salsa

- Poquito Beans (aka Pinquito Beans)
- Suzy Q Seasoning, glazes, sauces and salsas
- Crill's Saltwater Taffy
- Pepper Plant sauces
- See's Candy
- Hermann's Chocolates
- Mo's BBQ Sauces
- Linn's Jams, jellies and other goodies
- Hayashi jams
- Cal Poly Chocolate
- Taco Works tortilla chips
- Pasolivo Olive Oils
- Avila Valley Barn jams, jellies, sweets and other goodies

The gift box seems like a good idea. They won't get these things at home. Then again, perhaps that's what makes it equally cruel. Still, I wouldn't pout if someone sent me such a care package! :)


Last night the girls and I attended a "End of Election Silly Season Party." It was an entertaining, relaxing, interesting evening with a gathering that included people of varying political preferences. The reaction was mixed when Mr. McCain conceded, and as President-elect Obama took the podium.

There are a lot of contrasts between the parties, but this was one that sort of summed it up the difference in overall attitude. Did anyone else notice, though, how the Republicans boo'd when Mr. McCain mentioned he'd just talked to Barack Obama on the phone? And did you notice that when President-elect Obama mentioned to the Democratic gathering that he'd just spoken with McCain, there was no booing. There was light clapping and cheering. OK, it was LIGHT, but it was POSITIVE.

Motherhood - training for senility?

Yesterday the girls and I enjoyed a craft session with half a dozen moms and a boatload of kids. Now that the girls are older and able to do so much of their own crafting, it's a lot easier than the olden days, you know, WAY back 18 months ago! ;) As the moms tried to have discussions, we were constantly interrupted by children needing a hand here or there (mine included). This kind of thing used to irritate me to no end, but while it can get on my nerves after awhile, I find it takes a lot longer for these little interruptions of NEED to get to me.

As I reviewed my day as I fell asleep last night it occurred to me that there were several conversations started, then abruptly ended, and never revisited as we roamed to room. Is motherhood training for senility, or is it really the beginning?

Here me now, believe me later: Thought came. Thought went.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Lighter Side - Vegetable Instruments

We're big on studying all subjects here at Best Family Academy. Yesterday, I considered Dante's Inferno after reading a certain "Classical Education" experts recommendation that this be introduced in third grade. Let me restate: I CONSIDERED it. I read it. It was, uh, educational and colorful and, well, disturbing. Certainly not for my young children who have yet to be introduced to many of these frightening concepts. ( the idea of the Inferno doesn't frighten you, but it scares the H-E-Double Hockey Sticks out of me if I let my imagination go.)

Today's consideration (and easy approval) went to the Vienna Vegetable Orchestra (here, too), then on to this guy who likes to make vegie instruments at home.

Have I told you how much I like having the Internet as a learning resource? ;)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

I'm going to H-E-Double Hockey Sticks

Our girls love history, so we continue wading forward through the map of time, reading, crafting and exploring. We're moving into the Middle Ages now, St. Augustine to Descartes. But what shall I do when we get to Dante's Inferno? Some who are into classical education say third grade is the time to read The Inferno aloud, but it's a VERY dark poem, wouldn't you say? (Chime in anytime here, Grandpa Doug!)

Somehow I just don't think I can bring myself to do it at this juncture...or perhaps ever.

In my online research, I've found some fun stuff, though. According to the Dante's Inferno Test, I'm going to the First Level:

"You are one of the lucky ones! Because of your virtue and beliefs, you have escaped eternal punishment. You are sent to the First Level of Hell - Limbo!

"Charon ushers you across the river Acheron, and you find yourself upon the brink of grief's abysmal valley. You are in Limbo, a place of sorrow without torment. You encounter a seven-walled castle, and within those walls you find rolling fresh meadows illuminated by the light of reason, whereabout many shades dwell. These are the virtuous pagans, the great philosophers and authors, unbaptised children, and others unfit to enter the kingdom of heaven. You share company with Caesar, Homer, Virgil, Socrates, and Aristotle. There is no punishment here, and the atmosphere is peaceful, yet sad."

So, do we read it aloud or not? Somehow I think this one can wait, but I look forward to my faithful readers chiming in here. Please leave a comment (or send me a private e-mail if you don't want to share here).

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Happy Halloween!

The girls selected and put together their own costumes this year: V is Wall-E (complete with a bug on her shoulder); E is the angel (thanks, Grandma, for the dress; we found the wings at the same shop). They also designed and drew their own pumpkin haunted houses. I used a jigsaw to cut out the big pieces, and they did their own shaving using a vegetable peeler; the old-style where the peeler actually has its own rounded end for scooping out potatoes' eyes.

We trick or treated the neighborhood, and, as per our tradition, handed out special treats to our neighbors and friends. This year: Angel food cake from the angel & DUSTED brownies from Wall-E. :)

We started November with a hike with friends on the relatively new Buchon Trail south of Montana de Oro State Park. This trail has been behind a locked gate for decades, but this year was the deadline for Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant to make that section of the coast accessible to the public. We had to fill out waivers to gain access via the guard shack and there are lots of rules (basically, pedestrians only on very clearly marked trails bordered by electric fence), but it's a beautiful stretch of coastline and a VERY easy walk.

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