Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Today at Thriving Moms, we discussed getting children outdoors. Now for many homeschoolers, this isn't an issue, but I thought I would share these links and other info with everyone because apparently this is a huge concern with many families. Hope it is of use to someone!

I would highly recommend the Salamander Soirée
at Sharon Woods Kreis Dam on Saturday Feb 13th at 2:00 p.m. I didn't realize until we went on this hike that salamanders hang out under rocks and logs right along the trail and that the best time to find them is in February and March.

They have 3 winter programs set up for families, all 3 of which my family has done in the past and enjoyed. Sycamore Park is in Batavia and Pattison in Owensville. Crooked Run, well, that is quite a hike out Rt. 52, probably a good 20 minutes or so past New Richmond, but it is a beautiful place!

Winter Hike
Saturday January 23
10:00 am
Sycamore Park
Beat the winter blues by getting outside and enjoying the crisp winter air. We'll hike and explore all of the trails on the new James L. and Frances Wilson Nature Preserve.

Owl Prowl
Friday January 29
6:00 pm
Crooked Run Nature Preserve
Winter is an excellent time to go "owling." Walk with a naturalist as we try to lure in one of these nocturnal wonders. Meet at the visitor center.

Backyard Sugaring
Saturday February 13
11:00 am
Pattison Park Lodge
Visit the Pattison Park sugarbush to learn all about making maple syrup. Follow the process step by step and see how you can make your very own maple syrup right in your backyard. Please call 513.876.9013 to sign up.

Warren County Parks: http://www.co.warren.oh.us/parks/

Butler County Parks: http://www.butlercountymetroparks.org/ We have attended a few programs here, they did a wonderful Native American Program and my boys participated in a "mud derby" a few summers ago. Keep in mind that MANY of the Butler county parks have primitive bathrooms (pits, no running water) which didn't sit well with my girls!

Dayton Parks: http://www.metroparks.org/ Dayton offers some absolutely AMAZING parks and park programs if you are willing to make the drive! Besides a great park system, Dayton also offers one of the BEST children's museums around, Boonshoft Museum of Discovery. If you happen to be a member of the Cincinnati Museum Center, you get in FREE! Parking is always free. They also usually have wonderful free traveling exhibits, far surpassing what you see at our local museum center http://www.boonshoftmuseum.org/

Fernald Preserve: http://www.lm.doe.gov/Fernald/Visitors_Center/Visitors_Center.pdf admission is free, they offer some interesting programs from time to time.

The Cincinnati Observatory FOTO 2010 Dark Sky Observing Dates (these take place out at Stonelick Lake) http://www.cincinnatiobservatory.org/Resources/2010_Stonelick_Stargazes.pdf

And for those of you that know me, I plan to set up another STREAM STUDY: If anyone is interested in doing a stream study on the Little Miami River (or even a local park with a creek) when the weather is warmer (I am not getting in the river in January, although my kids probably would!), I have all the materials to do a water quality study. The water quality study is extremely hands on and includes macroinvertebrate collection (using a large kick net), water sampling, and running tests on the water including nitrate levels,water turbidity, phosphate levels, dissolved oxygen, ph levels, water temperature and fecal coliform bacteria testing (yes, that means you are testing for poop in the water!). The kit is intended for elementary school aged kids, but all of my children (from ages 2 on up) enjoy doing this!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Family Mardi Gras Dance

ALIVE 4-H Club is hosting a Family Mardi Gras dance on Saturday February 13, 2010 at the Clermont County Fairgrounds 4-H Hall. Please feel free to share this information with your friends. We hope to see you there!

What: ALIVE 4-H Club Family Mardi Gras Dance
When: Saturday February 13, 2010 7 PM to 10 PM
Where: Clermont County Fairgrounds 4-H Hall 1000 Locust St. Owensville, OH 45160
Who: You, your family, your friends
Cost: Pre-order: $2 per person or $8 per family (can be paid for the day of event, but must be pre-ordered!) At the door: $3 per person or $10 per family

Snacks: Light snacks and beverages will be provided by ALIVE 4-H club.

Raffle Tickets: $1 each or 6/$5 or 15/$10 . Raffle items include but are not limited to theme baskets (photography, sports, scrapbooking, movie night, game night, cosmotology, pets), admission tickets to the Cincinnati Museum Center and gift certificate to local and online
businesses. Will will also be drawing door prizes throughout the night.

Beads: It just wouldn't be Mardi Gras without BEADS! Since this is a family friendly event, everyone will be given a strand of beads when they enter the dance. You can send beads to your friends throughout the night for $.25 each. Earn beads by participating in different events throughout the night. Whoever has the most beads at the end of the night will receive a special prize.

Dress: Come in whatever makes you comfortable, casual to dressy!

Need more info or to pre-order tickets: Leave a comment with your email address and I will get back to you!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Penguin Parade

The other day I received an email from the Cincinnati Zoo that said: "Come to the Zoo and watch our penguins parade daily at 10:30 a.m. and 3 p.m.! Now through February 28." OK, I HATE birds, but penguins have always had a special place in my heart, I remember spending hours at the zoo as a kid with my younger brother, just waiting by their tank and HOPING that they would jump in the water (they never seemed to). I couldn't believe that I would have the opportunity to stand just feet from these majestic creatures! I wrangled my friend Nancy into joining me! Below are the pictures I took, not the greatest, but it certainly captured a memory I will hold onto forever! Turned out that I got even closer than I ever thought I would, just inches from them, I could have touched them if I hadn't been so busy taking pictures. Now that I know the route and where to stand, I plan to take the kids down to watch the penguin parade! Luke loves watching the video and looking at my pictures, I can't wait to see how he reacts to seeing them in person!

Here is the youtube video that the zoo made:

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Kalahari....30 days and counting!

We are counting the days until the Unschooler's Winter Waterpark Gathering (UWWG). The gathering is our Christmas present from my mother each year, so much more enjoyable than stepping on small pieces to toys that the kids really don't care about! It is an amazing collection of unschooling families sharing life for a week at North America's largest indoor waterpark located at Kalahari in Sandusky, Ohio. It is always so much fun to meet new friends and reconnect with those we have met at the gathering in years past! This is the 3rd year for the gathering and we can't wait! This year the keynote speaker is John Taylor Gatto, I am looking forward to hearing him speak.

Details about the Gathering:

3rd Annual Unschoolers Winter Waterpark Gathering
Kalahari Indoor Waterpark Resort - Sandusky Ohio
February 8-12, 2010
http://groups. yahoo.com/ group/UWWG/

Our UWWG gatherings are for families who homeschool in a non-traditional, non-schoolly-schoolly child-led, interest-based homeschooling approach. Whether you consider yourself a relaxed, eclectic homeshooler or a radical unschooler, our UWWG Gatherings are for you!

Keynote Opening Speaker John Taylor Gatto along with over a dozen other speakers
Lots of Funshops for kids and adults of ALL ages

Awesome Events:

Winter Carnival w/ games, face painting, stage acts & even a Dunking Tank!
Talent Shows
Movie Nights
SSUDS Gatherings--Secret Society of Unschooling Dads
Grand Ballroom Dance
On-going Kid' s Craft and Playroom
On-going Older Kids Lounge and Gaming Room
Thrilling Waterpark Rides and Coasters, Wavepools, hot-tubs and more...

Super Discounted Room Rates (Large Full Kitchen Suites Average only $21.50 /person per night - With Waterpark passes included!!!)

NO Conference or Registration fees (participation to all UWWG events included with your room rates!)

Check out our updated UWWG website for further info on all the speakers, funshops and events:

For all the latest info and to begin connecting with others, please join our UWWG yahoo group at: http://groups. yahoo.com/ group/UWWG/

You truly won't want to miss this awesome gathering with a thousand plus unschoolers from around the country!

Please help us spread the word! Please forward this to all your homeschooling groups and friends. THANKS!

We (the girls and I) are hosting a Paper Bag Scrapbook Funshop (tentatively scheduled for Thursday afternoon).....here are the details:

Scrapbooks made from paper lunch bags are an inexpensive way to capture your memories. Simple enough that even the youngest crafter can create one, they can be embellished so that even the most advanced crafter finds them challenging. A great part of the paper bag scrapbook is that there are several side pockets that you can load with memorabilia or with mini scrapbook pages. Use them to document an event (such as UWWG), fieldtrip, baby's first year, birthday, dog's/cat's life, or as a mom's/grandma's brag book. All supplies will be provided, just bring your creativity! You will leave with a scrapbook ready to be filled with photos once you return home.
Here is an example of what they look like: http://thescrapbookhouse.wordpress.com/paper-bag-album/

I don't usually take the camera to basketball games, the lighting usually isn't very good or I can't find a decent place to shoot. I was surprised at how good the lighting was at today's game. I snapped a few pictures of Cade. He had 14 points and 9 rebounds in today's win over St. Gertrude.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Homeschool Skate

Orbit Fun Center in Lebanon, OH (http://lebanon.orbitfuncenter.com/) is hosting a homeschool skate the 2nd Friday of every month (November -May) from 1 PM to 3 PM. The price was right ($3 a person including skates), so we decided to check it out!

Despite the fact that I left the directions at home, we managed to find the place. If coming from 1-71 northbound, you get off at exit #28, make a right at the end of the exit ramp and follow Rt 48 until you reach the light at Monroe (the 3rd light I believe). Make a left on Monroe and follow it to the first traffic light (Columbus). Turn left on Columbus and Orbit will be on your left hand side.

Anyhow....we got there and the parking lot hadn't been plowed and the place looked deserted. Grant got out and went and knocked on all the doors and finally someone came and opened them. The heat wasn't working, but skating was ON! Only 5 families showed up so there was absolutely no crowd, the place a clean and the kids had a great time and managed to skate off some of their energy! We plan to give it another try come March (we will miss February because we will be at the Unschoolers Winter Waterpark Gathering at Kalahari the 2nd Friday in February).

Orbit also offers bowling. They have a small 12 lane alley. I am working with the owner to set up homeschool bowling the 4th Friday in February. Hopefully we can work out a reasonable rate. I know the kids would enjoy it, we haven't bowled since Will's birthday last summer!

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Let it Snow!

We have our first significant snowfall! The kids were so excited to awake to more than a dusting of snow on the ground. I think by the time it was all said and done, we probably only ended up with about 5 inches on the ground, but that was PLENTY to make the kids happy! I snapped some pictures early in the day, when the kids went out to play for the first time. And YES, my children DO all own WINTER COATS, but some of them prefer NOT to wear them!

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Great Article over at DPS: 30 Photographic Goals for 2010


I subscribe to DPS daily emails and this little tidbit, at the bottom of today's email bares repeating! I guess it is OK to post it here since I am including the link back to the original article! One of my goals for 2010 is to really build my skill as a photographer. The clock is ticking......only 359 days until 2011!

1. Don’t leave your camera

You never know what opportunities will present themselves to you if your camera is always at your side. It may be a bit of extra hassle, but you will develop a greater sense of observation by being aware of your camera constantly.

2. Shoot a Photo a Day

No greater photographic progress can be seen than by a personal photo a day challenge. Watch your development over a period of 1-3 months and be amazed at how far you’ve come.

3. Smile: Photos in your daily life

Most New Years resolutions include spending more time with friends and family. Take a photographer’s spin on this one, and make it a priority to take casual photos of your friends and family on a day-to-day basis. Capturing memories for others is commendable, but capturing memories for yourself is priceless.

4. Prioritize your goals

Do you want to develop your business practices? Learn a new technique? Save for a lens? Allow your tasks and plans to filter through your long-term goals.

5. Read a photography book a month

Many professional photographers have tremendous resources for up and coming photographers. Check out this list to get you started.

6. Join or Start a photo club

Camaraderie between photo buddies and colleagues is a treasure worth investing time in. Gain invaluable advice, and accountability by joining a local photo club. And if you don’t have a photo club in your town – start one!

7. Subscribe to 5 new industry leader blogs

David Jay. Jasmine Star. Mike Cologne. Dane Sanders. Scott Roberts. Becker. Ron Dawson. The list of industry leaders who enjoy giving back to others is endless. Glean from their wisdom and experience as often as you can!

8. Compete!

Submitting your photos to competitions is one of the greatest ways to get your photos off your hard drive and into the sights of important judges and industry leaders. Remember, it’s not about who you know, but who knows you!

9. Plan a formal shoot a week

If you want to learn more about portraiture, schedule a months’ worth of weekly sessions with models, couples, or seniors. Take a few hours to set up a shoot with as many details as possible, and build your techniques and portfolio.

10. Share online

Facebook, Flikr, and other photo sharing sites are obvious ways to share your photos online, but don’t stop there. Set up private albums for friends and family on picasa albums, or other services that will enable ordering and downloads to the people you love.

11. Learn a new slideshow program

Windows Movie Maker and iMovie may be convenient, but they may not offer you all the tools you need to display your photos with wow! Take some time to learn another program for your slideshows to create the most professional look.

12. Create a photo book a month

What do you do with the photos you take every month? Instead of simply storing them on a hard drive, put them into a simple photo book. Use Blurb, MyPublisher, or Snapfish for easy and professional looks. You will be ecstatic when, at the end of 2010, you have 12 books featuring your work!

13. Build your website

Whether it’s a free template or a friend’s design, take the time to present your work on your own piece of the web. It adds to your credibility, and enables you to easily share your work with others.

14. Challenge yourself with flash lighting

Flash is bad – NOT! Flash may be a bit scary and intimidating, but a little bit of discipline and hard work, and you can become a flash pro. Check out some of these articles to join the ranks of the proud flash photographers.

15. Get a photography or business mentor

Sometimes it takes a little bit of assistance to get where you need to be in creative or business endeavors. Send

16. Inquire at a newspaper

Look for connections in unexpected places. Even if you don’t want to go into photojournalism full time, getting some work at a newspaper will give you some good connections, and provide opportunities you may not have had otherwise.

17. Display your work

Many local cafes and coffee shops are interested in supporting local artists. Make some appointments to sit down and inquire if the owner is willing to display your work on the venue’s walls. You may not be able to display them for sales, but you will generate additional interest and possible clientele.

18. Get published

These days, being published does not simply mean by paper medium. There are hundreds of blogs relevant to the kind of photography you want to create. Do some investigating. Make a list of a dozen blogs and submit your work. Then – be persistent! Be cordial, but follow through.

19. Take monthly photo walks

Do you take photo’s to relax? Sometimes amid the tension of photographing for business, or photographing for development, it’s easy to forget the enjoyment of photography. Return to the joy by scheduling an afternoon or an hour to walk through a new town, trail, or area and find inspiration. Your eyes will be opened in a new way, and you will remember the euphoria of creative discovery.

20. Plan a monthly calendar for next year

What one theme do you love more than anything else? Florals? Landscapes? Smiles? Eyes? Shoes? Find your favorite theme, and plan to shoot one photo a month in that theme, and put them together in a calendar for next year. Friends and family will love the calendar, and it gives you an excuse to display your work on the walls of homes!

21. Follow a regular photo blog-posting schedule

Photo-blogging weekly will develop your skills rapidly. Your readers will force you to be accountable to shooting consistently, and you will be able to see your development by leaps and bounds.

22. Teach a class

You are always one step ahead of someone else. Challenge yourself to host a photography class for a group in your area of influence. A church youth group class on composition. A low income after school program on creativity. A free reach out to professional amateurs on best business practices. You have something to offer, and sharing with others will also help you know your stuff as best you can.

23. Promote your work in an online Gallery

Can’t afford to print and frame dozens of pieces in a photo collection? Don’t have to. Using a hosting provider such as Zenfolio, Shutterfly, or Pictage, you can bring your work into the homes of others with the click of a mouse. Force yourself to use your photos instead of allowing them to sit on a hard drive, never to be used.

24. Give away monthly desktop calendars

There’s no better way to stay in the thoughts and mind of future clients than offering monthly calendar wallpaper for free download. Design something with a photo, and perhaps a special quote or verse. Post on your blog, and forward it on to friends and family. If it’s really cool, they’ll forward it on to others also. Suddenly, strangers will know who you are, and you will be competition on a different level.

25. Reach a hand

Get involved with HelpPortrait, or offer your services to a Boys and Girls club, or other nonprofit. These organizations are infamous for having low budgets for multimedia, and if you can offer your skills for their cause, it will bring your name out, and give you value and worth that you don’t otherwise have.

26. Develop a post processing workflow

Systemizing your work is the best way to a quick development for future work. Even if you are not in the business of photography, deciding on a good workflow for every single shoot will help you save time and energy in post processing.

27. Create a business plan

Want to start a business? Or already have? The best way to get a quick start on competition is to develop a business plan answering questions such as, “where do I want to go?” “What do I want my business to become?” and “who is my ideal client?” Even if you are not sure about starting a photography business, setting a few goals for jobs will help you pay for that new lens.

28. Experiment with new presets

Develop your own editing style by playing with presets. Start here for a good list of presets, and then adapt them to your own style. Your photos will become more cohesive and specific – causing you to have a brand with your images no one else can mimic.

29. Make personal postcards to send friends

Print mail is a rarity these days. Imagine how you would stand out if you sent out monthly postcards to select friends and family? No one can afford an entire Christmas List every month, but you can rotate the list of recipients by month. Your work will get out, you will bless others with your images, and once again, you won’t have images sitting on a hard drive, idle and wasted.

30. Take a workshop

There is no shortage of professional photographers wanting to give back through workshops. You can find workshops of all kinds, levels, and price points. Want to get away for a weekend? Or study at your own pace? You can find a workshop on location or online and continue the transformational journey of your photography in an unforgettable and rewarding way.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Mommy Snacks.net

With a large family and a small budget, I am always looking for ways to save money, particularly ways to save money that don't require a lot of extra work on my part. The owner of this blog came and spoke to the mom's group I am part of a few months ago and I can't believe I haven't shared a link to her page.


I love the way she breaks down the savings by store and by coupon flyer. Makes saving amazingly simple! It also helps that she shops the same stores (Kroger and Meijer) that are local so the savings are close by.

It has really raised my awareness of shopping at both Walgreens and CVS for some substantial savings! When I visited her blog today, it looks like there is a new format, but for those of you visiting for the first time it won't make any difference, might take me a few minutes to get used to it! If you go and visit, make sure you look at the previous posts so you can see the savings for this week at Kroger and the drugstores.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Union Township Fire Station Tour and Our Day Today!

This morning we went and toured a local fire station that is located under a water tower. One of the mom's in our 4-H group set up the tour for our group. Very cool and very educational! It is about 30 minutes from here, but it was so worth the drive to see and tour it! Our tour guide was amazing and the tour took 2 hours, but no one seemed to get bored or wanted to leave. The two little boys had never done a fire station tour (that they remember) and they were both in awe of the HUGE trucks. I took a picture of Luke standing next to the truck tire, it was a good 6" (maybe even a foot) taller than he is!

Another cool thing was that he completely dressed out Emily in all of the fire gear...all 70 lbs of it! It was so funny when he was looking for a volunteer, he kept saying he wanted someone about his size (he was MAYBE 5' 3" with shoes on) so Emily was completely NOT paying attention to him and he says....with BLONDE hair and wearing a PURPLE jacket, she was shocked that he had picked her. Yeah, the same size as him, in his DREAMS....Emily is 5' 8". I couldn't believe EVERYTHING that a firefighter has to put on to go into a burning building. I have such respect and awe for firefighters, to put yourself in harms way to save others. It takes a very special person!

Here is a link http://www.union-township.oh.us/fire/stations.html#51 not that it is that great of a picture. The building/water tower is 140 ft tall and 78 ft in diameter. The first 4 floors are the fire station (1 and 2), living quarters/offices (3) and a public tv station (4)...those are the levels with windows, above that sits the 2 million gallons of water! It was a little freaky to realize that 2 million gallons of water (at 8 lb a gallon) was overtop of us the entire time. I think the funniest thing he told us what that when they finished the building, there wasn't enough water pressure on the 4th floor for the toilets to flush! So we learned water towers AREN'T for water pressure, they are for water quantity!

The van wouldn't start after we made a quick stop at Office Max on the way home. Had to wait for a friend to come and jump the battery for me. Luckily it was in the lowers 20s so we didn't get too cold waiting the 45 minutes for her to get there. We ran into the $ Store to get snacks to munch on while we waited and the kids entertained themselves by drawing pictures, I was surprised they did as well as they did! We replaced the battery about 4 years ago, but I guess with it being a V-8 it drains/draws a lot of juice...I have no idea, I just hope it is only the battery and not the alternator or something else.

This afternoon, Hannah has a job interview, she has to go back tomorrow for another interview and to do some personality test. She actually got the interview from a customer when she was working at the mall at Santa Express, the asst. manager of the place was in line with his kids and really liked Hannah and her personality so he asked her to come and interview with his manager. Jacob has a basketball game tonight, Jay and Brett took him. Emily is at dance. It is snowing and the roads are getting icy! I hate that! I slide halfway down the hill on Butterworth, praying that there was nothing coming and thanking that Lord that if it was my time to go that it was only me in the van and not the kids.

Chili is on the stove and we will be having 3-ways and coneys for dinner once the troops have all returned home!

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Happy 2010!

A few weeks behind schedule, but the family picture is done! Can't say that I really like it, but everyone is in it and no one is screaming! I hate that they use those steps to make you look taller, Emily has a good 2 inches on me! So from left to right, front row: Grant, William, Luke and Brett. Middle row: Cade, Jacob and Sophia. Back row: Hannah, Jay, Laura and Emily.