Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Book Review: Gathering the Threads



I was so excited to see a brand new book by Cindy Woodsmall available, when I was choosing books to review!  I always love a great Amish romance, and the fact that it's by Cindy Woodsmall just made my day!

This is the third book in the "Amish of Summer Grove" series and definitely delivers a phenomenal story line. Arianna Brenneman returns to her Old Order Amish family, that raised her after several months of staying with her biological family.  After the shock of finding out that she was switched at birth with Skylar Nash, both are forced to swap places for a year, and get to know their biological families. 

After only three months, Arianna has been able to convince her biological Dad that she needs to return to the family and lifestyle that she can relate to.  But, after gaining knowledge from the English world, can Arianna find her place back with her family?  Will her Amish family accept her new take on life, or will they try to force their wishes on her?  Will the community be able to accept her and allow her to have her place in the community?

Meanwhile, Skylar is finally clean and starting to get her life back in order in her new Amish surroundings.  Will Arianna's return threatens her self discovery and her place in her new family?  Can Skylar keep her sobriety while still establishing her place in a new community?

I loved how this book brought together the modern English and the Old Order English ways of life.  It was a true melding of both ways, and addressed some of the issues that these two worlds have when the mesh together.  Having lived near an Amish community, the struggles to stay apart from the world, and yet meeting the needs of the simple life are complicated, and this story addresses many of those issues.  Both Arianna and Skylar are able to find their way, and yet hold to what they were raised with.

Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing has given me this book in exchange for a free copy of this book.  That being said, I formed all opinions for myself.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

New Piano Lesson Format


I've been wanting to add a Technology/Theory Lab to my piano lessons for awhile now.  Instead of coming for a 30 minute private lesson, students would come for an hour session back-to-back with another student.  While pondering how to do all of this, I ran across a few other piano teachers discussing a 20/20/20 Rotating format that really caught my interest.  Instead of two students an hour, three students come for the one hour slot and rotate between three different 20 minute stations.

This seemed like a great fit for my students, so I decided to launch this with my studio this summer.   I was personally worried about my students working for 30 minutes independently when the other student had a private lesson.  With the 20 minute sessions, though, most of my students are able to stay on task for 20 minutes by themselves.  Some of my youngest students need a little more direction during the individual time, but most are actually thriving in this type of lesson.

Here's what I'm doing for my lessons:

  1. 20 minutes private lesson with me on the piano.
  2. 20 minutes piano technology on my Electronic Piano with Piano Maestro.  (I sometimes have to plug kids into another app, as my internet service runs out after so many students in a day)
  3. 20 minutes of piano theory time at a small folding table.  This is the part that takes me some time to put together, and I'm going to share in a later posting what I've been doing for this 20 minutes.
Overall, my students and I are loving this format!  This last year, I've really struggled fitting theory into lessons.  I teach theory alongside their pieces, but I just hadn't found my groove for adding a formal assignments into my lessons, and still keep it fun.  I personally, don't like all the chaos of having 5 different books to work out of.   With this new 20 minute rotation of theory games and worksheets, my students can't wait for theory!!  When I ask them what their favorite part is, they say theory!   

The piano technology session has parents really excited, because their kids want to work on Piano Maestro and try to advance in lessons.  I think students may lose interest in this at some point, but I love that it is reinforcing their practice sessions.  

Overall, as a teacher, I feel like I'm able to offer much more rounded lessons for my students.  I have had a couple of kids comment that I like the new sessions, so I don't have to teach so much, but I have quickly refuted that with an explanation about how much time I put into that theory time before they get there and that I am teaching the entire hour.  

I scheduled 19 students this summer for my 20/20/20 Rotating Lessons.   I didn't think I was going to have so many students, and had scheduled everyone on the same day!  I figured I'd make it through for my 6 summer lessons with barely my sanity intact, but I actually haven't felt as stressed about it as I thought!  I teach all 19 students from 10am-6:30pm with two half hour breaks for lunch and dinner. I'm tired, but not beyond stressed, like I was sometimes when I had 30 minute private lessons only.  I think this can be attributed to the fact that I everything is moving so fast that I don't have time to feel frustration with any one station, and neither do my students.

I will be continuing on with this format in the fall, for sure!  For Preschool students I am continuing on in 30 minute private sessions, as they need help doing the other parts, but I will be supplementing their lessons with both the technology and the theory activities during their lessons. Stay tuned for more information about how I am running my 20/20/20 sessions.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Road to Paradise - Book Review


I'm on a role with reading books this year!  I set a goal to read 50 books this year and this book makes my 31st this year so far.  I might be able to reach my goal!  I've been tracking my goal and stats on Goodreads.  It's fun to see how many books I've read, on there.  I've even had some of the authors comment on my reviews!

My own love of the National Parks and as an avid visitor with our vintage Airstream, I intrigued by "The Road to Paradise, (Shadows of the Wilderness #1)  To my joy, this book did not disappoint my high expectations of being able to learn more about Mt. Rainier, and come to appreciate it's splendor as well!

In 1927, Margaret (Margie) Lane, a wealthy senator's daughter, escapes to Mt. Rainier, much to her mother's disapproval to study God's creation and learn from a real Park Ranger.  Ford Brayden, the ranger charged with making sure that Margie's stay is both enjoyable and profitable for the National Forest Service, is more interested in the mountain life than in taking care of a pampered debutante.  Will Margie stick out her new job as a "naturalist" for the park or will she run home to her glamorous life?  Can Ford keep her safe, and keep his own guard up from other people as he has for the last two years, following the untimely death of his father?

This story was a true page turner for me.   I finished the book in less than 24 hours, because I just had to find out how the story would unfold.  The descriptions of the mountains, the flora, the beauty from Margie's perspective gave me a feeling of sitting right there in the meadows and mountains with Margie!  I can't wait for my next visit to Mt. Rainier National Park to enjoy it's beauty from a new perspective!

I did receive a copy of this book from Multnomah Publishers in exchange for this review.  All opinions are my own, however!

Friday, June 9, 2017

Peace in the Valley - Book Review


Trey Walker Stafford, a country music star takes a break from his exciting and star struck music life to return home to face his past.  Although he struggles with his relationship with his rich uncle Sam Stafford, Trey knows he owes his life to Sam for rescuing him as an young orphan after his parents passed away.

Cowboy and rancher, Sam Stafford didn't approve of Trey's country music career when he left the family home, the Double S Ranch to pursue his dreams as a singer. This rift didn't stop Trey from striking out on his own to follow his passion, but left the two at odds for years.  After achieving country music fame and fortune, Trey is now returning to the home ranch, to save Sam's life and return the favor.  As the only match for a liver transplant for Sam, Trey is needs to face his past and give his liver for the man he owes his life too.

While waiting for the transplant to take place, Sam assigns Trey to make amends for the Stafford family to a neighboring single mother, Lucy Carlton by helping put her ranch in order.  Lucy, on the other hand trusts no one and is used to life being difficult, so doesn't trust the help that is suddenly being rained on her by the legendary Sam Stafford and family. Trey will gladly do anything that Sam asks, but will Lucy set her pride aside and trust Stafford family's help as genuine?  Will Trey Stafford, forgive his hurts from his past and find the peace he's seeking?

"Peace in the Valley" is the third book in the Double S. Ranch Series by Ruth Logan Herne.  Although the story line sounds cliché, from start to finish, this book was well written and kept me engaged.  I had a hard time putting this book down, because I wanted to find out how it turned out.  I've not read the first two books in this series, but I didn't feel like I couldn't understand the plot.  In fact, "Peace in the Valley" has definitely convinced me that I need to read the rest of the series!  I highly recommend this Christian Fiction book as an engoyable read!

Disclosure:  I received this book from WaterBrook Multnomah in exchange for this review.  I make a very small amount of compensation from Amazon when items are purchased from my links.  Thank you for supporting my little reading habit!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

DIY Pig Feeder

 
This is our second year of raising pigs for the fair.  We've had some bumps along the way, one of them was our homemade feeder of last year.  I tend to have ideas, and then Mr. Right gets the pleasure of trying to execute my ideas.  Most of the time it works out, but last year, our feeder was a fail.
 
This year, we need a feeder that can go a long period of time, since our pigs are not on our property where we live.  Our neighbor made a complaint about the smell of the pigs last year to our landlord, so the landlord told us no more pigs. (Keep in mind, there are only 2 pigs on 6 acres and they are only here for 5 months and then go to the 4-H fair and livestock auction) Thankfully, another neighbor graciously allowed us to pen up a corner of her horse pen, to put our pigs in. 
 
This year, I wanted to be sure that Mr. Right did a quality version of the pig feeder that would make it through the entire five months, and hopefully into the next few years!  We agreed on using a 50 gallon barrel in some way, shape or form.
 
 
We bought this one at North 40 for $35. Then of course, we both combed the internet to find a version of a feeder that we both thought would work. We finally decided on this version from  a YouTube video.
He makes this from scraps and things found around his homestead, but then uses some pretty expensive equipment to make it - which makes me smile! But we loved this idea and ran with it!
 
Here's what we gathered:
  • 50 Gallon Food Grade Barrel
  • Plywood for bottom and for flaps over feed - free from last year's sheep feeders
  • 6 - 2x4's
  • 2x10x10
  • 4 Hinges
  • Tin roofing - recycled
  • Wood screws
  • Skill saw
  • Electric screw driver
We purchased everything except the plywood and tin roof.  It cost about $70 total for our costs.  We live in a remote, mountain town, with really high prices, so this could've all been done for a lot less if you could price out your wood.
 
Here's the base that Mr. Right build.  The idea is that you cut holes in the bottom of the barrel on either side, so the feed uses gravity to slide down into the boxes on the right and left of this base.  We put a shorter board across the front of the boxes (far right and left), so the lids would be slanted downwards and any rain will slide off.  The pigs are able to lift the lids with their snouts to stick their noses in. 
 
The four posts in this picture sticking up are for stability for the barrel, to keep it from falling over. 
Here's the lids with the hinges.  Make sure your lids hang over the edge, so the pigs have a lip to stick their snouts under.
Mr. Right then built a structure around the corners for the roof to attach.  This is a simple rectangle with one side higher for the roof to pitch off.  The higher side is for on the fence side, so we can fill it with feed without going thru the pig pen.  Mr. Right built it high enough to lift the barrel out with the roof on with ease. (really technical way of building here!)
Here's a look at the lid of the barrel.  Mr. Right cut a rectangle between the two holes.  He used some nuts and bolts to make a nob on it so it would be easy to lift.  This isn't air tight, but at least it keeps the feed safe from birds and such.
Here's the tin roof added.  We have panels of old ones of these on our property, so we used one.  It had to be cut in half to fit side by side and still have the water run the correct direction.
Here's our happy pigs with the feeder in their pen!  Just a note, this barrel can hold about six 50 pound bags of feed in it, which is far too big for just 2 pigs! We could really be in the pig business with this feeder.  We placed the feeder on a pallet so that it was up off the ground. Pig pens get pretty moist and messy, so we want this off the ground.
 
I'd love to hear if you had an opportunity to make one of these, or even what you do for your own DIY pig feeders!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Summer Piano Lessons

Summer piano (or any instrument) lessons are important.  I have a pretty strong opinion on this and spend the month of May urging my piano student parents that they should try to continue their child's lessons over the summer.  Here are my reasons:
  1. Summer is 1/4th of the year!  That's a lot of the year to miss.
  2. Lessons are a huge investment, why lose the momentum?
  3. Students digress, a lot!  Most students will take at least 3 months to return to where they left off in the spring - so now, you've really lost 6 months or 1/2 of the year!
  4. Because of number 3, you don't save money by taking the lessons off.  You will pay for 9 months and only get 6 months of progress.
  5. Often, children that take the summer off, lose their enthusiasm in the fall, and struggle to stay with it.  In my experience, these students don't come back, or they try and get frustrated with their backward movement, and end up quitting in the middle of the semester.
  6. In my studio, students who stay the summer, get first pick in the fall for lessons time slots!
I'm sure there are a lot of other reasons to continue piano lessons in the summer, but these are my top 6!  My summer schedule is much lighter and I try to make it more fun!  We do 3 lessons in June, 3 in July and then a Piano Party in August.  I add a lots of games and a piano lab for the summer.During those 6 lessons, this summer, I'm doing an Ice Cream theme for an incentive this summer.
 
I printed off the Ice Cream Cones and Scoops from the Summer Ice Cream Challenge.  I was pretty excited to find this resource for free!  My plan is to keep it simple - for each piece that my students check off to be "recital ready", they get a scoop of ice cream to add to their cone. 
 
Unlike Layton Music's suggestion to laminate the ice cream cones, I decided that we are only doing this for 6 weeks, and then I can just give each of my students their long ice cream cone to keep.  I plan to write all their pieces on the scoops as the pass, so they have a record of all they learned this summer.
 
I've offered a special prize to the student who gets the most scoops in the 6 weeks of summer lessons!  We have a snow cone stand in town, so I'm going to see if I can get a certificate from them, or an Icee certificate from the local gas station.
 
In addition to the most scoops, I'm ordering this set of Erasers to give out to all my students for participating:
 
 


I will hand out both at my Summer Piano Pop Party - where we will play lots of piano and music games and of course, eat ice cream sundaes! 

That's it!  Nothing more complicated.  Basically, if kids want to compete for the most scoops of ice cream, they will have to have meaningful practice throughout the week to pass their pieces!  I have quite a few students who are very competitive, so they will just thrive on this incentive.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Ripples Along the Shore - Book Review

 
I had the pleasure of reading this third book in "The Quilted Heart" series by Mona Hodgson.  Generally, I don't care for reading books in a series without first reading the books before (what can I say, I like things in order!), but this book captivated me right from the start!  I definitely want to catch up and read the first two, but I was hooked right from the first few paragraphs!
 
"Ripples Along the Shore" was a finely knit fictional novel about not only the sorrow and recovery of just one Civil War widow, Caroline  Milburn, but of a whole community of Americans, set on rebuilding their lives following the divide of a country in war.  Destined to return to Saint Charles, Missouri after her spinster aunt passes away, to stay with her sister and bitter brother-in-law and family, Caroline struggles with the grief she feels with the loss of her husband to the war.
 
Will she find peace and purpose in what she should do now that she doesn't have a husband?  After hearing of a wagon train to the West, she feels sure that God is calling her there, to begin anew.  She finds the wagon master, Garrett Cowlishaw to be the one thing that stands in her way of a new beginning for herself.  Her faith in God's ability to care for all matters is challenged, when her fellow quilting circle friends find comfort in the quote: "Life's changing seasons are as persistent as the ripples along the shore."
 
This book has me on the edge of my seat for the next in the series, and I'm sure that Mona Hodgson will deliver as Caroline's new unfolds as she travels west in the next series: Hearts Seeking Home.  I'm adding this to my list of must reads, for sure!  
 


Disclosure:  I received this book from WaterBrook Multnomah in exchange for this review.  I make a very small amount of compensation from Amazon when items are purchased from my links.  Thank you for supporting my little reading habit!