Ninja Cat Book Review


In this installment of The Magic Tree House, Jack and Annie go to Japan in search of the mysterious M. They find themselves in the cave of a ninja master. In order to return home to Pennsylvania, the two must reach their treehouse without being caught by the evil samurai. Ninja Cat, a.k.a. Nugget, gives Night of the Ninjas 4 out of 5 stars. “If you like ninjas, and I do, then read this book.” -Ninja Cat

IAHE convention

I attended the Indiana Association for Home Educators convention over the weekend. I heard from amazing speakers like Peter Heck, Israel Wayne and Heidi St. John. What an encouraging event! If you have the opportunity to attend a homeschool convention in your area, I highly recommend it. Unless you are one who says, “I’ll never homeschool.” I promise that if you go you’ll end up being so encouraged and convinced that you can homeschool that you’ll actually want to do it. And we wouldn’t want that…would we? ;)


Do you ever? put garlic in your pasta water?

Do you ever put garlic in with your cooking pasta? When we switched to gluten free brown rice pasta, the taste was just too different from the usual stuff. So, I thought to try putting a smashed garlic clove, or two, in the water while the pasta cooks. It tastes so much better this way! And we can definitely tell when I have forgotten.


Paleo Cookie Base

This recipe began as the Giant Vanilla Bean Chocolate Chunk Cookie by paleOMG.  Why do I like this recipe?  Minus the chocolate chips, it’s a great base for any cookie.  I used chunky peanut butter to make my husband some peanut butter cookies.  I added the chocolate chips for me and Nugget.  If you use the sunflower seed butter, you could add dried fruit and maybe coconut shavings.  The possibilities are only limited by your taste.  Juli’s original recipe calls for a vanilla bean.  I don’t keep those around and they are expensive.  So, I used 2 tsp organic vanilla extract instead of the one tsp + one scraped vanilla bean that Juli uses.  I also make my cookies smaller (’cause then there are more of them…) so I adjusted the cooking time.  I use the Enjoy Life dark chocolate chips instead of the chocolate chunks.  Those are the changes, I hope you enjoy ‘em.

If you’ve never been to paleOMG, I highly recommend it.  Great, yummy, realistic recipes for paleo people who want a stinkin’ treat once in awhile.

Paleo Cookie Base (grain free, dairy free, soy free; optional nut-free)

(originally began as Giant Vanilla Bean Chocolate Chunk Cookies,


  • 1 cup sunflower seed butter or nut butter i.e. almond or cashew butter (use peanut butter, crunchy or smooth, for plain PB cookies)
  • ⅓ cup raw honey
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of salt


  • ½-1 cup Enjoy Life dark chocolate chips
  • Ideas for additions for nut-free cookies:  dried cranberries, white chocolate chips, extra cinnamon, pumpkin pie seasoning


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  4. Use a small cookie scoop to scoop out a dollop of cookie mix and drop onto baking sheet. Space cookies 2 inches apart, they will spread.
  5. Bake for 13-15 minutes, be careful not to overcook these.
  6. Let cool 1-2 minutes on cookie sheet then transfer to wire cooling rack.  Store in an airtight container.

Curriculum Links

My little Nugget just turned six last month and is currently in kindergarten at his co-op.  The literacy curriculum his co-op teacher chose is Sonlight.  I am not a big fan of this curriculum.  Nugget (and I) found this program to be, well, boring.  That and Nugget’s skill level ended up being far enough beyond the Sonlight Kindergarten level that we decided to use a different literacy program at home.  This didn’t cause any difficulties at co-op since they never actually used the curriculum in class.  For our literacy work (when I talk about literacy, I am referring to phonics and reading) we have chosen Explode the Code.  Last year, we used the primers (Kindergarten level) for this series and Nugget thrived.  They are Get Ready for the Code, Get Set for the Code and Go for the Code.  I used them because the pages are quite brief and, since he was pre-K, I was really just trying to gauge his capabilities.  Plus, they are much less expensive than most other curricula.  I would start Nugget on a lesson and let him work until he wanted to be finished.  We usually completed a letter a week.  The primers only cover lowercase consonants.  They do incorporate some beginning handwriting skills.  This year, we have been using Explode the Code, which covers short vowel sounds and some sight words.  The lessons in this book are definitely more challenging compared to the primers, but they are still easy enough to build confidence.  I can easily see where Nugget struggles and repeat a lesson or tailor the next one accordingly.  I purchased Book 1 as well as the Teacher’s Guide.  The teacher’s guide offers several ideas for use with teaching a group, but all of the activities can be used with a single student.   Each day that we do phonics at home, we do 2 or 3 of the activities from the teacher’s guide and then Nugget does about half of the student pages for that week’s lesson.  Each lesson includes 9 or so student pages.  These pages make up the actual Explode the Code book.  As we neared the end of the book, Nugget wanted to do the student pages all on his own.  He said that if he got right into them without me going over the directions, then he could finish faster.  ;)    The Code books are great for gauging your child’s ability, but also if you have a child with a short attention span.  The pages vary from handwriting-heavy to check-the-right-box.  I also think this is a terrific series for boys.  The doodle-style illustrations are silly and the sentences used for reading comprehension in the student pages describe barely possible scenarios.  They are definitely made to be funny.


    Explode the Code Book 1 | Main photo (Cover)           Go for the Code C | Main photo (Cover)

Update: A Stranger in the Woods

Nugget’s photographic fantasy, Birds in My Backyard (via Snapfish), arrived yesterday amidst another snowfall.  Here are some peeks inside:

A photo frame used in the editing option of Nugget's v-tech camera helped make a nice cover for the book.

A photo frame used in the editing option of Nugget’s v-tech camera helped make a nice cover for the book.

Most of the pages were full page photographs.  Text was printed over the photo or on a separate page.

Most of the pages were full page photographs. Text was printed over the photo or on a separate page.

A two-page spread featuring cardinals.

A two-page spread featuring cardinals.

I would love to know if you have ever tried something like this.  Nugget was so excited to see his work in print and is already planning his next book.  :)  I may have a bonafide author in the family someday.

Original post, here.

A Stranger in the Woods

Update:  the book has arrived!  See it here.

I found a great V-tech camera as my Christmas gift to Nugget this year and he uses it quite often.  So, when I came across the idea of having a child create his/her own photographic fantasy, a la A Stranger in the Woods, I just had to give it a whirl. In a photographic fantasy, the author creates a story around the subject matter of real life photographs.  We first read the book by Carl R. Sams II and Jean Stoick.  Like any book, we read it a few times.  ;)  Next, we made bird feeders out of empty toilet paper tubes, peanut butter and a variety of seeds & nuts.  We placed them in a tree just outside the living room window so we could get nice photographs.  The Hubs also put out a bird feeder cake of woodpecker food and he filled up the bird feeder.  Well, we’ve had the cakes and feeder filled a couple of times this winter and didn’t get much response.  So, I am sure it was the scent of peanut butter from our diy feeders that attracted the birds to our yard.  We had so many!  Woodpeckers!  Blue Jays!  Cardinals!  And a bird we did not recognize so, we hopped on the computer to do some research and were able to identify it as a dark-eyed junco.  So fun!

dark-eyed junco

dark-eyed junco

Dig in!

Dig in!

We took pictures each time a new bird came to feed and captured the diy feeders in various stages of use.  Then, I took advantage of one of those Snapfish coupons that arrive daily to my inbox.  Nugget and I used our photographs in a Snapfish 4×6 album to create his own book!  We are still waiting for it to arrive, the suspense is killing us!  :)  When it gets here, I’ll be sure to update this post.  For now, here are some other ideas to do after you read A Stranger in the Woods.

Even if you don't have a 'snowy day,' you can still make snowmen!

Even if you don’t have a ‘snowy day,’ you can still make snowmen!

A Stranger in the Woods (own a copy)

Bird Feeders (empty toilet paper tubes ;) )

Painting with cups

Printables  The printables here are FREE!  The color-by-number snowman comes from her winter pack.  There are printabes for phonics, handwriting, patterns, puzzles, flash cards, and coloring sheets.  Anything featuring a snowman would work for this unit!  If you’ve never visited, you should.  She makes tons of printables and they are FREE.