Monthly Archives: June 2013

The Fault in Our Stars: Review

The Fault in Our StarsThe Fault in Our Stars by John Green
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

How do you deal with death when you have barely begun to live? That is the question that John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars tackles as readers experience a small glimpse into the life a teenage cancer patient. The book is the story of a girl battling terminal cancer and her daily struggles and joys. Readers grow fond of Hazel Grace as she meets her true love (another teenage cancer patient) and attempts to come to terms with death and the lives of those left behind.

While some may narrowly view this work as a Young Adult “cancer kid” book, I believe it offers something for older readers as well. The themes of life (and a life well lived) as well as death (its impact on us as well as our loved ones) are issues that are not unique to “cancer kids”. They are the universal issue of being human. How do we make peace with the universe? How do we define ourselves in our space in the universe? Addressing these issues from the POV of a teenage girl with cancer makes the reader pay more attention and offers a more intense emotion connection (both b/c of the “unfairness” of a short life and the emotional vibrancy of the teenage years and first love). Still, as I read (or rather listened) to The Fault in Our Stars I found myself relating Hazel Grace and caring about where her journey would end.

Hazel Grace’s voice is masterfully written by Green. But he also crafts fully realistic character’s with their own emotional challenges to surround her: Her friend Isaac– who looses his sight but keeps his life: Her mother– who “think” is defined by the cancer and her role as caregiver; and of course, Augustus–the boyfriend who is dealing with his own cancer issues.

Green weaves these characters together around the center, Hazel, without making it all about Hazel. He also uses literature and symbolism and dialog that are very engaging.

I would recommend this to old and young alike.

PS. As a mom, I am not s big fan of teenage sex in books for teens. But, I get it in this case.

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Lecture Review: The Modern Scholar–Celts and Germans

The Modern Scholar: Celts and Germans: The Enduring Heritage of the European NorthlandsThe Modern Scholar: Celts and Germans: The Enduring Heritage of the European Northlands by Timothy B. Shutt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is another lecture in the modern scholar series. I enjoyed Professor Shutt’s previous lectures so I decided to give this one a try.

He mainly uses literary texts to explore the cultures and as such doesn’t address the Druids very much. (The Druids transmitted all their information orally and so much of it is lost.) He discusses many of the Norse texts such as the Prose Edda or the Saga of the Volsungs. Shutt then moves on to a discussion of Beowulf and finally the troubadour culture of southern France.

I enjoyed it and would recommend it to others. Plus it’s only 4 disks so its a quick listen.

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Dan Brown’s Inferno: A Review

Inferno (Robert Langdon, #4)Inferno by Dan Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In Inferno we are treated to the latest installment of the Robert Langdon series. Langdon finds himself in an Italian hospital with what he thinks is a gun shoot wound and missing memories of the last few days. Over the next several hundred pages we follow Langdon and his female sidesick, Siena Brooks, on whirlwind adventure featuring the woks of Dante’s Inferno. The two are set out to figure out just what Langdon was doing in Italy and start tracking a life-altering plague.

In the “PULP FiCTION” category I give this book four stars! But, it is certainly not a book that is going to stand the test of time.

I think this my favorite of Dan Brown’s books. After all it has so many of my favorite things, Venice, Constantinople, literature and plagues, what could be better? (Maybe a vamp or two, but let’s not get CRAZY!)

All and all, it was typical Dan Brown lots of running around Europe with twists and turns–nothing is as it seems. You know the drill. I must say the twists and turns got to be a little much me around chapter 80. But, by that time I was committed to finishing it.

One thing, wouldn’t Langdon get sick of this? Or at some point wonder why its always him? Or is he just too jaded to care any more. How many top secret adventures can a mild manner professor really have???

I also have to admit I have never read Dante and now I think I really must! So thats going to be a project in and of itself.

Anyway, its a good summer read, so go for it.

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Mom Camp Day 11: Pooh Part Two

We started out with a kinda cool cloud art project.  It is at the Techy Teacher if you want to give it a go on your own!


You take equal parts shaving cream and glue, mix it up and start painting your clouds.

Cinco and The Princess LOVE IT!  When the pictures finally dried (and mind you, this takes a little while) they had a lovely texture–somewhere b/t silky and velvety.  I couldn’t stop feeling the pictures.

But, beware it gets messy fast especially with a four-year old and a seven-year old.  Cinco even got it on his nose! They got the cloud mix all over their hands and started making hand prints instead of clouds.  Cute and why not, right?  The mix washes off easily so its really no big deal.

I wanted them to add some food coloring to the mix to start making rain clouds or a sunset, but they were having too much fun.  Still, I think you could add some food coloring in yellow and red to made different shades and see if you could create a sunset picture!

Clouds by The Princess

Clouds by The Princess

Clouds by Cinco

Clouds by Cinco








So next it was on to some weird science!  On the net, I found a number of blogs suggesting you nuke Ivory soap.  Really?  Nuke it? I was a bit worried that this was going to set my microwave on fire–and we just bought a bought a new one less than four months go–.  You can see why I was a tad nervous, right?  But, I am sucker for a Mom Camp project and it fit so nicely with the cloud theme and if it worked it promised to be really cool.  I got out a paper plate and we did it!

IMG_1997It was really cool.  All of a sudden the Ivory soap started growing and morphing into this thing that really truly looked like a cloud.  Even The Captain was impressed– AND THAT TAKES ALOT.  He even suggested the kids smoosh up the soap in a glob and try it a second time.  It did work the second time and even a third with the same bar of soap.  Although, the subsequent attempts were less impressive.

I assume it works with Ivory soap because of the same reason it floats– the soap has air in it!  In the microwave the air heats up and expands and then pushes the soap apart.  Clumping it back together doesn’t really do anything to make it happen again.  It is simply expanding any air left in the soap that was not freed during the first or second attempts to nuke the soap. Or at least, that’s what my middle school science knowledge is telling me.  I could be 100% wrong and I welcome ANYONE to correct me.

Next it was on to this cute Winnie-the-pooh activity pack from our friends at Disney Family!  The pack was actually a good combination of activities for Cinco and The Princess.  The Princess did the dot-to-dot beehive and color page.  Cinco worked on the word search and crossword puzzle.  Both worked together on the Pooh Mad Libs (with a little help from mom).

Then off for swimming lessons and some play time at the pool.


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Mom Camp Day 10: The Wonderful World of Winnie the Pooh

Keeping up with the Mom Camp blog, Cinco and The Princess, as well as the house work has been a challenge this summer! It turns out that I have over planed activities for some of the Mom Camp theme days, so we may have some spill over onto other days. Mom Camp Day 10 was dedicated to non-other than the adorable characters create by A.A. Milne in his Winnie the Pooh books. The Princess is a huge Winnie fan and listens to the stories all the time so she requested a Mom Camp Day for the little bear and his pals.

Hundred Acre Wood

Hundred Acre Wood (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I found a map of the Hundred Acre Woods online and printed out a copy. We pretended each room in the house was a different place on the map and did an activity in the room.

  • Pooh Bear’s House was the kitchen and we started by baking multigrain biscuits and smothering them with honey.
  • Kanga’s House was the family island where we keep the computer. We did some online coloring pages and mazes.
  • The Bee Tree became our kitchen table and we made our own bee trees out of paper towel rolls. We cut out a small oval in IMG_1984each ‘tree’ and covered the rolls in green paper leaves. We also added a few green sparkle leaves for a little flair.

IMG_1983A little more flair was added when we made lady bugs with google eyes and pasted them to the tree as well.

IMG_1981Of course, what would a bee tree be without a bee? We also created our own bees out of pipe cleaners and added google eyes to the bees. We mounted the bees on pipe cleans and hung them from the trees. The kids then made the kids buzz in and out of the tree’s whole. We added a cut out and colored Winnie-the-Pooh complete with a red balloon. Pooh was mounted on a pipe cleaner as well and they kids chased him with the bee.

  • Owl’s House was the library and we completed a Winnie-the-Pooh puzzle I purchased at the Dollar Store.
  • Where the Woozle Wasn’t  was a dance party around the family island.  We played Winnie-the-pooh music and went round and round in a dancing/marching circle to look for a Woozle.
  • Robin’s House  was my bedroom. We cuddled up and read some stories.
  • Rabbit’s House was back in the kitchen for a little lunch of carrots and peanut butter and honey sandwiches on whole wheat.
  • Piglet’s House 
    was back in the family room where we watched a movie.

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Mom Camp Day 9: Monster Mayhem

We are finally done with the fairies and the summer solstice. It was certain,y fun, but I am really ready for a new theme today. In honor of Monster’s University it is Monster Day!

IMG_1976We made monster puppets out of Popsicle sticks and some online print outs. Then the kids did a little play/variety show with the monster puppets–there was a lot of crazy monster singing.

Next up, we made play dough monster people (not the most exotic thing in the world but it kept the kiddos occupied).

We also did the monster drawing game provided at Basically, you roll the dice. The number you roll indicates the monster body part you draw. After four roles you have a creepy monster drawing. Cinco enjoyed and made several monsters. Then he made a backdrop for them and cut out the monsters and pasted them on it. Very creative.IMG_1977

There are a number of good free monster themed worksheets. We used The Not So Scary Monster Pack. It is free at Teacher’s Notebook, but you do have to register and create a password.


Alien headbands inspired by  Cinco decided he did not want to use the google eyes, so he crafted his own out of glitter paper.  Hey, why not?

Off to the movies to see Monsters University–which entertained both kids and was actually sorts cute.  It is a prequel to Monsters, Inc. It tells the story of how Sullivan and Mike met in college.  The Monsters University website is also very clever.

Then it was books, books, books!

Of course we have been reading this book for years! But it seemed like a nice choice for Monster Day.

Cinco read this for his reading book of the day and it was okay, but a little too simple for him.

This one was not so great. The pictures did not really match the layout of the equations and that made it difficult for young readers to follow. I wouldn’t recommend this one to others.

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Mom Camp Day 7: Summer Solstice Continues…

Mom Camp is only 7 days in and the kids have turned in to demanding little stinkers.  Before I could even grab a cup coffee this morning, Cinco was asking what craft, project or experiment was next.  Oh heaven kids, give mamma a chance to at least get the sleep out of her eyes.  I will say in Cinco’s defense, he let me sleep until 7am…. Fairies, Sun and Shakespeare keep rolling. We added the finishing touches to the fairy house in preparation for tomorrow night when we plan to catch the fairies! IMG_1907 The bow and arrow is finished!  We got the idea from twelve gadgets.   Although, we added a few modifications.  You basically take a popsicle stick and make two notches near the top and two near the bottom.  Then soak the stick in water to soften it up for an hour — (you can cut down the time if you put it in a bowl of water in the microwave for a minute.  The hot water will help it become pliable faster. Let it soak about 15 minutes in the hot water and you should be ready to go.)  Then you shape it into a crescent and string some dental floss around the two ends at the notches you made.   I glue gunned some ribbon to our bow so that it would reinforce the shape of the popsicle stick and prevent any splinters from the stick getting into someone’s finger!  We also used an old Sharpie pen cap for a quiver.  We glued some string to the cap, added a little glitter at the bottom for decoration and placed our q-tip arrows in it.

We also completed our treasure chest for the throne room.  It was just a simple, free printable from  We did add a few pirate coins and some plastic ice-cube gems we bought at Target. IMG_1909

Next up, we made flower fairies with items I bought from the Dollar Store and of course, my handy glue gun! Our supplies were some styrofoam balls, cheap fake flowers, glitter, q-tips, string, markers and feathers.  Simple easy fun for a 4 and 7 year old! Additionally, once the fairies were done the kids spent about an hour playing with them!  At least this gave me bit of time to do some laundry.

Sun projects continued with sun paper pictures. IMG_1905IMG_1902You can get the paper on Amazon for about $6.  I buy this one even though its sold as a “re-fill” pack.  It comes with everything you need and why pay more afull kit that really isn’t that much better? Basically you find some objects (natural or otherwise) and place them on the paper in the sunlight.  After a few minutes you remove the objects and wash off the paper.  You will see the images of your objects appear.   We did several in the morning.  We even placed a feather on the paper.  At first, the feather did not show up on the page and Cinco was pretty disappointed.  About ten minutes later  a few wisps of an image started to materialize and he loved watching it “appear” on the sun paper. Oddly enough, some of the “blue” washed off on my leg and despite a scrubbing it hasn’t come off…hmmmmmm…

For books, we continued our Midsummer Night’sDream for kids. They really loved that one of the character’s is named Nick Bottom. I tried to make the connection for them that Bottom was turned into an “ass”  but I am not really sure they understood where I was going with that “joke”.

Then it was off to an afternoon at the pool and more swimming lessons!

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