August 7, 2017

Homemade Owl Pellet Dissection Kit

Children love to know how things work including nature. They can explore owls and the food chain with a hands-on owl pellet dissection kit. You can purchase these or create one. I actually made this homemade owl pellet kit as a birthday gift for a girl who loves owls.

Below are some simple instructions to help a child dissect an owl pellet by him or herself.

April 12, 2017

Skillet Meatloaf Recipe

Maybe my mom made meatloaf when I was a child, but I don't remember it. Any time I had it as a teen, I disliked it. Maybe I just needed to wait for the right recipe.

However, I like meatloaf now, as does my family. My easy meatloaf recipe is moist and delicious. Today I'm sharing my quick skillet meatloaf recipe. I found the recipe in my family recipe book. It's a great recipe! It's fast. It's moist. And most importantly, it is delicious...even with all those vegetables in there. (You might recall I am not a fan of veggies...)

I don't measure the carrots and celery precisely. In fact, I even left out the celery at least once. I use whatever crackers I have on hand. Sometimes it's Saltines. Other times it is Ritz. I think one of the strengths of this recipe is its flexibility. It's also nice to have a meatloaf fully cooked in thirty minutes!

My children saw the vegetables in this skillet meatloaf and didn't think they'd like it. However, they all liked it and some even asked for seconds. (Sorry for the photo quality.)
Skillet Meatloaf
2 eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 sleeve crushed crackers (about 2 cups)
1/2 cup celery, finely chopped
1/2 cup carrot, finely chopped
1/2 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon mustard (optional)
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 pounds lean ground beef 

Combine eggs, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, salt, and pepper. Mix in saltines, celery, carrots, and onion. Add beef and mix well. Place in a 10 or 12-inch skillet and form a large patty. Top with additional mustard or ketchup, if desired. 

Cover. Cook over medium heat for 8 minutes. Reduce heat to low and cook 15-20 additional minutes (to 160°). Drain any fat and let stand a few minutes before serving.

Thanks, Aunt Janice, for another great recipe!

~ Annette
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March 12, 2017

Washington, D.C. Family Trip

With Washington, D.C. only a couple of hours away, our family took an overnight trip to our nation's capitol. It was highly educational, but more than that, we had a lot of fun.
For some background, we don't vacation much. We visit family overnight regularly and go to family camp each summer for a week, but we don't venture into new adventures too often. Our children are ages 10, 8, and 5. The children were beyond thrilled at the idea of a trip into D.C.

We left on a Friday morning when my children's school had off for a teachers' in-service. It was snowing. It wasn't long before the snow changed to rain as my husband drove us toward the city. We went to Greenbelt to take the Metro subway into the Washington, D.C.
It was raining and sleeting when we arrived in our nation's capitol. We happily walked to our first stop of the day: The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

January 15, 2017

News from Annette

Maybe you've observed my absence from this blog. Or maybe, you're a bit like me, and you're too busy to notice.

Though I'm not blogging regularly, I am certainly staying busy writing. My first book was published in August. I love writing nonfiction for children!

This month I turned in manuscripts for two children's nonfiction books. They'll be published later this year. I also have a couple of programs in the near future. One is about the creative calling. The others are presentations to celebrate the 150th birthday of Laura Ingalls Wilder. (See my schedule here.) Over at Little House Companion, I've shared how you can prepare for your own Laura Ingalls Wilder event in a series of blog posts.

And of course I still take care of my family and volunteer in my community. There's never a dull moment!

If you want to stay up to date with me, it might be best to sign up for my newsletter or be in touch through Facebook.

Thanks for reading This Simple Home!
~ Annette
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January 2, 2017

10 Gifts for Writers

Some professions and hobbies become a person's identity. Writers fit into this category. Based on this past Christmas and my personal wishlist, here are some gift ideas for writers. I think many of these would also be great for bloggers.
1. Good Office Chair
A comfortable office chair makes all the difference when one spends hours sitting at a desk.

We had an office chair, but I avoided it. Once I started writing books, I knew I needed to use my desk. The old office chair went to the basement and I used a dining room chair. I was quite content with it, but I was quite excited for the office chair my husband chose for me as a Christmas gift.

2. Writing Conference 
Send your writer to a conference. They'll make friends and connections and understand the publishing world much better. They'll come away inspired and a better writer.

I wasn't sure if there was a conference out there tailored to me as a children's nonfiction writer. My first writing conference was the 21st Century Children's Nonfiction Conference. It was there I met my editor for my recently released book and my two upcoming books. (It would also be great for illustrators and editors.) I can also heartily recommend the Highlights Foundation. I attended the Nuts and Bolts of Science Writing workshop. They were both right in my writing niche. At the Montrose Christian Writer's Conference I was pleasantly surprised at how much I learned that applied to me though not many classes were specifically for children's nonfiction writers.

November 29, 2016

Jesse Tree and The Jesus Storybook Bible

A Jesse tree is a visual celebration which connects the Old Testament to the arrival of Jesus Christ in the New Testament. A Jesse tree can also be used as an Advent calendar.

The name comes from Isaiah 11:1.
"A shoot will come  up from the stump of Jesse; 
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit."

October 7, 2016

Celebrating Birthdays

Welcome to October! October is always busy for us with the three children's birthdays. Add to that football for Big Sister and Brother, community activities, school activities, and everything else, and we're busy.

So how do we celebrate three birthdays that take place in the span of one week?

Dinner and Dessert

Birthday Kid chooses the dinner and dessert menu for their birthday. This is their chance to really have what they want for dinner. Here are this year's choices.

  • Big Sister, age 10: Velveeta Shells and Cheese with apple pie. (A side note: It has probably been two or three years since we had Shells and Cheese. She hasn't forgotten it!)
  • Brother, age 8: Andre's Pizza with peanut butter swirl brownies.
  • Little Sister, age 5: Cheeseburgers and a giant cookie cake. This is incredibly easy and delicious!

A Party

The kids don't have parties every year. In fact, Big Sister turns ten this month and she's having her second friend party. (Her first party was a Little House party.) When the Birthday Kid has a party, they get to help choose a theme and activities. Last year, Brother had a LEGO party. (And no, I didn't blog about it.) Big Sister chose a Star Wars theme for this year. 

All of our family lives hours away, so we don't have a family party. However, my mother-in-law visits every year for a birthday. (Often my father-in-law joins us, too.)

We try to keep it simple while celebrating the children's uniqueness! 

What's your favorite way to celebrate a birthday? 

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through an affiliate link, I earn a small percentage at no cost to you. Thank you!
~ Annette
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September 7, 2016

Chicken Roll-Up Recipe

Knowing how much our family likes our bacon cheeseburger roll-up, I decided to create a chicken and broccoli roll-up recipe. I've made this chicken roll-up a few times now and thought it was time to share it with you. You can use canned pizza crust or a 20-minute (total) bread dough recipe for the roll-up, depending on your time constraints and preferences.

Chicken and Broccoli Roll-Up Recipe

August 16, 2016

Little Women Marmee Quote

As a girl, I read Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. I thought it was a good book.

A good book must be read more than once.

As a young adult, I identified with Jo March more than I remembered.

As a newly married woman, I understood Meg's romance and homemaking struggles.

As a mother, I appreciate Marmee's wisdom and honesty in parenting.

Marmee was the picture of patience and wisdom. She confessed, "I am angry nearly every day of my life, Jo, but I've learned not to show it. And I still hope not to feel it."
Marmee's confession provided Jo the hope she needed. She needed to know she wasn't alone. Understanding her mother's struggles helped her to manage her own.

August 2, 2016

Nonfiction Author School Visit

Teaching excites some of us. Since I am no longer a classroom teacher by profession, I look for opportunities to teach. One way I teach is through writing and volunteering. But I also get to teach through school visits. On my blog Little House Companion, I shared about Laura Ingalls Wilder beyond her Little House years. As you might be able to tell from the photographs, Sharing about Laura Ingalls Wilder's adult life was lots of fun. Then I had the chance to get a group of first graders excited about writing nonfiction. It was a fun nonfiction author school visit!
These first graders were nonfiction authors themselves, so I began by talking about authors and nonfiction writing.
We talked about how to go from an idea to a published book. Though first graders don't edit to the extent a fifth or eleventh grader does, it's still important for them to understand the proofreading process. This particular school uses the acronym of PUFF in kindergarten and first grade. It works!
I also went on to talk about the publishing process. It excited them to understand the similarities between their published books and mine. The first graders even had a sneak-peak of my book (affiliate link) about to be released!

The first graders' teachers really had these kids prepared for nonfiction. Based on their comments, I think my school visit excited them to write more of their own nonfiction, too!

I'm now booking presentations for the 2016-2017 school year. This school year I am limited to parts of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware. Learn more about my pioneer workshops and nonfiction author visits at my website.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through an affiliate link, I earn a small percentage at no cost to you. Thank you!
~ Annette
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