Entering a National History Day Competition

When I hit middle school, I was encouraged to compete in our local National History Day competition.  I was hooked from that very first event:  I loved the research, the preparation, the work to analyze historical events and to share their importance, and, yes, the competition.

That’s why I was so very excited when I found out that the National History Day organization has events in North Carolina, and that our district competition isn’t too far away.  I was determined that my kids would compete when they came of age, as well.

NHD

Are you familiar with National History Day?  It’s sort of like a science fair, in that you create projects/entries that are judged for competition, only about history, instead.  Each year there’s an annual theme, and students choose a topic that fits that theme and create projects/entries in the exhibit, documentary, historical paper, performance, or website categories.  Students must explain the significance of their topic in history and in relation to the theme, as well as showcase their work through process papers and annotated bibliographies.  It’s a big deal.  It’s fabulous.

For My Big Helper, that was this year.  She’s now in middle school (where has the time gone??) and so last October she and another brave young man chose topics and began to research.

As this was their first year, and as this level of competition and historical research was new to them both, we did our best to keep it fun.  We traveled to the Davis Library at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill for a lesson from a librarian about how to use their Library of Congress cataloguing system.  She also taught them how to use their many online databases, and the kids searched for materials relevant to their topics.

We had pizza parties and got together to check progress and discuss competition rules.

NHD

Finally, though, the big day arrived, and it was time to head off to Greensboro for the district competition.  Held at the Education Building on the University of North Carolina in Greensboro, the competitors took over that part of campus and were college kids for the day.

NHD

Competition days are a big deal.  You must check in, have your paperwork in order, and get set up.  After that, when it’s your scheduled turn, a team of judges will interview you about your work and conclusions.  For anyone, that time of ‘interview’ is stressful, but for kids new to that type of experience, it can be rough, despite the judges’ kindness.

NHD

One of the highlights for us was always having lunch in the cafeteria.  The UNCG café where we ate was nothing like any college cafeteria I’ve ever seen before, but with Chick-Fil-A and other fun restaurants on site, the kids seemed to enjoy their faux-college kid status.

Late in the afternoon, the award ceremony arrives.  Filling up an auditorium, a professor greets everyone, and the winners in each category are finally announced.  We were all really nervous by this time.  We thought our kids had created solid entries and had a good chance of placing, but, really, who can tell?

It’s not just about winning, either – because winning entries advance to the state competition, and winners there, to the national one.  Competition increases at each level, and everyone wants to advance, but, of course, not everyone can, so … one hopes hard and works harder.

Our friend’s category was announced first, and … he placed second!  We were so very excited, and My Big Helper was hoping even harder for own name to be called at that point.

Yet, her category wasn’t.  They seemed to be calling them in no particular order – junior individual website, senior group performance, junior group project, etc. – and we were starting to think hers would never be announced, when they finally called ‘junior individual exhibit.’

I’m not sure why it works this way, but three entrants in each category advance to the NC State History Day competition – except for in exhibits; then five advance.  My Big Helper didn’t place fifth.

She didn’t place fourth.  Or third.

You know how it goes – each time they prepare to call a new name, you think that now, they’ll call her name now, and she’s going to win, and then it’s someone else.  Your heart falls into your shoes, and you despair that she’s not going to be called, that she didn’t win.  And while it’s not the winning or losing that you care about, she’s oh-so-excited, and you so want her to continue being that excited at that point …..

Not second.

And then, at the very last moment, they called her name!  She placed FIRST in her category!

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It was wonderful to see her so excited.  To know that she’s worked hard and is getting a tangible reward from someone else.  That she’s learning to finish what she starts, and a whole host of other lessons.NHD

Our two competitors are super excited, and well they should be:  they’ve done fantastic work.  It’s not over, though, for now they have the opportunity to take the criticism from the district-level judges and make improvements to their entries before the state competition in a few weeks.

For now, though … yay!  They won! 

Do your kids enter competitions?  Share in the comments below – and come back soon to see why I encourage my kids to compete in these types of events.

Creamy Wild Rice Soup

Wild Rice

I was a super picky eater as a kid.  I didn’t like anything that had multiple types of ingredients.  I was rather happy about having eating patterns that resembled my great-grandfather’s, and we happily avoided things like vegetable soup. 

Then I went to college.  While it was still very possible to eat well with my former eating plan, I decided it was time to add some new things to my foodie repertoire.  Since it was rather limited, that wasn’t hard to do.

My very favorite new food quickly became something the cafeteria called “Minnesota Wild Rice Soup.”  I carefully picked out all the mushrooms, but the soup itself was amazing:  thick and creamy, full of flavor, and the rice varieties were amazing.  I loved it, and I ate it for every meal it was offered.

Since then, I’ve searched high and low for a recipe that might mimic that taste, but it’s surprisingly hard to find good wild rice soup recipes without chicken.  Nothing I’ve made has even come close – until now.

Honestly, it’s been so long since I tasted that yummy Minnesota Wild Rice Soup that this might be nothing like it; however, it has all the notes I remember, and I love it!  Best of all, it’s super easy to make, so we’ll be eating it often.

Why now?  When it’s warming up?  Because pollen.  It’s pollen season here in the south, and my sore throat and stuffy nose is enjoying this creamy, hot soup.  Give it a try – it might cure what ails you, too.

Creamy Wild Rice Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 cans green chilis
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 boxes Zatarain's Wild Rice Pilaf
  • 3 cups shredded Pepper Jack Cheese

Instructions

  1. Heat oil in a stock pot.
  2. Saute the onions in the oil. Stir in the garlic and the chilis.
  3. Add the chicken stock.
  4. Add the rice pilaf with seasonings and the called-for amount of water.
  5. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer fro 25-30 minutes.
  6. Stir in shredded cheese.
  7. Serve hot.
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Easy Chicken Chili

Chicken Chili

I love finding easy recipes, and ones that we all like are even better.  My kids like this Easy Chicken Chili so much that they fight over who makes it – and I love any recipe that makes that happen! 

If you’re really in a hurry, you can use prepackaged ingredients that, while still whole, make throwing this together super easy. You know – a rotisserie chicken, boxed broth, and canned beans.  If you have a bit more time, you can cook your own chicken, broth, and beans, and still have a fast, easy, healthy meal on the table in a short amount of time.

One of my favorite things about this chili is its versatility.  The broth is really rich and thick, and it tastes great on it’s own.  I happen to love putting crunchy things into meals like this, though, and both crackers and tortilla chips work here. I like to top mine with a bit of extra cheese, too, but sour cream could also work if that’s your thing.

Even though the weather is getting warmer, with springtime allergies and runny noses plaguing us, we’ve been enjoying the fragrant steam from our bowls.  Give it a try – and let us know what you think.

Easy Chicken Chili

Ingredients

  • 4 cups cooked, chopped chicken
  • 4 cups chicken or veggie broth
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 3 small cans of diced green chilis
  • 3 cans white beans
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 t cumin
  • 1.5 t oregano
  • 3 c. shredded Monterey Jack r cheddar cheese

Instructions

  1. Heat oil in pan.
  2. Add onions and garlic.
  3. Sautee until clear.
  4. Add chilis and spices. Stir.
  5. Add broth and undrained beans.
  6. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
  7. Add chicken and cheese.
  8. Stir until hot and thickened.
  9. Serve with crackers, tortilla chips, and your favorite chili toppings.
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“Smurfs: The Lost Village” Opening Soon! + Giveaway

Smurfs

When I was a kid, I watched the Smurfs every Saturday morning.

I loved the Smurfs.  They were friendly, funny little creatures who loved being together and were always seeing the good in life.  I had all the Smurf gear, too – an alarm clock, bank, and more, and I took it all to Smurf Day at school, where we even ate Smurf cereal for breakfast.

Obviously lots of other kids loved them, but we weren’t the only ones.  Sometimes my dad would watch with me, too, and I loved those times.  Often, after the Smurfs, we’d head out to roller skate or to the farm to spend time with family, but somehow we managed to catch the Smurfs first.

That’s why I was so excited to hear that there’s a new Smurf movie coming out on April 7, called Smurfs:  The Lost Village.  The trailer is funny, and it puts some twists into the Smurf story.  The animation looks beautiful, too.  You can watch the trailer here.

Another thing that has me super excited about this new Smurf adventure, though, is the faith-based discussion guide that you can download here.  It’s set up almost like a devotional, with scripture, a short lesson, and questions for discussion, and I like that a regular, secular movie is being examined this way. 

So, who’s up for seeing Smurfs:  The Lost Village?

Enter to win your own tickets to see Smurfs:  The Lost Village here!

Encouraging Heart & Home Blog Hop – March 29, 2017

I’ve been rather absent this week – not for any big reason, but just because I’m enjoying the time with my family.  We’re heading into a really busy two weeks, and I haven’t wanted to pick up my computer when I could be hanging out with them before the whirlwind begins.  Does your life happen in seasons like that?

Exciting news!  The weekly blog hop formerly known as Hearts for Home has been updated with a new name and logo!  While we’re still dedicated to sharing encouraging and inspiring ideas for your home and family, there are a few new features.  Isn’t the new logo beautiful?

Blog Hop

That’s not the only new feature; the most clicked post each week will be entered to win a monthly prize package!  So share your favorite posts and link up your own to increase your chances of winning these great prizes. 

Tweet: Find encouragement for your heart and home at A Nest in the Rocks. This week’s blog hop is live! https://ctt.ec/epe5O+

All of this excitement is one reason I’m excited that …

A Nest in the Rocks is now one of the co-hosts for the weekly Encouraging Hearts and Home Blog link-up, which means that every Thursday you’ll find lots of great tips, recipes, and other family-friendly ideas listed throughout this post. If you’re a blogger, we’d love to have you link up your posts and join us. You can find information about the other co-hosts of this hop here.

The most clicked post from last week was 10 Homeschooling Strategies to Use with Your Resistant Child

Some of my favorite posts from last week were: 10 Homeschooling Strategies for Your Resistant Child.

Memory Quilt from Baby Clothes

Homeschoolers Can Get Creative with High School El

Spring Subway Art Free Printable | Intelligent Dom

If your post is listed above, please grab one of our ‘Featured Blogger’ buttons! Congratulations, and thanks for writing such inspiring posts.

Please share your family friendly posts with us!

The most clicked posts of each week will be entered to win a Monthly Giveaway!

So, be sure to 1) include your email when you link up and 2) share the link to Encouraging Hearts and Home via social media with your readers, fans and followers! 

By linking up you agree that if your blog post is selected to be featured on any of our hosts’ blogs that we can use an image from your post with a link back to your post. 

Monthly giveaway winners must be 18 yrs.+ and live in the USA. Winners will be given 48 hours to respond to winning email. Mailing and/or email address will be required to receive giveaway packages. You may only win 1 time in every 6 month period. 


Please share your family friendly posts with us!

The most clicked posts of each week will be entered to win a Monthly Giveaway! So, be sure to 1) include your email when you link up and 2) share the link to Encouraging Hearts and Home via social media with your readers, fans and followers! 

By linking up you agree that if your blog post is selected to be featured on any of our hosts’ blogs that we can use an image from your post with a link back to your post. 

Monthly giveaway winners must be 18 yrs.+. Winners not living in the USA will win a digital prize package, while USA winners will be shipped their prize via the USPS. Winners will be given 48 hours to respond to winning email. Mailing and/or email address will be required to receive giveaway packages. You may only win 1 time in every 6 month period.

Encouraging Hearts and Home Blog Hop – March 22, 2017

Blog Hop

We had the best time having book club this week – I can’t wait to tell you all about it!  Any guesses about which book we might have read?

Exciting news!  The weekly blog hop formerly known as Hearts for Home has been updated with a new name and logo!  While we’re still dedicated to sharing encouraging and inspiring ideas for your home and family, there are a few new features.  Isn’t the new logo beautiful?

Blog Hop

That’s not the only new feature; the most clicked post each week will be entered to win a monthly prize package!  So share your favorite posts and link up your own to increase your chances of winning these great prizes. 

Tweet: Find encouragement for your heart and home at A Nest in the Rocks. This week’s blog hop is live! https://ctt.ec/epe5O+

All of this excitement is one reason I’m excited that …

A Nest in the Rocks is now one of the co-hosts for the weekly Encouraging Hearts and Home Blog link-up, which means that every Thursday you’ll find lots of great tips, recipes, and other family-friendly ideas listed throughout this post. If you’re a blogger, we’d love to have you link up your posts and join us. You can find information about the other co-hosts of this hop here.

The most clicked post from last week was 7 Things to Know About Homeschooling Middle School.

Some of my favorite posts from last week were:

Petite Coconut Popovers

Mexican Rice and Beans

Coconut Cream Pound Cake

If your post is listed above, please grab one of our ‘Featured Blogger’ buttons! Congratulations, and thanks for writing such inspiring posts.

Please share your family friendly posts with us!

The most clicked posts of each week will be entered to win a Monthly Giveaway!

So, be sure to 1) include your email when you link up and 2) share the link to Encouraging Hearts and Home via social media with your readers, fans and followers! 

By linking up you agree that if your blog post is selected to be featured on any of our hosts’ blogs that we can use an image from your post with a link back to your post. 

Monthly giveaway winners must be 18 yrs.+ and live in the USA. Winners will be given 48 hours to respond to winning email. Mailing and/or email address will be required to receive giveaway packages. You may only win 1 time in every 6 month period. 


Please share your family friendly posts with us!

The most clicked posts of each week will be entered to win a Monthly Giveaway! So, be sure to 1) include your email when you link up and 2) share the link to Encouraging Hearts and Home via social media with your readers, fans and followers! 

By linking up you agree that if your blog post is selected to be featured on any of our hosts’ blogs that we can use an image from your post with a link back to your post. 

Monthly giveaway winners must be 18 yrs.+. Winners not living in the USA will win a digital prize package, while USA winners will be shipped their prize via the USPS. Winners will be given 48 hours to respond to winning email. Mailing and/or email address will be required to receive giveaway packages. You may only win 1 time in every 6 month period. 

“Her Secret” by Shelley Shepard Gray

Shelley Shepard Gray

After a stalker went too far, Hannah Hilty and her family had no choice but to leave the bustling Amish community where she grew up. Now she’s getting a fresh start in Hart County, Kentucky…if only she wasn’t too scared to take it. Hannah has become afraid to trust anyone-even Isaac, the friendly Amish man who lives next door. She wonders if she’ll ever return to the trusting, easy-going woman she once was.
 
For Isaac Troyer, the beautiful girl he teasingly called “The Recluse” confuses him like no other. When he learns of her past, he knows he’s misjudged her. However, he also understands the importance of being grateful for God’s gifts, and wonders if they will ever have anything in common. But as Hannah and Isaac slowly grow closer, they realize that there’s always more to someone than meets the eye.

 

Just as Hannah is finally settling into her new life, and perhaps finding a new love, more secrets are revealed and tragedy strikes. Now Hannah must decide if she should run again or dare to fight for the future she has found in Hart County.
 
Gray has nailed the stalker situation perfectly in her new book Her Secret.  From Hannah’s fears to reactions to changes in her environment, Gray describes the reactions of a stalker’s victim perfectly.
 
That realism is what made this book so exciting.  While the love story is fun, it was that combination along with the suspense of Hannah’s situation that kept the pages turning.  As someone who was stalked years ago – and still prefers to keep her back to the wall in a crowded room – I could totally relate to Hannah’s fears throughout the book.  I enjoyed the safe places and friends with which Hannah was surrounded, however, and that made Her Story a fun and suspenseful read.
 
I love the way that Gray reinvents each new series that she writes.  Her Amish books are typically touching; the historical fiction are suspenseful, but this was definitely a great combination of the two, and I love the way that Gray combines the realistic, dangerous situation with the Amish setting.  I hope that it’s not a situation that ever occurs for any Amish women, but it’s a very exciting concept.
 
I can’t wait to see where Gray is going with the next book in the series. 
 
 

 
About the author:
 
Shelley Shepard Gray is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, a finalist for the American Christian Fiction Writers prestigious Carol Award, and a two-time HOLT Medallion winner. She lives in southern Ohio, where she writes full-time, bakes too much, and can often be found walking her dachshunds on her town’s bike trail.
 
Visit our blogLike us on FacebookFollow us on TwitterFind us on Pinterest
 
I received a free copy of this book from LitFuse Publicity.  All opinions are my own.

Field Work Friday – Berry Hill Resort

It’s probably the last place you’d expect to find a bunch of kids – but the Berry Hill Resort and Conference Center is exactly where we went.Berry Hill

Berry Hill was part of a land grant from the British Crown decades before the American Revolution.  The estate was protected from destruction during wartime by the owner’s wealth and political clout and has a long and colorful history.

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Berry Hill has it’s own historian and tour guide, and this retired teacher gives a great tour.  He took us through the mansion, room by room, telling funny stories and sharing how the building has changed over time.

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The main hall is just as impressive as the outside of the mansion.  With twin staircases, this room highlights the original mistress’s favorite aspect of the building:  symmetry.  The downstairs also features marble baseboards from the same quarry as Michelangelo’s David.

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Our guide pointed out more of the unique symmetrical elements around the building – including extra doors that lead only to the wall.  Everyone was amused by that!

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Twenty years ago, the estate was purchased by a French corporation who renovated it extensively.  This beautiful pool was one of their additions!

After visiting the mansion, the pool, and the new on-site hotel, we ate lunch in Darby’s Tavern.  Situated in the old kitchen, we feasted on gourmet sandwiches and salads and played in the beautiful, spring sunshine.

DSCN3317

After lunch, we headed off to explore more of the grounds.  Now encompassing 650 acres, there are many trails leading to historic sites, and we made great use of them.

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We found these old stone remnants near a creek, and we had fun poking around, trying to see if we can figure out how it looked originally.

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The kids also had fun playing near the creek and catching frogs.  My Little Man couldn’t resist this one!

Berry Hill Resort and Conference Center is a beautiful place.  We enjoyed learning about its varied past, but this National Historic Landmark has a bright future.  Now often used for weddings, parties, and conferences, it would make a wonderful venue for any occasion. Should you visit southern Virginia, be sure to check it out.

Encouraging Hearts & Home Blog Hop – March 15, 2017

Spring is coming

This looks so like spring to me!  The weather was sunny and super warm that day.  We wandered all over Duke Gardens, looking for turtles and pretty flowers, but this week … it’s cold, sleeting, and definitely not feeling spring-like anymore.  What’s the weather like where you live?

Exciting news!  The weekly blog hop formerly known as Hearts for Home has been updated with a new name and logo!  While we’re still dedicated to sharing encouraging and inspiring ideas for your home and family, there are a few new features.  Isn’t the new logo beautiful?

Blog Hop

That’s not the only new feature; the most clicked post each week will be entered to win a monthly prize package!  So share your favorite posts and link up your own to increase your chances of winning these great prizes. 

Tweet: Find encouragement for your heart and home at A Nest in the Rocks. This week’s blog hop is live! https://ctt.ec/epe5O+

All of this excitement is one reason I’m excited that …

A Nest in the Rocks is now one of the co-hosts for the weekly Encouraging Hearts and Home Blog link-up, which means that every Thursday you’ll find lots of great tips, recipes, and other family-friendly ideas listed throughout this post. If you’re a blogger, we’d love to have you link up your posts and join us. You can find information about the other co-hosts of this hop here.

The most clicked post from last week was Free Homeschool Curriculum – The Ultimate Resource List.

Some of my favorite posts from last week were:

St. Patrick’s Day Science: Making Green Soda Pop

DIY Farmhouse Table

20 Middle School Hobbies for Education

If your post is listed above, please grab one of our ‘Featured Blogger’ buttons! Congratulations, and thanks for writing such inspiring posts.

Please share your family friendly posts with us!

The most clicked posts of each week will be entered to win a Monthly Giveaway!

So, be sure to 1) include your email when you link up and 2) share the link to Encouraging Hearts and Home via social media with your readers, fans and followers! 

By linking up you agree that if your blog post is selected to be featured on any of our hosts’ blogs that we can use an image from your post with a link back to your post. 

Monthly giveaway winners must be 18 yrs.+ and live in the USA. Winners will be given 48 hours to respond to winning email. Mailing and/or email address will be required to receive giveaway packages. You may only win 1 time in every 6 month period. 


The most clicked posts of each week will be entered to win a Monthly Giveaway! So, be sure to 1) include your email when you link up and 2) share the link to Encouraging Hearts and Home via social media with your readers, fans and followers! 

By linking up you agree that if your blog post is selected to be featured on any of our hosts’ blogs that we can use an image from your post with a link back to your post. 

Monthly giveaway winners must be 18 yrs.+. Winners not living in the USA will win a digital prize package, while USA winners will be shipped their prize via the USPS. Winners will be given 48 hours to respond to winning email. Mailing and/or email address will be required to receive giveaway packages. You may only win 1 time in every 6 month period.

Easy Cheesy Spanish Rice

Spanish Rice

I love being able to help people out, so when someone asked for our Easy, Cheesy Spanish Rice recipe, I excitedly said, “Sure!”

My kids love this rice.  They cheer every time I make it and fight over the leftovers – of which there’s never much.  It’s easy to throw together, full of flavor, and makes a great side dish.  We love to eat it alongside tacos, enchiladas, nachos, or just beside a big taco salad.

Everyone in our house loves rice, so I tend to make a double batch each time we make it.  That means we’re ending up with a large bowl of this Spanish rice, but that’s okay – it’s good and moist, so it reheats well.  Not that there is much of this left – we usually eat the majority of it.

I make this rice in my rice cooker; I bought this appliance at a great discount last year after struggling to cook different varieties of brown rice properly.  The procedure should work just the same, however, for preparing regular not-minute rice.

Easy Cheesy Spanish Rice

Ingredients

  • rice
  • chicken stock
  • water
  • olive oil
  • salsa
  • shredded cheese (Monterey Jack, Colby Jack, or cheddar)

Instructions

  1. Measure your rice directed.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
  3. Replace 1/2 of the water with chicken stock.
  4. Add 1/2 c. of salsa.
  5. Replace the remaining missing liquid with water.
  6. Cook as directed.
  7. Stir in 1/2 - 3/4 c. of shredded cheese.
  8. Cover rice again, let sit for 2-3 minutes or until cheese is melted.
  9. Serve hot.
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