How to Host Your Own ‘Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library’ Party

Disclosure Pic

My Big Helper has been talking about this month’s Chris Grabenstein book club event for weeks.  She’s been counting down the days, then the hours, all while bouncing off the walls and carrying her invitation around with her endlessly.

How to Lemoncello's Library

We love this


She immediately began planning how we could turn our house into the Alexandriaville Public Library and begged to have an escape game similar the one that Mr. Lemoncello hosted.

Chris Grabenstein

So we got to work.  I designed labels for Lemonberry Fizz and created a recipe for the drink that Mr. Lemoncello loves to guzzle.  I also built the Wonder Dome, decorated the house, and filled in many other book details.

Chris Grabenstein

I printed out an anagram game that we could use for a Super Dooper Challenge and planted clues around the house.  One of these bonus clues became the prize for the challenge.

Chris Grabenstein

Of course, we had to eat, too.  Since the main characters attended a fancy gala to celebrate the library’s opening at the beginning of the book, I opted to serve a ‘fancy’ dinner.  I made two kinds of fondue and served it with sautéed chicken, steamed veggies, and bread cubes on a color-coordinated table.  The girls drank their icy water out of glass goblets and giggled every time they stuck out their pinky fingers.

Chris Grabenstein

Dessert had to be fondue, too, since it’s such a fun way to eat – although there are several dessert options in the book.  My Big Helper loved the fruit platters and chocolate fondue; judging from the amount of chocolate on the other faces I saw, they liked it, too.

Chris Grabenstein

Throughout the course of the event, we played as many Lemoncello games as I could create.  I made Indoor-Outdoor Scavenger Hunt cards, and the kids raced around the neighborhood to collect their items first.  I created a label for Mr. Lemoncello’s Anagrams, and the girls raced to see who could make the most words with alphabet cookies.  They also played our version of Hurry to the Top of the Heap with Lemoncello trivia.

Eventually, late that night, one team pieced together enough clues to escape the house – and they did so with lots of whooping and hollering and running around in the dark.

Their prize was to choose their parts in the next-day’s commercial.  I gave them the task of creating a commercial to ‘sell’ Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library to other kids.

Click here to view a rough copy of their commercial.

I’ve had myriads of technical difficulties in trying to share this.  Their commercial plays well on my computer – I had to video that in order to show it to you.  I apologize for the issues that remain.

Of course, we ended the party with a birthday cake, and since My Big Helper’s big day is close, we sang to her.

I spent hours designing the games, creating labels, and putting the details of the party together – so I’m happy to share them with you.


You can find everything you need to print your own 68-page Lemoncello party pack here.

Happy escaping!

What are your kids reading now?

Shared at:

Top-Notch Tuesday

A Little R & R

What to Read Wednesday

Booknificent Thursday

The Book Nook

This Is How We Roll Thursday Party

Menu Plan Monday – February 20, 2016


We’re having a slow-evening week, and I’m excited to have more evenings at home!  I’m looking forward to doing more cooking that we’ve had happening lately amid all the craziness.  Do you prefer to be out and about or at home with your family?

So with that, I’ll probably be turning some of these leftovers into new dishes for the freezer and using others to eat for lunches.

What do you have going on this week?


Cinnamon Almond Granola @ A Nest in the Rocks


I’m going to give these Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies a try this week, too.

What are you eating this week?

For more Menu Plan Monday, visit OrgJunkie.

Menu Plan Monday – February 8, 2016


I’m not sure what happened last week.

I cooked, I really did, but somehow I didn’t make many of the things on the plan.

So – here’s to Take Two.



What are you eating this week?

For more Menu Plan Monday, visit OrgJunkie.

Merry Christmas!

Our Christmas Family Date 2015 @ A Nest in the Rocks

Merry Christmas from our Nest to yours!

We’ll be spending time together as a family over the next week or so, but we’ll be back soon with fun ideas, books, field trips, and recipes.  Until then, we wish you the merriest of Christmases.

“The Five Times I Met Myself” by James L. Rubart

What if you met your twenty-three-year-old self in a dream? What would you say?

Brock Matthews’ once promising life is unraveling. His coffee company. His marriage.

So when he discovers his vivid dreams—where he encounters his younger self—might let him change his past mistakes, he jumps at the chance. The results are astonishing, but also disturbing.

Because getting what Brock wants most in the world will force him to give up the one thing he doesn’t know how to let go . . . and his greatest fear is that it’s already too late.

Fans of Back to the Future will love The Five Times I Met MyselfThe similarity between the main characters is uncanny, but it totally works for me – Back to the Future is one of my favorite movies!  Unlike the ’80s classic, however, Brock isn’t trying only to have a good time.  He’s trying to improve his life for the better in some really deep ways.  Perhaps it’s really more like a cross between Back to the Future and It’s a Wonderful Life.  Brock needs to learn what’s really important in life, and he realizes that he’s had his priorities out of whack for years.

The Five Times I Met Myself does get a little confusing near the end.  As Brock’s trips to the past keep rearranging his present, it gets a bit tricky to keep track of what’s happening in which timeline, but that only adds to the suspense.  I loved trying to figure out what would happen  next – and what Brock’s ultimate ending would be.  I never did figure it out, although when it came I felt that I should have known all along.

Brock seemed like a genuinely good guy.  I can understand his confusion when trouble first came his way.  His life wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t as abundant as it could’ve been.  Since Jesus clearly tells us that He has an abundant life planned for each of us, The Five Times I Met Myself is the perfect story to help the reader recognize the best.

That lesson resonates with me.  It’s far too easy to set your sights on the wrong goal.  It’s even easier to do so for what you think are the right reasons.  This book reminds us of what is really important, though, and it’s a lesson that many of us still need to learn.

Whether you like the time travel vehicle or not, there are a lot of interesting people in this story.  Many different scenarios emerge, and it’s interesting to see how Brock reacts to them all.  If you do enjoy time travel, however, The Five Times I Met Myself is definitely a book that should reside on your bookshelf.

Click here to read other reviews on this blog hop or here to purchase your own copy now.

James L. Rubart is a professional marketer and speaker. He is the author of the best-selling novel Rooms as well as Book of Days, The Chair, Soul’s Gate, Memory’s Door, and Spirit Bridge. He lives with his wife and sons in the Pacific Northwest.

Connect with James: website, Twitter, Facebook

I received a free copy of this book from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.


Our First Day of School

Today was our first day of school – homeschool, that is. Our First Day of School @ A Nest in the Rocks I have been super excited about this one. I’ve been very intentional about our planning for this one.  I know how quickly our time can get away from us, and the years are passing much too quickly.  I want our school time together to be fun and exciting and to make our kids want to learn – big goals, right?

I’ve never really done anything special beyond a few photographs for the first day, but this year we went bigger, and we did a few things that we’re going to make traditions. We started out with banana splits for breakfast.  (I stole the idea from Laura over at Heavenly Homemakers.) I sliced a banana into each kid’s parfait glass, then added a small amount of ice cream and topped the whole thing with homemade Cinnamon Almond Granola.  The kids considered it a huge treat, and it was, but at least there was still some nutritional value, right?

After that we headed out to our school table and get started with a few of our new things.  We tried out our math mats and then recorded fun interviews for their scrapbooks.  They each decorated a white board with their name and grade level before we went outside for pictures.  The kids were patient as I staged them all over the yard before coming in to an art project and some history work.  After finishing their baseball cards, My Big Helper did a math assignment and some reading while My Little Man had his book club meeting for the month. After chores and playtime, they finished up a movie, ate dinner, and ran like mad at soccer practice.

I love having everyone home.  I love being able to make school days special.

Homeschooling’s awesome – and I’m looking forward to the hundreds of more awesome days we have coming up, because they’re going to fly by much too quickly.

Do you do anything to make your first days of school special?  

History in Action: Gem Mining in NC

Disclosure Pic

 We’ve been studying North Carolina – our home state – this year in school, and I was shocked to learn that this state was the site of our nation’s first gold rush back in the early 1800s!  That opened my eyes to the long history of mining that this state has – which thrilled My Little Man, since he’s been wanting to go gem mining for years.

We decided to visit Emerald Village in Little Switzerland, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway and near Mount Mitchell.

History in Action: NC Gem Mining @ A Nest in the Rocks

Emerald Village had more to offer than most mining sites.  For one thing, there were a total of 12 working mines on the property at one point in history, one of which was the source of the main ingredient for Bon Ami soap.  Another was its offerings.  Besides mining, you could also tour an actual mine, shop, and visit 13 stories of historical displays on site.  We spent hours hanging out here!

History in Action: NC Gem Mining @ A Nest in the Rocks

The sheer beauty of the place was impressive.  The mountains featured huge rock faces everywhere you turned, and you could walk right up to the entrance of this mine.  This was the backdrop of the actual gem mining operation, which made it even more exciting.

History in Action: NC Gem Mining @ A Nest in the Rocks

My Little Man was so excited to be on the property of actual gem mines that he kept his eyes to the ground everywhere we went.  He was constantly stopping abruptly to snatch up a rock and shout, “I found something!”  Considering his study of rock books over the past few years, I’m sure he’s right about some of them.

History in Action: NC Gem Mining @ A Nest in the Rocks

After visiting some of the other attractions, we got down to the business of mining.  You can choose to pan for gold or go gem mining, but while you’re guaranteed to find gems in every bucket, there’s no such guarantee for the gold.  (There are also more rustic options available, but we stuck with the simplicity.)  We chose to go the gem route, although My Little Man wouldn’t mind trying his hand at gold mining someday.

History in Action: NC Gem Mining @ A Nest in the Rocks

After purchasing a large bucket of dirt and gems (all of this material came from the Emerald Village property), we were directed to the sluices just outside the mine entrance in the picture above.  We each grabbed a sieve and began.  The men working the counter directed us to let anything white or gray go down the sluice, but to keep anything of color.  That was harder than it sounded, but surprisingly fun.

History in Action: NC Gem Mining @ A Nest in the Rocks

We found mostly smallish gems, but several were much larger, and we’re eagerly polishing our favorites.  We can’t wait to see what they’ll look like when they’re cleaned up.

History in Action: NC Gem Mining @ A Nest in the Rocks

Gem mining was really fun!  We all want to do this again, and we left with big bags of colorful gems.

History in Action: NC Gem Mining @ A Nest in the Rocks

The site of the sluices just outside the mine entrance.

History in Action: NC Gem Mining @ A Nest in the Rocks

After mining – because honestly, none of us could wait any longer to try that – we headed to the mine for our tour.  It began off the gift shop in a building full of historical displays about the history of mining at Emerald Village and the Bon Ami mine.  There was even a video to teach you about the mining life.


From there we ventured out to the mine – shown here behind the kids.


It was not what I was expecting; there were no dark tunnels through the mountainside, but it was well done.  The tour was self-guided, and when you purchase tickets you get a booklet with numbered descriptions.  Each of the displays throughout the mine have numbers to match these, and so you can walk around and read about everything at your own pace.  There even museum-type displays and a phosphorescent display in the mine itself.

History in Action: NC Gem Mining @ A Nest in the Rocks

We had a great time learning more about North Carolina mining at Emerald Village, and the weather was absolutely perfect for it.  If you’re ever in the area, this is definitely a fun place to check out.

Have you ever been gem mining?

Want to know more about North Carolina and the history of mining?  Check out these books:


When a Tree Lands on Your House

We had big plans for Father’s Day.

We were going to take in a Durham Bulls’ game.  Have dinner at my husband’s favorite deli.  Maybe walk around Costco a bit – something he loves to do – and basically have a lazy family day.

But then a tree landed on our house.  We weren’t expecting that.

Instead, we were celebrating our anniversary – the one that happened a few weeks ago but for which the plans my husband wanted to make never worked out.  Grandparents were up for a kiddie weekend, though, and so we happily traveled to Durham Saturday for a quiet dinner and a movie.

Ironically, we watched a super-realistic movie about a natural disaster.

After a bit of shopping, we returned home – and when we were a few streets away, we started to see downed branches everywhere.  Somehow I knew that something had happened at home.

When a Tree Lands on Your House - @ A Nest in the Rocks

Unfortunately, I was right.  We pulled in near midnight to find that a tree had split and landed on the roof.

We tramped around in the dark, tripping over branches, trying to determine what sort of damage the house sustained.  In the end, we decided that since the windows weren’t broken and nothing seemed to be leaking, it was time for bed.  What could we do in the dark at midnight?

But daybreak came, and with it, the need to take action.  The windows remained intact, something that seemed miraculous in light of just how close to our large bay window the branches hit. 

When a Tree Lands on Your Roof @ A Nest in the Rocks

So instead of a baseball game, my husband spent his afternoon outside with the chain saw, working to remove the tree from the roof.  In near 100 degree temperatures.

He wouldn’t let us help, or even be outside, for fear that we’d get hurt, so we watched him through the windows (as much as we could with a tree in front of them). 

So while we listened to the chain saw buzz and watched the branches be dragged away from the house, sad that DH had to work so hard on what was supposed to be his special day, we decided to count our blessings.

Because there were blessings to be found even though a tree landed on our roof:

  • Not a single window broke.
  • We weren’t home to be scared by the storm and the flying branches – because the house is surrounded by them.
  • Although large branches fell all around the hives, the bees remain untouched – and were normally active today.
  • Our new gutters are slightly dented, but they’re not pulled away from the roof – and there appears to be no roof damage.
  • A big branch fell right where I park my car – but the car was safe, with us, in Durham.
  • My husband’s car has not a scratch, even though it was parked between fallen branches and trees.
  • Nobody was hurt.
  • We enjoyed a date night out before getting the unpleasant there’s-a-tree-on-your-roof news.
  • My husband was willing and eager to take care of us by removing as much of the tree as he could, and he protected us from flying branches and the heat.  Even though it was Father’s Day.
  • We had a working chain saw to make the tree removal process easier.

So the day didn’t turn out at all like we planned, but it was good, anyway.  We grilled Sweet Chicken Bacon Wraps and served them with rice, salad, stir-fried broccoli, Mom’s Baked Corn, and fresh pineapple.  The kids made cards for their dad, and then they watched golf together for the rest of the evening.

So that’s how we handled the day a tree fell on our roof.  What would you do?

Become a Published Author with Lulu


Become a Published Author with Lulu

Taking school on the road is one of the great perks about homeschooling.  Nothing can match being out in the real world, learning about something from an expert who lives and breathes the subject.  We’ve met some pretty great ones through the years, but last week we met a bunch of them all at once.

We visited in Raleigh, the first open publishing company.  Lulu provides a wide variety of services, including publishing print and digital books to creating book ‘kids’ to help kids become published authors.  We hoped to find out exactly how books get published, and we learned that – and much, much more.

Become a Published Author with Lulu @ A Nest in the Rocks

Nestled on a busy street near a college campus, Lulu’s home matches the people who work there.  It’s a mix of modern and renovation, full of light and energy. 

Our tour began in a conference room with juice and doughnuts.  Many of the kids were won over right there.  To make it even better, a Foosball table and basketball game rounded out the room.  Lulu values creativity and isn’t afraid to play when inspiration is needed.  How much fun must it be to work there?

Glenn Hunt, senior technical writer for Lulu, kicked off our tour by sharing the history of the company and the way that this open publishing system works.  Lulu prints on demand, so there is no stash of books waiting to be sold anywhere – instead, they work with printers around the world to get your book to you soon after it’s ordered.   Their website allows you to plan every aspect of the books that you publish so that you retain complete control over your work – as well as 80% of the profit.  Wow!

Become a Published Author with Lulu @ A Nest in the Rocks

Next we took off for a tour of the building and each department.  We learned about the complexities involved in running an international business from a financial standpoint, about the creative services offered by Lulu, about customer service, new products, and computer engineering. 

Become a Published Author with Lulu @ A Nest in the Rocks

After our tour, we headed back to the conference room to prepare our own stories.  Lulu was super generous and gave each student a publishing kit.  Several employees came out to help the students plan their stories.  They talked about characters and plot, about storyboards and flow.  The kids loved it!

Become a Published Author with Lulu @ A Nest in the Rocks

There’s nothing like being inspired to write by people who publish books every day.

Since leaving Lulu, I’ve heard that several of these students want to grow up to work at Lulu.  They were impressed by the creativity and teamwork.  Several more are hard at work creating stories and can’t wait to see the finished product. 

Our visit to Lulu was excellent.  They went above and beyond the call of duty to teach us about the publishing world.  The staff at Lulu planned our visit with exacting detail, and I can only expect that they put the same care and attention into their work. 

Thank you, Lulu, for setting such a great example of innovative professionals – and for opening your doors to our group.  You gave our students a fabulous experience – and great lessons we couldn’t learn from our classrooms.

To learn more about publishing with Lulu, click here.

Hearts for Home Blog Hop

A Nest in the Rocks is now one of the co-hosts for the weekly Hearts for 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 posts from last week were  Banana Bread Bites.

Some of my favorite posts from last week were:

Benefits Of Honey On Skin

– Brownie Biscotti” – #TastyTuesday

Homemade All-Natural Nourishing Liquid Hand Soap

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

Hearts for Home Blog Hop

Link up your family-friendly blog posts below. Please add our button to your post to link back to this one. Happy hopping!

Hearts for Home Blog Hop