Studying the Wild West: Building a Pioneer Wagon

Disclosure Pic

We’ve been studying Western expansion for a few months now, and the kids were fascinated by the Oregon Trail.  I mean, whole families traveling thousands of miles in a covered wagon – how could you not want to know exactly how that worked?  Because of that fascination, we decided to build our own pioneer wagon.

We started with wooden pallets donated by a local auto parts store.  My Big Helper used hammers and crow bars to pry the boards off the pallet and to pull out the nails.  We kept a bucket nearby to put the nails and scraps in and sorted the boards into nail-free piles as we removed them.

My Big Helper has used a hammer for a few projects before, but she found it difficult to remove the nails.  We spent lots of time experimenting with angles and weight to determine how to maximize the force available.  After playing around a bit, she was able to remove all of them on her own.

When we had a stack of nail-free boards, My Big Helper and My Little Man started to lay them out.  They choose which boards would be used for which part of the wagon and arranged them in the driveway.

We used the thicker, pallet-edge pieces to support the sides and middle of the wagon bottom.  The kids each took a side and nailed the boards into the supports.  While that sounds easy, it was much harder than expected.  We had some short nails that we could pound in fairly easily, but they were a little too short – we needed to use some longer nails to be sure that the wagon was sturdy.  The longer ones were too long for some of the boards, though, which is why we used both sizes.

My Little Man found those nails especially challenging.  The hammers were heavy for him to use with one hand, but who can hit a nail square on the head with two?  If he didn’t hit the head squarely, then the whole nail bent.  It became quite frustrating, but after experimenting with several hammers and practicing his swing, My Little Man was able to pound in several nails well.

Sawing the boards to the correct length with a hand saw wasn’t easy, either.  My Big Helper got very frustrated during this process – it was the first time she lost her smile.  After talking it over, she realized just how important it is to keep going even when you’re tired.  She was able to compare this to how the pioneers might have felt way back on the Oregon Trail – and then I cut the rest of the boards with my jigsaw after she measured them for me.

The kids repeated the process they used for the bottom with the sides.

Wild West

And soon it was time to assemble the undercarriage.  The kids took lots of measurements, and then we went off to Lowe’s to buy some expensive nuts and washers.

Wild West

We used a metal bar for the axle and used clamps to hold it in place.  The kids figured out how to use the nuts and spacers to hold the wheels in place.

Wild West

Since one of the bicycle tires we were using seemed a bit flat, the kids worked together to add air to the tire.

Wild West

When our metal axle wasn’t strong enough, they took the wheels apart and added PVC pipe in an attempt to make it stronger.

Wild West

Finally, it was time to sand the boards’ rough edges.  There were many, since these were older pallet boards that had spent time outside – but our power sander took care of it quickly.

The kids used another old board and a hinge to make a wagon tongue, …

Wild West

and then they tried it out.

The wagon looked great – but the axles weren’t strong enough to support the weight of the wagon.  Despite our modifications, we decided that it just wasn’t ready to pull other kids in.  The kids are determined to figure it out, though, and so work on the wagon continues.

Our efforts weren’t in vain, though.  The kids learned myriads of lessons about measurement and weight and force and angles.  They learned about levers and axles and hinges and tools. 

I taught lessons with labs about simple machines years ago when I taught in public school, and my kids learned those lessons well; but nothing can take the place of authentic, purposeful learning.  This project took days, but by the time we finished, the kids were more confident and were generating their own ideas and potential solutions to the problems we encountered.

I love homeschooling.

What projects do you do with your kids?

For more information about prairie wagons, check out these resources:

 

Hearts for Home Blog Hop – November 30, 2016

December is arriving tomorrow, and we’re busy decorating for Christmas.  The process isn’t my favorite, but I love the peacefulness of the white lights all over the house.  It’s all keeping me busy, which is why I’m happy that it’s Hearts for Home time again!

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 post from last week was Christmas Activities for Kids.

Some of my favorite posts from last week were:

Vanilla Scone Cookies

DIY Christmas Reversible Placemats

Corn Chowder

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!


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. 

A Gift Guide for the Young Engineer

Disclosure Pic

My kids are crazy about engineering right now.  They love to design things, find new ways to make things work, and to create their own gadgets.  It can be hard to find the right tools for them to use, though, and that’s why I love the resources you’ll find below. 

Finding the right holiday gift can be a struggle. Rather than leaving you to a google rabbit hole or a bunch of recommendations to sift through, I’ve pulled together a one-stop shop filled with meaningful gifts for the tinkerers in your life…Whether they’re 3 or 83.

In this gift guide, you’ll find:

  • classic blocks reinvigorated
  • gifts for mechanical tinkerers
  • super cool robot kits
  • gifts for computer savvy kids

Building Blocks 2.0

Rubbablox

rubbabu_rubabu_tradeshow_page1_image21_aff9

Tiny builders, start here!

These soft tactile blocks are great for truly little littles to learn on. Made of natural rubber foam, they are squishy but perfect for building. They’re colorful and durable and fit together easily. Children can create a variety of shapes and structures!

Using imagination and coordination, young children work on spatial, fine and gross motor skills. For kids who need sensory input, the tactile stimulation provided by this toy is fantastic.

And while we’re thinking about giving, it’s also important to think about responsible buying. This is a green product, made in India at a fair trade factory using premium quality, child-safe materials. The surface is 100% nylon and wipes clean, making it perfect for little chewers!

“My husband is quite the handyman. I purchased these for my son (and a different set for my daughter), to encourage their interest in making/building things and in fixing things. So far, I have a new a bird feeder and a bat house. Yah!” ~ Gail R – Teacher

Magformers Challenger Set

63077_1_1

The unmatched magnetic building set. Talk about STEAM!

Perfect for large families and ambitious builders, the Challenger set encourages kids to explore magnetic construction through modular play. Magformers believes it is vital for children to develop through creativity and constructional play. This set does not disappoint.

You’ll find a variety of magnetic shapes in this set, both Rainbow and XL cruiser pieces so that children can design and build ideas from both lines including the ‘magic ball’ and super fast XL roadster.

This set makes a great addition to a math or art curriculum, that’s super hands – on. Children of all ages can build and create together making it a great social gift set.

Tegu Blocks: 40-Piece Magnetic Wooden Set

untitled_design_1_

Building blocks 2.0!

Tegu blocks are finely crafted  with magnets embedded so kids can build multiple structures form various shapes. Like Rubbablox,Tegu is made from eco-friendly material (in this case wood) and comes in a variety of color schemes to suit preference and mood. Honduras and named after the capital city Tegucigalpa.

Kids defy gravity and push their imagination in previously unseen ways. No instruction manuals or electronics; just toys that demand imagination and inspire limitless creativity across all ages.

Tegu Blocks are bringing back open, creative play with style – right in time!

This makes a great gift because it unlocks a child’s mind through innovative play. The pieces are small enough to be portable.

“I believe this is an AMAZING product. Something amazing happens when kids use their hands and imagination to create.” ~ Harvey S

“Bought these for my 6 year old grandson for Christmas and we now call his creations ‘the work of a City Planner.’ The different shapes and structures take on the look of city skylines with random items like trees, bridges, etc. Geometry was never so much fun.” ~Deborah F – Homeschooler, Teacher

“My first reaction was “these are pricey!” but they were highly recommended to me so I gave it a go. Now I can tell they will be loved for years. My 3 year old loves stacking them and clicking them together and a part. I even have fun playing with these and I’m an adult. They are high quality and the colors are great. ~ Summer H – Homeschooler, Parent, Teacher

The LEGO Christmas Ornaments Book

shockingly-awesome-learning_legochristmasornaments_cover_0_0_904f-1

Packed with step-by-step instructions for 15 charming builds, The LEGO Christmas Ornaments Book is the perfect family activity this holiday season! It’s one part coffee table for adults, and two parts instruction book kids of all ages.

With The LEGO Christmas Ornaments Book as their guide, kids make classic globe and barrel ornaments, all out of LEGO! Other possible creations include original gingerbread houses, a merry Santa, arcade cabinets, and so much more!

This makes a perfect gift for the child who already owns tons of LEGO blocks but is always looking for inspirational building ideas.

Magformers Math Activity Set

63210_math124setweb

Math comes to life with this awesome set!

Put some STEAM in your holiday plans! This math activity set stimulates learning through magnetic construction and creation. Activities in the set utilize the always attracting magnets to solve math problems such as patterns, addition and subtraction, and 2D nets to 3D structures.

Perfect for the visual-spatial learner who loves math puzzles.

Use the 50 page math book included to layout Magformers shapes and complete the mathematical challenges! The set contains 12 different geometric shapes including squares and triangles, rectangles and trapezoids through to the super squares and triangles.

Mechanical Masterminds

Tool Set 10-Piece Child Size

tool-set-10-piece-child-size-lr2921-1460412010-2893-3088-1

Realistic building for young builders! This set makes a great gift for children who love to help parents and grandparents in the workshop.

Encourage children to spend valuable imagination time learning new skills with this 10-piece set tool set. It includes screwdrivers, hammer, handsaw, bar clamp, file, tape measure, ruler, safety goggles, and tool belt.

Work and play are intertwined with building activities that are challenging, educational, and – most importantly, fun! The tool designs are authentic so children can make-believe they are true woodworkers.

Toobeez Building 57 Piece Connector Settoobeez-building-57-piece-connector-set-lr1474-1460408785-7373-3088

Ages 7 to 10

Build big connections! Kids work together to literally make bridges, obstacle courses – anything they imagine.

Start fun-filled construction with just three simple steps: connect, twist, and create. Toobeez Original Building Kit is a life-sized construction toy. Unlike regular blocks, this kit comes with interlocking tubes and spheres that can be linked to create structures right out of kids’ imagination. They can construct anything from a doll house, a helicopter, lemonade stand or a pirate ship.

Just connect and twist the tube into the connector spheres. It’s a great set to be used indoors for forts as well as outdoors for lawn activities.

This set makes a lasting gift because it promotes creativity and inspires imagination with unlimited building possibilities. Adults won’t be able to resist creating with their kids!

ROBOTIC PROFESSORS

14-in-1 Educational Solar Robot Kit

14-in-1-educational-solar-robot-kit-lr2890-1460412558-387-3088-1

The 14-in-1 Educational Solar Robot kit is the recipient of the “Best Green Products Award 2013” from Dr Toy and Creative Child Magazine has anointed it with “Top Toy of the Year Award” and “Kids Product of the Year Award.”

It’s the coolest and greenest robot on the planet!

This robot can be transformed into 14 different robot modes which include a multitude of comical and functional movements. The user can easily change from a Wagging-Tail Dog to Running Beetle to Walking Crab to Surfer to Speedster to Zombie Chaser!

It’s super versatile, too – there are parts that make the robot move on land and water. Like an amphibian! This a great gift for more advanced robot aficionados.

“Excellent resource for my Middle School STEAM students. Anything robotic is extremely appealing and interesting to them so this was a big set!!! Great resource, highly recommend it.” ~ Faith B., Teacher

“We purchased this for our just-turned-9 year old’s birthday. He loves it! It’s a nice size and there are so many things you can do with it! It comes with about 200 pieces and a thick instruction manual on how to make 14 different bots. Of course, the limit is your imagination and I’m excited to see how many things my son can come up with!” ~ Celena M

“Fun and educational. I like the snap together concept and the ability to take apart and reassemble multiple times. A very good price for all that you get.” ~ Martha M

Magformers Walking Robot Set

walking_robot_1_

Build a 3D bot! This makes a creative and thinking gift for the child fascinated by robots.

Young innovators will click, connect, and create with the NEW Magformers 45 piece Walking Robot set! Kids will love following along with the step-by-step idea booklet to discover the possibilities of the colorful Walking Robot Set. Eight walking characters are built using the STEAM engine block and walking accessories!

Building with Magformers encourages children to use their imagination and show their creativity while developing skills and knowledge critical to their development success. Magformers uses high quality “always attracting” magnetic technology that provides endless constructional play.

 

Mand Labs KIT-1: The Coolest DIY Kit for Fun Learning in Electronics

mand-labs_7x2a7964_04b5

An electrifying gift! This kit is perfect for the budding electrician looking to be stimulated by simple but intriguing experiments.

Mand Labs KIT-1 is one of the coolest Educational Electronics Kit that you will ever find. With their powerful step by step visual instructions, teens can create a variety of fascinating electricity and electronic projects. They will be able to understand how real world electronic component works, test laws of physics, gain technical skills and have fun. Watch out, Nobel!

The best part is that the kit is all-in-one. It comes with all requisite parts and tools for making 50+ projects and venturing further into electronics, books for theoretical reference, learning and making videos, troubleshooting guide, and an award winning package design that opens up into a personalized workstation. Note: This is a safe kit.

Computer-Meets-Builder

Beginning Architecture eCourse 1-3

908965_orig

Audio visual meets real world building.

This is an online e-course of Beginning Architecture with 25+ architecture lessons providing the early fundamentals of structures, home design, and zoo design.

Kids use things laying around the house like paper, popsicle sticks, straws, paper plates, and pipe cleaners along with learned methods to design their own homes! Each lesson concentrates on designing and personalizing a specific room of their homes, structures or zoos. By the end of the course, students will have designed a home specific to their personal tastes and will have built various designs.

This course provides more specific architectural challenges for students who are interested in playing with and learning about architecture and some interior design, making it a great holiday gift!

Build Your Own Website: A Comic Guide to HTML, CSS, and WordPress

surprisingly-awesome-learning_buildyourownwebsitecover_c0fa

Teens will have a blast learning how to make their own website with the help of this fun, illustrated introduction to the basics of website-building. Mix creativity with real world empowerment.  The awesome cartoon guide will help teens learn the basics and pretty soon, they’ll have a website all their own to show off to all their friends.

Readers learn how to use HTML tags, make their own site shine with CSS, customize WordPress to fit their needs, and choose a company to host the site. They also get advice on things like how to pick a good domain name – and those of you in the blogging sphere know that’s no joke!

Help kids stop dreaming of their perfect website and start making it!

 

See the Light Art Sale Ending Tonight!

Disclosure Pic

 

See the Light is my FAVORITE packaged curriculum, and that’s why I look for it every time I’m planning future lessons.  Right now it’s on SALE!

See the Light is a DVD art curriculum taught by real artists.  There are different styles of art available, such as drawing, chalk pastels, or creative lettering, and you can purchase these materials in different ways.  Some DVDs have collections of one type of instruction, like all drawing lessons, while others include lessons with a variety of art styles around a common theme – like Christmas or Easter.

See the LIght On Sale Now!

A few years ago we worked our way through the ‘Art Class’ DVDs, which contain drawing lessons from Master Artist Pat Knepley.  I loved watching my kids gain confidence in their artwork.  Their entire approach to art changed, as well, as they went from whining, “I can’t draw that!” when I suggested an art project to picking up their pencils confidently and eagerly.  The difference in their artwork is amazing, even though they were both in mid-elementary school at the time.  This bird – the one above?  My daughter sat and sketched that one day for fun – and she’s still sketching years later.  She even created a coloring book entry for the North Carolina State Fair this year and won first place!

The art projects are great for learning about specific types of art, artists, and art history.  Each one features a particular work by a famous artist and then, in a series of lessons, teaches you how to create your own version.  I love that one series of lessons incorporates multiple subjects and leaves you with a beautiful piece of art.

See the Light has been bringing out a new line of unit studies, too, and one is now available about Van Gogh.  We haven’t used this one yet, but we’ll be trying it out after Christmas. 

See the Light doesn’t hold sales often, so if you’ve been wanting to try out their products, this is the perfect time!  Hop over and check out their selection now – and remember to use BLACKCYBER for 20% off and free shipping!

LogicRoots Games Reviews: Ocean Raiders & Say Cheese

Disclosure Pic

Math has never been my favorite subject to teach.  It’s okay, but numbers and hard facts just aren’t my favorite things.  That’s why I was excited to be given the chance to review two math games from LogicRoots.

 The first is called Say Cheese.  It’s a multiplication game that stems from a short story you read from the direction booklet.  After that, you distribute cloth bags and the game chips. 

LogicRoots Review: Math Games @ A Nest in the Rocks

Following the rules, you take turns spinning the spinner and following the directions with your chips until someone has none left.  With each turn, your task is to determine whether the number on your chip is a multiple of the number on the spinner.  With some large numbers on the chips, this can be a bit of a challenge.

My Big Helper was totally up for that.  She enjoyed seeing how fast she could determine whether the chips had multiples and usually knew super fast.  She liked using big numbers from the spinners and was in it to win it.  My Little Man, on the other hand, while he played doesn’t love multiplication.  He enjoyed the game but it wasn’t his favorite.

The directions were a bit complicated to figure out.  Several times we’d continue play and then have to refer back to the directions to clear something up.  Several times we still weren’t sure what we were supposed to do and so just made up our own rules.  Part of this, I think, is because English was apparently not the native language of the people who wrote the directions.  Also, they often gave examples of the rules instead of just explaining them.  Since it is a simple kids’ game, however, this wasn’t a major problem. 

All in all, the game was fun.  The pieces were colorful and kid-friendly, and it definitely challenged the players to know their math facts.  The storyline was cute and the rules are simple.  This is definitely a fun, educational game – and best of all, it would be easy to create variations that could extend the usefulness of the game.

Pros:

  • Colorful pieces
  • Strong math ties
  • Simple rules
  • Variations would be easy to create
  • Not your traditional math game – asks students to work backwards for find answers
  • Costs under $20

Cons:

  • Instructions are somewhat unclear and include a few grammatical errors
  • It may take some time for students to get accustomed to identifying factors instead of solving mathematical equations

The second game we played is called Ocean Raiders.  This game is about addition and includes a variation for subtraction.  This game has a board and strongly resembles Chutes and Ladders.  The board contains 49 spaces in a non-linear order and has tornadoes that move a player randomly around the board.  Essentially, you roll the die and then add that number to the number of the space on which your token stands.  Because the board spaces are scattered randomly around the board, the student can’t simply count the proper number of spaces but must add the two numbers together in order to move ahead.

LogicRoots Review

My Little Man loved this game.  He had fun zooming his token around the board and especially loved rolling the die, which isn’t a cube.  It’s unusual shape makes it even more fun to roll.  I appreciate the variations that are included in the rule book.  My son knows his addition facts well, and so we completed the game in far faster time than the directions estimated, but it was still fun.

Pros:

  • Educational
  • Colorful, fun materials
  • Sturdy construction
  • Easy to understand
  • Simple rules
  • Several people can play at once
  • Costs less than $20

Cons:

  • Could be fun for a limited time only
  • This same basic game could be played using other game boards, like Uncle Wiggly or Chutes and Ladders

These games would make great gifts!  If you have kids learning their addition or multiplication facts, these games would make great additions to their educational tools.

I received a free copy of these games by LogicRoots.  All opinions expressed are my own.

“Trust My Heart” by Carol J. Post

Carol J. Post

Grant McAllister arrives in Murphy, North Carolina, with one aim: to sell his inherited property and leave as quickly as possible.

The big-city lawyer has no interest in his late, estranged grandparents or the dilapidated mansion he just acquired. After his high-profile divorce, he should be avoiding perky reporters, too. But Jami Carlisle is honest, funny, and undeniably appealing.

After breaking up with her safe-but-smothering boyfriend, Jami is determined to ace her first big assignment. A story about the McAllister estate is too intriguing to ignore—much like its handsome, commitment-phobic heir. Thanks to her digging, the pieces of Grant’s fraught family history are gradually fitting into place, but also upending all his old beliefs.

The two draw closer as they share their dreams, until misread signals and misunderstandings begin to test their trust. But in the unspoiled beauty of the Smoky Mountains, there’s healing and forgiveness to be found. And for Grant, this unplanned detour may be just what’s needed to finally guide him home…

Post puts North Carolina’s best foot forward in this new, fairytale romance.  With the North Carolina mountains creating both a vivid and exciting backdrop for Trust My Heart, there’s always a new adventure around the corner.  I love the way that Post exploited the natural beauty of the mountains and pulled the setting so strongly into the story.

Jami was an exciting character, too.  Her friendliness and courage in face of adversity make her my favorite kind of leading lady.  Grant’s not such a bad leading man, though, either.  With a few glaring flaws but the sincerity and drive to overcome them, I appreciate his willingness to make major life changes.

The supporting cast of characters really made the story.  Bernie’s antics were just hilarious, and Jami’s friends made great back-up people.  I’d love to read their stories, too.  With such colorful characters in the background and a strong setting, Trust My Heart puts me in mind of the Mitford books.  If you love Jan Karon’s work, definitely give Trust My Heart a try.

Click here to read other reviews in this bloggy hop or here to purchase your own copy now.


 

From medical secretary to court reporter to property manager to owner of a special-events decorating company, Carol J. Post’s résumé reads as if she hasn’t yet decided what she wants to be when she grows up. But one thing that has remained constant through the years is her love of writing. She started as a child composing poetry for family and friends, then graduated to articles for religious and children’s publications. Now she pens fun, fast-paced inspirational romance and romantic suspense stories. Her books have been nominated for an RT Reviewers’ Choice Best Book award and selected as an RT Top Pick. When Carol isn’t writing, she enjoys sailing, hiking, camping—almost anything outdoors. She also plays the piano and sings with her music-minister husband. Their two grown daughters and their grandkids live too far away for her liking, so she now pours all her nurturing into taking care of a fat and sassy black cat and a highly spoiled dachshund.

 
 

Join Carol in celebrating the release of Trust My Heart by entering to win her $75 Cozy Cash Giveaway.

trust-my-heart-400

One grand prize winner will receive:

  • A copy of Trust My Heart
  • A $75 Visa cash card
  • A basket full of goodies made in North Carolina to keep you cozy in the cooler fall weather

blog-tour-giveaway

Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on November 23. The winner will be announced November 28 on Carol’s blog.

trust-my-heart-enterbanner

 
I received a free copy of this book from LitFuse Publicity.  The opinions expressed in this review are my own.

The Father Christmas Books by Robin Jones Gunn

Disclosure Pic

Recently I had the chance to read not one, but three books by a favorite author.  How excited was I?  I got to read these three books:

In FINDING FATHER CHRISTMAS, Miranda Carson’s search for her father leads her unexpectedly to London with only a few feeble clues as to who he might be. Immediately welcomed into a family that doesn’t recognize her, and whom she’s quickly coming to love, she faces a terrible decision. Should she reveal her true identity and destroy their idyllic image of her father? Or should she carry the truth home with her to San Francisco and remain alone in this world? Whatever choice she makes during this London Christmas will forever change the future for both herself and the family she can’t bear to leave.

In ENGAGING FATHER CHRISTMAS Miranda Carson can’t wait to return to England for Christmas and to be with her boyfriend, Ian. She has spent a lifetime yearning for a place to call home, and she’s sure Carlton Heath will be it, especially when a hinted-at engagement ring slips into the conversation. But Miranda’s high hopes for a jolly Christmas with the small circle of people she has come to love are toppled when Ian’s father is hospitalized and the matriarch of the Whitcombe family withholds her blessing from Miranda. Questions run rampant in Miranda’s mind about whether she really belongs in this cheery corner of the world. Then, when her true identity threatens all her relationships in unanticipated ways, Miranda is certain all is lost. And yet . . . maybe Father Christmas has special gifts in store for her after all.

A year-and-a-half ago, Anna flew from Minnesota to Carlton Heath to attend the wedding of her cousin, Ian, to an American woman named Miranda. The beautiful event ended with Anna receiving an unexpected, unforgettable kiss from groomsman Peter. Now Anna is delighted to be invited back for Christmas with her family, dreams of romance dancing in her head. But when she finally sees him again, Peter insists his only interest in Anna is as a friend. Anna is hurt, and becomes even more confused when Peter takes her on a romantic tour of London. Is Anna’s heart misleading her, or is there a reason Peter is denying what he feels?

Robin Jones Gunn knocked it out of the park with the Father Christmas stories.  They’ll fill the most Bah, humbug reader with hope of love this Christmas season.  The three stories are connected by setting and a few background characters, and they provide a delightful backdrop that will keep the reader coming back for that alone.  I fell in love with the town of Carlton Heath and would love to see such a place myself – and I’ve never really wished to visit England. 

Miranda and Anna, the American female leads, are sweet.  While their personalities aren’t alike, the way that they’re welcomed by the residents of Carlton Heath and the way that they respond are somehow both sweet and innocent, even when the circumstances of the story aren’t.  I love the wisdom that Gunn imbues into every element of the story and the faith journey that she sends her characters on.

If you step back and think about it, the odds of any part of these stories coming true is extremely unlikely, but Gunn writes with such sweet conviction that they are completely believable.  I loved the impending, suspenseful romance of each story and the life lessons that are contained in each. 

The Father Christmas books are moving to the top of my favorite Christmas stories list.   I love the serious view of love with the lighthearted touches scattered throughout the story and will reread these over and over.  The biggest downfall is that I don’t have cable, because I would have loved to watch the Father Christmas movie that debuted recently.  If you have the chance, check it out!

I received a free copy of these books from FaithWords.  The opinions expressed are my own.

“The Cottage” by Michael Phillips

Disclosure Pic

Michael Phillips Continues His Sweeping Shetland Islands Saga with The Cottage

When Loni Ford is informed that she has inherited property in the Shetland Islands, she laughs. She wants nothing more than to sell it and be done with it. But when she arrives in the North Sea enclave, she is stunned to find that “the Cottage” is not at all what she expected, nor is David Tulloch, the man most of the islanders believe to be the rightful heir.

The locals could hardly be more surprised that the heir is a woman–and an American. Loni, in turn, finds the islanders quaint and a bit behind the times. Expecting David to be as provincial as the rest of his clan, she discovers that there is far more to the man than meets the eye. And there is something about the peaceful atmosphere of the place–and the character of its most prominent citizen–that soon gets under her skin.

Beneath the peaceful surface, however, change is threatening the island of Whale’s Reef. David’s cousin Hardy Tulloch, whose claim to the inheritance now in Loni’s hands was backed by oil investors, has not been deterred in his aim to control the island. But his co-conspirators have plans of their own, plans that put Loni’s very life in danger.

 

I enjoyed Michael Phillips’ first Secrets of the Shetlands novel, but he knocked it out of the park with The Cottage!  I couldn’t put this sequel down.  With the cast established and the location well painted, Phillips jumps right in with the suspense and intrigue.

I loved the faith journey that Loni went on in this story.  She learns and grows a great deal, not only about herself, but also about what she believes.  I like her take on friendships, on relationships, and her willingness to do the right thing even when it’s hard.  She’s a loveable main character and I was fascinated with her persona.

While the island itself was beautiful, it was the culture that caught my attention in this story.  I loved the history of the island, the way that the interactions between various people affected people’s attitudes and circumstances.  The flipping between the old stories and the new ones are some of my favorite vehicles for sharing that kind of history, and Phillips did an excellent job of using it here.

I couldn’t put The Cottage down.  I read it as fast as possible, in a single sitting, in a single day.  I couldn’t wait to find out the outcome of the island’s economy, Loni’s inheritance, and the love that blooms throughout its pages.  If you’re a fan of deep and meaningful stories with real people and exciting cultures, you should definitely read The Cottage.

I received a free copy of this book.  The opinions are my own.

Hearts for Home Blog Hop – November 16, 2016

Hearts for Home Blog Hop - November 16, 2016

Last week was our special Wild West day!  We’ve been working super hard to get ready, and now it’s time to prep for Thanksgiving, which is why I’m happy that it’s Hearts for Home time again!

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 post from last week was Thanksgiving Unit Study.

Some of my favorite posts from last week were:

8 Advent Traditions for Your Homeschool

Dinner and a Movie: Squanto-A Warrior’s Tale

Holiday Hostess Guide | 50 DIY Gifts & Recipes

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!


Book Clubbing in the Wild West: Climbing Mountains

Disclosure Pic

I love being able to make hands-on plans for book club.  I love that we’re not only about books and discussion but about really getting into the books with all of our senses.  That’s why I was so excited for the kids to read Missing on Superstition Mountain by Elise Broach this month, and just like Henry and his friends, we climbed a mountain.

Hanging Rock

On a warm Saturday morning, we met at Hanging Rock State Park in Danbury, North Carolina for a mountain adventure.  After quickly discussing the role of the dangerous Superstition Mountain to Henry, we set off.

Although our group set a brisk pace at the beginning, it wasn’t long before we slowed down considerably.  While the park service ranks the main Hanging Rock trail as a moderate one, the first half is very steep, and the second half requires climbing up rough, rustic rock steps. 

Hanging Rock

We paused for a picture before heading up those steps.  Where were we going, exactly?

Hanging Rock

We were going to the top of this! 

Hanging Rock

We stopped along the way to play in some neat rock formations.  The kids loved climbing into fissures, small craggy areas, and mini caves, then posing for pictures everywhere they went.  It was fun to see them enjoying it so much.

Hanging Rock

After lots more climbing, we made it to the top!  We stopped for a picture before scattering to the far corners of the large rock on top of the mountain.

Hanging Rock

So where were we, really?  My husband and My Big Helper ventured out onto Hanging Rock itself, but it was so crowded that they didn’t stay long.  They said that it felt too much as if a random elbow-bump could knock one off.  Given that, they didn’t hang around.  There were other places that were just as pretty ….

Hanging Rock

Like these huge boulders just around the corner from Hanging Rock itself.  Even though we were far away from the edge, this made My Little Man nervous, and he went back to the mountain as soon as we were done.  We all enjoyed snacking on the rock and enjoying the views, though.

Hanging Rock

Though the cliff side of the rocks were not his favorite thing, My Little Man loved the underside of the upper rocks.  How strong would one have to be to hold this one up?

Hanging Rock

Climbing the mountain was a major adventure.  It was difficult and exhausting, with a few banged knees and racing pulses.  We were tempted to quit and worried about the danger from the uneven ground, 2500-foot drop, and the crowds at the top.  We realized, though, like Henry, that blazing a new trail was fun.  It made us feel strong.  That conquering the mountain made us more observant of the nature around us and the strength within our muscles. 

If you’ve never pitted yourself against a mountain, give it a try.  You might be surprised at what you’ll learn.

For more mountain-climbing resources, check out these: