Book Club, Girls’ Edition: “Chasing Vermeer” by Blue Balliet

Chasing Vermeer
This month the girls tackled their hardest book to date:  Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliet.  Chasing Vermeer is a philosophical mystery involving an international community, a centuries-old painting, and a criminal mastermind.

Inherent to the story, at least to us, were Calder’s pentominoes.  These puzzle shapes can be put together to make rectangles, and the more you use, the greater the challenge.  My Big Helper was fascinated with these, so I was excited to find a printable set on that we could print out.  I thought we’d spend just a short time on this, but the girls happily cut for a very long time.

After cutting out their pieces, they colored them and then glued each one onto cardstock and cut it out again.  (Had my printer been working, we would’ve printed directly onto cardstock, but this worked, too – and the girls chose colorful pieces of heavy scrapbook paper for their backing.)

After all of that work, we moved on to tea time.  I made these ‘tea cakes’ from my favorite goofy cake recipe and slathered chocolate ganache over the top.  Yum!

Next we looked at the painting on which the book is loosely based, Vermeer’s A Lady, Writing.  We talked about Vermeer, his life, and how artists lived during his time – and then headed outside to create a large version of this famous painting.

The girls didn’t have long to mix colors and paint, as moms were coming steadily to pick them up, but they seemed to enjoy the Lady.

What are your kids reading right now?

Book Club, Girls’ Edition: ” A Crazy Christmas Angel Mystery”

Crazy Christmas Angel

This month the girls’ read A Crazy Christmas Angel Mystery by Beverly Lewis.  It’s a fun story in which a new neighbor moves in, and he has mysterious angels that fly around his head at night.  The Cul-de-Sac kids can’t wait to figure out what sort of angels these are, and they go caroling to investigate.

We decided to go caroling, too.  The girls spent some time with us decorating a birthday cake for Jesus,  talking about the book, and then practicing the songs they wanted to sing.  After that, their families returned and we headed out to sing to the neighbors.  (We didn’t do any spying, though – just singing.)


Upon returning, we feasted on birthday cake, pretzels, and homemade hot chocolate.  The girls’ enjoyed showing off their decorating skills during the party portion of the event.

This book sparked some good discussion about the Christmas story and the ways we share it with others.  The main character in this story didn’t seem to be familiar with the Nativity story, and his friends shared well with him.  That prompted a discussion of the ways that people have shared this story throughout history and fun ways that we can do so now.  We also talked about the legend of the candy cane and the ease of sharing the story by sharing these candies.

The Crazy Christmas Angel Mystery was a great choice for a December read.  Easy to read, fun, and with great themes, I’m glad we chose this one!

What are you reading with your kids right now?

Shared at I Can Teach My Child.

Book Club: “The Castle Mystery”

The Castle Mystery - Girls
We hosted another fun book club event this week.  This time the girls read “The Castle Mystery” which is part of the Boxcar Children series.  In this story, the Aldens travel to a friend’s former home, which just happens to be a small castle that’s nestled on a cliff above a lake. They plan to help prepare for a museum to be opened inside the former home.  Instead, they arrive to find that a famous violin has gone missing and the other workers mysterious act mysterious.  Can they find out who has taken the Stradt and get the castle ready in time for the museum’s opening?
After summarizing the book and sharing our thoughts, we listened to a violin and headed into the kitchen.  We turned on some classical music to see if we could pick out the violin parts while we made stained glass window cookies.  
The kids were really fabulous about this, and they were so much fun to work with.  They had obviously baked before!  They took turns reading the recipe and doing each task.  First, they unwrapped the hard candy that would act as the ‘stained glass,’ then we went outside to use hammers and rolling pins to crush it.


After mixing up the dough, the kids carefully cut the middle out of each cookie and then filled it with crushed candy.


They ended up looking like this.


We baked them just until the centers melted, then removed them from the oven and let them finish cooling on the tray.


After that we headed to the playroom to make crayon resist stained glass windows.  Each child shaped her paper the way she wanted, then colored shapes on it with light and bright colors.  After that, she painted the whole paper with black water paint, which really makes the light colors stand out.
After finishing our paper windows, we headed outside to design our own castle.  We used the exact same system that we used for our English castles last summer, and the kids had just as much fun with it as they did then.  For the rest of the afternoon, they designed and re-designed the layout of the walls over and over.  I love that they can be so fascinated with something as simple as cardboard!
We have some really exciting plans for next month.  I can’t wait to share them with you!  
What are your kids reading right now?