DIY Flower Pens

I have had this little pot of flowers on my desk for a long time. It’s one of my favorite things. My youngest son made it for me some years ago. You see I was having a problem with my pens walking away all the time, later to be found in massive heaps under my children’s beds or beneath the cushions on the couch. But, since I received my pot of pens, I have never lost a pen.

You or your children can easily make these, and you too will never again loose your pens. All you need is a few plastic flowers with stems removed, floral tape, your favorite pens, a small clay pot, and some dried beans.

Line up the base of the plastic flower with the end of the pen, tape with the floral tape. Be sure to cover the entire pen so it looks like a stem to the flower.

Add the beans to the clay pot, and stick the open end of the ball point pen into the beans, they will hold the pen in place so nicely! We used dried pinto beans because that was what we had on hand, but you could also use dried black beans which really look like soil.

We made some of these for my Grandmother at age 101. She loved them, she couldn’t get used to the fact that they were pens. Who knows, after a while everyone may just for get that they are pens and you can just enjoy the flowers.

Designer Mom

Teaching the Gifted: The Auditory Learner

I have learned many things in my years of homeschooling.  Here are my thoughts on teaching an auditory learner, along with a few resources that I have found to be of great value in this process.
Teaching the Gifted: The Auditory Learner|Designers Sweet Spot|

“Is your child gifted?”
The auditory learner
I hate that question. It drives me crazy to read about schools that offer gifted learning programs. Actually I hate labels period. As far as I am concerned, ALL children are gifted. They each just have DIFFERENT gifts. Many times we just don’t understand their gifts. Far too often, their gifts go completely undiscovered and unappreciated. There are many adults who feel they had special gifts as children that were unrecognized. This is so true. After all, IQ tests can’t possibly measure all God’s given talents completely.

Home schooling a gifted child who learns easily may sound like a simple thing. Perfect, in fact. You would think would be an ideal situation. You give them their work, they do it, every body is happy. But is it really this easy? These “gifted” children are often continually bored, may be unsocial, they may already know the answer to every question and can be difficult to teach. They can also be stubborn perfectionists, very athletic, and or very musical. Their talents may lie in only one area and they may also be completely afraid to try new or different things for fear of failure. These children can be very difficult to engage and challenge, much less keeping them busy all day long at home without driving every one else in the house completely crazy. Perhaps this is why we decide to home school them rather than leave them in the public school.

Traditional schools define gifted children as being above average in one or more areas of their development. Oddly enough, many of us THINK we have gifted children, but they really may not be. Sometimes it’s really a kind of parental pride. “Of course my child is gifted, he is MY child!” We all want what is best for our kids, especially when it comes to their education. But some kids just learn faster than others, so we consider them gifted.

Many times “gifted children” are auditory-sequential learners. They learn best by hearing things. Our son amazed us at his ability to listen and follow directions from a very young age. We could explain how to do something once and he could do it and remember it, even as a toddler. (This is very much unlike our dyslexic children who needed constant repetition and discipline to master a task.) Alex was an easy child in this way. I don’t ever remember telling him “don’t touch that!” more than once. It was obvious he was an auditory learner right from the start.

As a thrilled new home schooling Mom-teacher, I diligently bought curriculum after curriculum, and we flew through it all for many years. However, over time it has become apparent to us that just because a child learns easily, does not mean he will always retain what he has learned. Long term memory has become a different issue, one that perhaps isn’t talked about much.

For example, our son had studied mathematical fractions for months and months in grammar school, but when the subject came up again in high school he has had trouble remembering them. Interesting, considering he knew them inside out and backwards several years before. Isn’t this why we revisit subjects until we master them? Yes, it is. However, it is very different for children who have different learning styles.

In contrast, our dyslexic children often struggle to learn a concept for months or years at a time. We try different curriculum, different learning methods, over and over before they finally succeed. We may revisit the same concept year after year with little or no progress, but once they learn it, they never forget it. So who is really easier to teach?

Auditory learners obviously do well with auditory concepts. But believe it or not reading to themselves can be challenging and may not the best way for them to learn. Reading to themselves out loud, however, is a different story. Better yet, have them read to a younger sibling. Listening to fictional books on tape or CD are also great options, but there are others.

Here are just a few of the resources we have used over time:

Audio-books: Fiction are easy to find, but you can also find audio-text books and bibles on tape, CD, or in MP3 formats. Check out library book sales, book stores, and garage sales for great deals.
Kindle Audio Books: Very cost effective to download, but not all Kindle devices have an audio function.
Smart Phone Audio Books: Who knew my Droid could do this? Our entire family listened to Sherlock Holmes on a car trip with the aid of a simple adapter for the car stereo system.
Library Websites: Ours has many audio books available to check out and download to your PC or portable device.
Foreign Language Programs: Great for your auditory learner, they will learn so fast!
Music: Learning an instrument is a must for the student who learns by listening. Also includes visual learning and kinetic movement, what a multi-sensory approach!
Video: A simple choice, the visuals are a bonus!
Paperback Swap: Check out You can exchange audio books, Cd’s and of course regular books for FREE. A great resource!

Here are some of our favorite curriculum’s:
Presidential Rap: Great CD for memorizing the Presidents and information about them.
History Songs by Veritas Press
Latin for Children Audio Cd’s: We used to listen to these while driving around in the car. I don’t think we ever cracked open a work book, they Cd’s were so much fun!
Jim Weiss Cd’s: A master story teller, Jim Weiss has made dozens of classic books into enjoyable Cd’s for children. Great for road trips in the car.
Geography Songs: Loved these, I think our kids learned to sing these long before they could read or even knew where the states were!

There are probably many, many, more out there. Enjoy listening! I love to tell my kids that it doesn’t matter how fast or slow you learn. We all end up in the same place eventually. Comparing abilities or labeling them doesn’t help anyone. We all have unique God given gifts. It may be in math or science, art or music, compassion and integrity, or hope and joy. But in the end, we all end up just the way God intended for us to be, with gifts that He gave us.

Designer Mom

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Teaching the Gifted: The Auditory Learner|Designers Sweet Spot|

Penelope Van Princess

Penelope Van Princess was a fable I heard growing up, recently I decided to dig a little deeper.  I was shocked when I read this story and realized it was more than just a fabled tale! 
Penelope Van Princess|Designers Sweet Spot|
One of the best things we have done as home schoolers is to study family history. History is so much more interesting when you have a personal interest in the subject. For years, we have researched and talked about the relatives, many of whom have such facinating character you could write a book about it. What little boy wouldn’t want to learn about Uncle George Baseball, Uncle Herold the Hermit or Great Grandpa Ives and his mysterious connection to Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad? Family history is facinating stuff.

My Grandmother used to tell me stories as a girl of an Indian Princess in our family. I was facinated by her tale of the only woman EVER known to have survived a scalping by Indians. My Grandmother always had her mind, even at age 105, and I had no doubt that she knew her family history. But it wasn’t until I recently Googled “Penelope Von Princess” that this tale came to life for me. There is nothing like seeing it printed in front of you on the Internet, and suddenly a family fable has a basis in reality.

It was the year 1622. A baby girl was born in Amsterdam, Holland named Penelope Kent. She grew up, and married a Mr. Van Princen (some versions of the story say his name was Von Princess or Van Princis. Grandma had told me Von Princess and I am sticking with it. She would have never gotten Van and Von confused.), set sail with her husband for the New World in 1642. It was a long, dangerous journey by sea. Many of the passengers on board the ship became ill in their cramped conditions. A storm ship wrecked their vessel off the coast of Sandy Hook, New Jersey in 1643. Although they made it to shore, it was not easy. Mr. Van Princen was already ill, and now injured. The small group of settlers didn’t want to remain on the beach for very long, fearing attack by the Indians. They were eager to be on their way to New Amsterdam (which is now New York City). Penelope could not convince them to stay where they were while her husband recovered, and the group soon left them to fend for themselves on the deserted beach. Somehow Penelope managed to move her husband into the nearby woods, looking for shelter. Shortly afterwards, the Indians did attack them. They killed her wounded husband, brutally slashed and scalped her, leaving her for dead.

Penelope was not dead, however. She was severely wounded, her left arm hacked so that it would never regain it’s usefulness, her scalp fractured, and her abdomen slashed so she actually had to hold her intestines in her body with her one good hand. She regained conciousness and dragged herself inside of an old hollow log for shelter. For the next 7 days she survived solely by eating mushrooms from inside the log. Eventually two Indians came deer hunting, and disovered her. The younger of the two men was eager to finish killing her off, but the older man would not let him. Perhaps he saw what a miracle it was she was still alive. He wrapped her carefully in a blanket, took her back to his wigwam, and nursed her back to health. Penelope ended up living with the Indians for several years before she finially finished her journey to New Amsterdam. (This is probably why the family story claimed she was an Indian Princess). Penelope remained friends with the Indians that had healed her, even after she returned to the colony.

Penelope later met her second husband Richard Stout in New Amsterdam in 1646. A few years after their marriage they moved to Middleton, New Jersey in 1648-1649. Despite her previous maming, Penelope and Richard had a total of 10 children. Penelope lived to be 110 years old, and had 502 total off spring by the time she died in 1732.

Wow, what a story! November is the month all the little kiddies begin to make Pilgrim costumes for the “Harvest Festival” and decorate pinecones to look like turkeys for the Thanksgiving table. It drives me crazy. What really bothers me is that we sugar-coat our heritage for our children. The Mayflower was not the only ship to sail across the sea. Thousands of settlers came her seeking refuge, but ended up suffering incredibly in the process. The bountiful Harvest did not miraculously appear on the Thanksgiving table, and the Indians who shared the feast were not one bit friendly. It amazes me the things these people went though. I would feel like packing it up and heading back where I came from. I can’t imagine inviting your enemies to dinner, sharing your only food, not knowing if they would eat with you, or have your scalp for dessert.

We should teach our children the other side of the Thanksgiving story. True faith, trust and forgiveness are present in this tale. Penelope must have wished she was dead while waiting for 7 days in that log. She must have had tremendous faith. I cannot imagine why she did not go insane from the pain she endured. She certianly would have feared the Indian man who took her and healed her. She wouldn’t have been able to understand his language to know he wasn’t going to harm her. Being moved to the Indian village alone must also been terrifying for her. Perhaps he was trustworthy, but what about the other Indians? He must have been incredibly skilled at healing, for her to bear so many children later in life. Wow, what an amazing true story. Much better than the happy go lucky stories on the seasonal Hallmark cards, don’t you think? This is what true legends are made of.

Enjoy discovering your Heritage this month.

Designer Mom

Update: My father recently discovered this Ripley’s Believe It or Not newspaper clipping among Grandmother’s things.

Penelope Van Princess Article

I love the verbage:

“Penelope Van Princis (1602-1712) After journeying to America from Amsterdam at the age of 18, was attacked by Indians, who killed her husband, fractured her skull, shoved a spear through her body and left her in the belief she was dead.

She spent 7 days in a hollow tree, survived to live another 92 years, and had 502 descendants when she finally died at the age of 110.”

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Penelope Van Princess|Designers Sweet Spot|

Roasted Tuscan Tomatoes

One of my favorite things to do with tomatoes, other than canning them, is to make roasted tuscan tomatoes. It’s amazing what roasting does to the flavor of things.
Roasted Tuscan Tomatoes|Designers Sweet Spot|
Somehow it just accentuates the fresh taste. This is a technique borrowed from Frances Mayes, author of Under the Tuscan Sun. Which by the way, is an absolute must read book. The movie didn’t do her justice at all. Anyway I am getting side tracked again. This reciepe is from Mayes’ book Bringing Tuscany Home: Sensus Style from the Heart of Italy.
Roasted Tuscan Tomatoes
Ingredient number one: You will need a multitude of luscious, ripe tomatoes.
Ingredient numbers 4,5,6,7,8, 9:
Extra Virgin Olive Oil, chopped garlic (lots!), Thyme, Oregano, Basil, and Rosemary (you can also use Italian Seasoning).
It is critical before you do anything else at this point to pop in some beautiful Italian music to listen to while you work, such as Puccini, Josh Groban or Andrea Boticelli. The tomatoes will taste ever so much better…………trust me on this.
Roasted Tuscan Tomatoes
Slice the tomatoes thickly, about 1/4″ will do, spread them on a cookie sheet.
Sprinkle them liberally with the chopped garlic. I used about 5 tablespoons.
Drizzle them with the olive oil. I probably used at least a 3/4 cup.
Sprinkle the herbs over the tomatoes, make sure they are all evenly covered.
Roasted Tuscan Tomatoes
The idea is so saturate the tomatoes with the olive oil, garlic and herbs.
Bake them in a 200 degree oven for 2 1/2 hours. They will have a wonderful smell.
After they have roasted you can do lots of different things with them. They can be stored in an air tight jar in the refrigerator, covered with olive oil, for up to 5 days. I like to chop them and add them to soups, sauces, toss them with pasta and grated Parmesan cheese, or even freeze them to use later. They also make wonderful Bruscetta when added on top of sliced french bread.
Designer Mom
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Lingerie that Every Woman Should Own

Spirella representative
One of the best kept secrets for the fashionable woman is great lingerie. Just as a wise man built his house upon a rock, the wise woman starts her look with great fitting undergarments.

Unfortunately, today we tend to over look this area. Generations ago, corsetieres came into homes and gave the lady of the house a custom fitting. Corsets were not sold in stores. My ancestors were corsetieres in Niagara Falls, Canada. The Spirella Corset Company began in 1904, and would send a female professional into customers homes to fit them for the perfect bone corset.

Back then, proper fitting of a corset was a literally a life and death matter, as if a lady had a fall, or was accidentally poked in the ribcage, the fragile stays could break and puncture her body. Can you imagine? Corsetieres were often nurses, and corsets were many times part of the doctor’s prescription for various aliments such as chronic back pain. Here’s what one of the original garments looked like:
We have it so easy today, don’t we?
This is a poorly fit corset.
This is a properly fit Spirella.
Spirella was making corsets well into the 1960’s. Wonder why women in vintage photos look so grand? Guess what they are wearing underneath?
My Grandmother used to say, don’t ever wear undergarments you would be embarrassed to have a doctor see if you got hurt and were sent to the Emergency Room. What a thought process!
Since we think that no one really sees our undergarments, they get put on the bottom of our priority list.
Did you know????
It is estimated that approximately 85% of American women wear the wrong size bra. Particularly in the Midwest, the average is supposedly higher. Given the popularity of Oprah’s Bra episode which first aired in November of 2005, you can tell this is a major issue with women today. Oprah even has dedicated a page to the subject, she calls it “The Bra Revolution”.  Here’s the link:
Did you know that a proper fitting bra can change your figure by as much as 2 inches? It can make you look bigger and fuller, or it can even make you look like you lost weight! Do you wonder why you can’t find blouses to fit? Perhaps it’s time to shop for some new foundations instead of new clothes.
I love lingerie. Designing lingerie was my specialty in college and I worked for a lingerie company for a number of years in Chicago. I guess you could say it’s in my blood. Every woman should build her wardrobe from the foundations up. If your “girls” are headed South, it’s time to pick them up and put them back where they belong!
How do you know when you need new foundations?
1) Have you gained or lost more than 7 lbs. since you last purchased undergarments?
2) When you look in the mirror (fully clothed), is your bust point centered between your shoulder and elbow?
3) Has it been more than 6 months since you purchased new braziers?
4) Are wearing your bra on the last or smallest hook, and the band is still loose? Are the under wires are protruding into your side? Are your breasts are spilling above or below the bra?  Do you feel confident wearing your undergarments, or do you feel frumpy and grumpy?
If you have answered YES to any of these questions, it’s time to go shopping!
Where to begin?
Correct fit is essential. Since we no longer have the option of in home fittings, we need to find a specialty shop dedicated to filling this need. Here in Madison we are blessed with Contours Lingerie at 6102 Mineral Point Road, Madison, WI.
Contours is a great place to find a beautiful selection of foundations and specialty sleepwear. Personalized service, and a wide selection of larger sizes adds to the package. Contours specializes in bra fittings (no charge), and has a wonderful selection including European style garments. I stopped in recently for a fitting, and picked up a coupon for a discounted wax at the Bella Beauty Salon next door. You also get a free pantie with a wax! You can’t go wrong with this deal!
If your not local, getting a proper fitting can be as close as your local department store. JC Penny’s offers free fittings, plus you get an additional 20% discount on your purchase! Call today!
Don’t be afraid to try some new styles. Designer Issac Mizerahi gives this list of lingerie must haves in his book ” How to Have Style”:
1) At least one T-shirt Bra, preferably in several colors, such as beige, white and black. Avoid prints and unnecessary wild colors.
2) A Convertible bra, including X and T back styles,usually they come with removable straps for an optional strapless look.
3) A Push-Up Bra.
4) An all lace bra, preferably in a great color like red. Step out of your box on this one!
5) A Minimizer Bra, you just never know when you might need it to fit under a certain blouse!
6) Various pantie styles and fabrications including lace, cotton and tricot. Vary the waistbands to include bikini or boy short and high waisted. High waisted pants are coming back, be prepared!
I am adding the following must haves to his list:
6) Several different styles and colors of Spanx or smooth fitting spandex type undergarments including a camisole, a T-shirt style, and a bottom such as a bike short or full body hugging style for wearing under clingy dresses.
7) You should also own long winter underwear, especially for those of us in cold climates. Try Cuddle Dudds for a warm fleecy type feel, or the lighter weight silks from Land’s End. Do not under any circumstances wear the old fashioned thermals! They are SO unfeminine and will add inches to your figure! Yikes! Who wants that?
8) At least one silky fabric camisole. They fit great under clingy T-shirts and blouses, giving you a smoother look.
Always remember to wash your lingerie in a lingerie bag on the gentle cycle. Don’t ever dry them in the dryer. Undergarments will last infinitly longer by air drying them.
Two things that are completely passe’ are girdles and slips. Spanx are a hundred times more effective, they don’t ride up, and they are a thousand times more comfortable. Need I say more?
In closing, I will share with you one of my favorite stories. We were at a Christian couples weekend when our keynote speaker told us this story. He was shopping at his local Mall, when he noticed a band of Amish ladies MARCHING down the Mall, all of them carrying Victoria’s Secret shopping bags. Just because you look plain on the outside doesn’t mean you can’t look GREAT on the underside! Happy Shopping!