My sub addiction…


Well i’m taking time off from “bad” carbs again! I had developed a very unhealthy addiction to sub sandwiches, specifically, Jersey Mike’s and Jimmie Johns.

Every day I was fighting the temptation and I lost, a lot. I realized that what I had read in different scientific studies was true; eating carbs with a high glycemic index triggers the same areas in your brain that signal cravings and rewards.

Neither my husband or I were ever huge bread, rice or pasta eaters; if we did consume, it was whole wheat or brown rice based.

So I was unprepared for the cravings that resulted when I consumed my first Jimmie John’s sub. They opened a new location down the street from my office (and kindly) brought a ton of sample subs to drive business. I took a veggie sub sample home for dinner and it was fabulous, so much so that the next weekend I talked my husband into swinging by for full size.

Then Jersey Mike’s opened..and there were coupons in the could we not try it?

I decided I had to go cold turkey and fast. My energy levels had dropped and my eating habits were starting to slip into unhealthy areas.

Monday, December 1st: no more bad carbs. So far, I’ve done really well with it and cutting out an entire food group (grains) seems to be easier than picking and choosing. My husband commented today that my face looks slimmer; I didn’t gain weight during this addictive phase, but I did bloat.


The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Favorite eBooks on sale….or free today!

Are you a book lover….and do you have an e-reader?  (If not, you can always download the free Kindle software so that you can read e-books on your computer.)

I am…and I do!  My secret reading weapons include our public library, Amazon, and my favorite e-reader service, Gospel eBooks.  I receive a daily email from Gospel eBooks detailing generous lists of deeply discounted and free books.  (There’s usually at least one freebie, although some days, like today, have many!)  Their notifications include sales and freebies for Christian fiction and nonfiction, children’s books, cookbooks, theology, history…..their offerings are all over the board.

Gospel eBooks | Free & Discount Christian e-Books for the Amazon Kindle

You can visit Gospel eBooks by clicking on this link, but I wanted to tell you about some of my personal faves that are either free or discounted today!

Mitchell's beautiful book

Mitchell’s beautiful book

Siri Mitchell’s A Heart Most Worthy is one of the books I read and reread.  She writes of women across the centuries and the unique challenges they faced simply because of their gender or era.  This book’s tale of 3 young women from Italian immigrant families in pre-WWI Boston is one that will capture your heart, as will her characters.  (See also Mitchell’s Love’s Pursuit, She Walks in Beauty, A Constant Heart, or my Paris adventure favorite, Kissing Adrien.  They’re not, as far as I know, on sale this week, but they’re all well worth the read.)  A Heart Most Worthy is on sale December 15-January 21 for only 99 cents.  Grab this deal while you can!

One of my Coppernoll faves

One of my Coppernoll faves

Chris Coppernoll’s Screen Play is another book I like to pick up and read again from time to time.  Actress Harper’s career seems to be dying on the vine…until she gets the chance to understudy for a famous star in a Broadway play.  Unexpected gifts, surprises and relationships appear on the scene and Harper sees that there is a hand guiding her ways after all.  Screen Play is $1.99 from today until January 5.  Coppernoll’s other books include Providence and A Beautiful Fall…..both beautiful reads.

"Battle Ready"

“Battle Ready”

I haven’t read Steve Farrar‘s Battle Ready, but I know that he’s written books for young men….and since I have a son I took advantage of its offer!  Battle Ready is free December 15-16, so don’t miss this if you have any interest.

And Jill Eileen Smith‘s Michal, about King David’s first wife, is free through December 31.  I haven’t read this one yet but it’s on my Kindle as well.

You’ll find these deals and quite a few others over at Gospel eBooks.  I’ve gotten so many wonderful books from them at rock-bottom prices, or free!

And, remember to vote for the Finch N Wren blog in the category of Best Family or Group Blog over at The Homeschool Post.  You can vote once daily through December 29!

The Homeschool Post


Enjoy!  –Wren


Christmas Happenings

I wanted to include a lot of Christmas, Advent and holiday fun in our homeschool this month.  I had the lofty goal of having an activity per day.  Which was a bit harder to accomplish than I’d expected!  Some of our activities have turned into multiple-day ones, like some of our art or cooking projects.  But it has been wonderful to have these neat, seasonal and relational projects to do.  It’s really bringing our hearts and minds in line with the joys of Christmas, and the Savior’s birth!

Here are a few of the things we’ve done over the week.  More to come later!

The Jesse Tree

We made a Jesse Tree last year for the first time, using Darcy James’ Let’s Make a Jesse Tree. 

My favorite Jesse Tree book

Darcy James’ Jesse Tree book

This one has patterns for each of the ornaments shown on the book cover, each of which traces the line of God’s relationship with man and provision of a Savior throughout the whole Bible, starting in Genesis.  Each day has a little description of the ornament (plus directions) as well as Scripture verses to read as you hang the ornament on the tree.  This book uses a banner to place the ornaments on each day, but we like to make an actual tree.  So Jackson and I go out every early December to our favorite neighborhood cottonwood tree, and pick up the sticks it’s deposited on the ground nearby.

My favorite neighborhood tree

My favorite neighborhood tree

Then, we tuck the sticks into a tall vase, set it on the bookcase, and—voila!  A Jesse Tree.

Hedgehog and Jesse Tree

Hedgehog and Jesse Tree

Admittedly, it looks rather paltry at the moment.  But day by day over the month, as we trace the line of the promised Messiah through Scripture, it’ll bulk up!

“Stained Glass” Christmas Tree Art

I happened across Mrs. Brouwer’s “Picasso’s Christmas Trees” on Pinterest last month.  I loved the project (you can find directions here), which utilizes cubism, warm colors and cool colors to make a fabulous Christmas painting.  Although by the time we finished ours, it looked more to me like stained glass than cubism….hence the title!

Early stages....ruler, pencil and card stock

Early stages….ruler, pencil and card stock

First, you draw a large triangle for your Christmas tree.  Next, you draw lines across the paper with your ruler and pencil from every angle and direction.  You’ll end up with lots of triangles and trapezoids.

Warm colors first!

Warm colors first!

Next, grab all your warm colors; yellows, oranges, reds, plus some white for color mixing.  We used tempera and acrylic paints.  Begin to paint in ONLY the shapes outside of the Christmas tree, with warm colors only.  Try not to put the same colors in adjacent shapes…mix it up!  And if you need some extra colors, that’s what the white is for.  Or, remember the days of the 64 Crayola Crayon box?  Red-orange, yellow-orange, and so on?  You get the picture.

Now, the cool colors!

Now, the cool colors!

Once you’ve painted in all the warm colors outside the Christmas tree, it’s time to start with the cool colors for the tree itself.  Use blues, greens, purples and (again) white for mixing.

The finished product!

The finished product!

For the finishing touches, using a thin brush, paint silver (for the Christmas tree) or gold (in the warm color area) over the original pencil lines that defined each triangle or trapezoid.

You’ll end up with a gorgeous, vibrant picture that looks like a stained glass window!

What kinds of fun activities are you doing at your home to prepare for Christmas?

Enjoy!  –Wren



We’re Up for a Blog Award!

The Homeschool Post

Finch and I are so excited!  Every year, the wonderful bloggers over at The Homeschool Post host The Homeschool Blog Awards.  I’m kind of shocked that we were nominated….but many thanks to the kind person who submitted finchnwren!

Our blog, finchnwren, was nominated in the category of Best Family or Group Blog.  This category is for bloggers in a family or group who blog about homeschooling and other stuff.  Which, as you can see, definitely describes us!

Voting opened on Monday and will be open through Monday night, December 29, 2014.  If you’d like to vote for us, we’d be thrilled!  Here is the link to the Best Family or Group Blog .  They’ve listed us as Finch N Wren.  But it is us!

You can vote once per day.  And if you head over there, check out some of the other neat categories!  You might find some new blogger favorites among them.  Some of my faves are there!

Enjoy—we sure feel blessed!  –Wren

Healthy snack!

I discovered a wonderful new healthy snack that satisfies cravings for lightly salted crunchy stuff.

Snapea Crisps are made from 70% Green Peas, they taste amazing and have negligible levels of calories, fat sugar and sodium. They come in many flavors now, including Black Pepper (a fave), Wasabi Ranch and lightly salted.

Tastes like a guilty pleasure…but it’s not!



Learning Thru the USA linkup–Colorado!

When I was in college, Colorado seemed like a magical place.  Occasionally my friends would head up there to go skiing (although I always skied in New Mexico, personally….for me, it was a bit cheaper and easier to get to).  But it took me years to actually get to that state.

It turns out that Colorado IS actually pretty magical!  Today, I’m joining a linky party that my friend Adena F is hosting:  Learning Thru the 50 States.  She’s gathering a huge group of bloggers, each of whom is sharing fun learning info about one of our United States.  Since there is still a lot that I’d like to learn about The Centennial State, I’m sharing today about the great state of Colorado.


File:Flag of Colorado.svg

Entered into the Union by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1876, Colorado became the 38th American state.  Capital city Denver is the largest and most populated of the state, known as well as “The Mile High City” with its 5,280 feet altitude level.  Colorado has plains, rivers, and the Rocky Mountains running right up the state.  This landscape and climate make Colorado popular for skiing, hiking, cycling, and lots of other outdoor activities.  It’s not surprising that Colorado often ranks in the top 10 healthiest U.S. states.  So there’s really something for everyone!

As you can imagine, there is a LOT that one can learn about each of the 50 states in our country.  And I haven’t been to MANY places that I’d like to visit in Colorful Colorado.  But, I’d like to share 5 of the National Parks in Colorado that have whetted my appetite for learning more history, taking a gorgeous hike or extending my geographical knowledge by travel.  I’ve always been interested in visiting our country’s National Parks, though I haven’t visited many.  This is a list of the top 5 I’d like to hit in Colorado.  I think you’ll find them fascinating as well!

Rocky Mountain National Park

Longs Peak at Rocky Mountain  National Park photo credit:  NPS

Longs Peak at Rocky Mountain National Park
photo credit: NPS

Rocky Mountain National Park, or ROMO, located in Estes Park and Grand Lake, CO, is comprised of 415 square miles of mountains and forests.  It even has over 300 miles’ worth of hiking trails, and climbs to an altitude of over 12,000 feet.  (That means, drink your water while you’re up there!)

If you’re not located close to ROMO, you can visit it via the internet.  ROMO’s Photo Gallery has a cool collection of pictures of what the park looks like in all seasons, and in a variety of areas.  You can also visit webcams which will share with you visuals of the Alpine Visitor Center, Kawuneeche Valley, the Continental Divide, and Longs Peak, one of Colorado’s favorite “fourteeners.”

ROMO has collected a series of comprehensive fact pages for teachers and students, which cover everything from flora and fauna, to ecosystems, to history, geology and seasons.  Kids can participate in the awesome Junior Ranger program, or they can check out the ROMO’s official kids’ newspaper on the same page.  You’ll also find the Web Ranger links and games on this page!

Dinosaur National Monument

Allosaurus skull, Dinosaur National Monument photo credit:  National Park Service

Allosaurus skull, Dinosaur National Monument
photo credit: National Park Service

Do you know a kiddo who’s not fascinated by T. Rex, diplodocus or pteranodon?  I certainly was as a child, and, while I don’t know a lot about dinosaurs any more (we’re more into Lego at our house) I still find them absolutely captivating.  So Dinosaur National Monument, or DINO as it’s abbreviated on the website, is definitely on my wish list.  It’s located in both Colorado and Utah, and the main visitor center is just two miles east of Dinosaur, CO.  (I would almost go there just to get the postmark on a letter!)  Visitors can see over 1,500 fossils still embedded in quarry walls, or can view others in the park’s visitor center.  Camping and hiking are also options.  River rafting is available in the summer, and snowshoeing or cross-country skiing in the winter.  Kids can participate in the Junior Ranger program, and families can enjoy guided tours by park rangers.  If you don’t think you’ll be able to visit DINO any time soon, you can download a web version of the Junior Ranger program here.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve photo credit:

Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve
photo credit: NPS Photo

Who would expect that the tallest sand dunes in the United States are nowhere near an ocean?  (At least, a current ocean!)  Great Sand Dunes National Park, or GRSA, has a varied ecosystem within its 132 square miles of park lands.  The terrain includes grasslands and wetlands, forests comprised of conifers and aspens, and climbs high to tundra.  So hiking, climbing, camping and even sand-sledding are cool options at this park!

Visit GRSA’s Photos & Multimedia page for photos and videos of this cool park.  If you’re able to make it to the park, your kids can participate in a cool Junior Ranger program to earn a Great Sand Dunes badge.  And you can learn about the park’s history via audio recordings and historical information on GRSA’s History & Culture page.

Bent’s Old Fort National Historical Site

Bent’s Old Fort National Historical Site (aka BEOL) is located 8 miles east of La Junta, CO, on the old Santa Fe trail.  Bent’s Old Fort truly IS an old fort; the NPS reconstructed an adobe fort where reenactments of living history regularly occur.  What an awesome learning experience!  Visitors can learn about the lives of early trappers, traders and Native Americans while visiting Bent’s Old Fort.

BEOL has provided interesting curriculum materials for those who’d like to teach their students or children more about life in 1840’s America.  What was it like for those traveling along the Santa Fe trail, whether they were U.S. Army, trappers or wagon trails heading west?  Kids can also participate in a Junior Ranger program at Bent’s Old Fort.  Fantastic for U.S. history buffs!

Mesa Verde National Park

Mesa Verde National Park--Cliff Palace photo credit:

Mesa Verde National Park–Cliff Palace
photo credit: NPS photo

Mesa Verde National Park, or MEVE, is located in the southwestern corner of Colorado.  It is an amazingly preserved archaeological site of the Ancestral Pueblo peoples, who lived there for over 700 years.  Its most spectacular feature is probably the cliff dwellings.  Tours are available as both self-guided (for Spruce Tree House and Step House) and ranger-guided (for Cliff Palace, Balcony House and Long House), and are limited to certain months of the year.

Mesa Verde also has wonderful historical information and even an Artifact Gallery on their website.  I’m particularly interested because I taught an art lesson in our homeschool coop (and on finchnwren; you can access the lesson at 5 Days of American Art:  Early American Pottery and Baskets) on early American pottery, which you’ll definitely see examples of at Mesa Verde.  And for teachers, you’ll find information on planning a field trip and lesson plans to use.  Such a fascinating park…..I hope to visit there someday!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this short trip into Colorado’s national parks.  Visit the Learning Thru the USA linkup at Adena F’s blog for more states fun!

Enjoy!  –Wren

Oz and his new obsession!

Like most young boys, Oz is a bit obsessed with this hugely popular game; you might have heard of it…”Angry Birds”? This was the seasons version and he loved whacking his little paw and watching the birds fly! Sometimes his aim was a bit off and they fell backwards off of the perch.


Oz and angry birds



Awesome Game Giveaway—enter today!

I’m participating in a new giveaway that is perfect for this holiday season, for families and especially homeschoolers!  Simply Fun and The Squishable Baby are giving away three amazing games to bring fun and togetherness to your family!

@SimplyFun #educational #games #giveaway


Sponsor:  SimplyFun

Host:  The Squishable Baby


Have you heard of SimplyFun?  Well, if you haven’t, I know you will love them as much as my family does.  SimplyFun creates high quality board games; making learning fun for kids of all ages!

In this lovely giveaway for homeschoolers, students who love learning through fun and families ages 8 years old+,  SimplyFun has generously offered 3 of the following games:


Letter Slide

Take a fast paced ride down the Letter Slide! Don’t “slide” by the letter tiles that you need. Spell as many words as you can based on the card that has been turned over. Hurry before the timer runs out!  Your child will improve vocabulary and spelling!  This game is easily adapted to players of all reading levels from very beginning to advance.




Vinculum is a fast paced game of fractions. Race to get the most Fraction Tiles and win! A fraction consists of a Numerator (on the top)and a Denominator (on the bottom). The line that separates the two is called a Vinculum. Learning how to reduce and expand fractions will help players recognize equivalent fractions.  This game is perfect for children ages 8+, and is easily adaptable for more advanced knowledge!



Pack It


Go camping with the family!  Build up your backpack, and use Strategy as you decide whether to go on a hike or stay at camp.  It’s fun game for ages 8 years old +.

Check out my review of Pack It here.



Enter below to win these 3 SimplyFun games!  ARV $84.50.  Open to US Residents 18 years old +.




Neither The Squishable Baby nor any other participating bloggers are responsible for prize distribution


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