Cook with Books: Apples to Oregon

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cook with books apples to oregon

September is a great time to learn about apples, and Apples to Oregon is a fun book that tells how some of the first fruit trees in the west made the journey.  This is a book that is enjoyable for all ages and if you want to take the learning deeper, we even have a free unit study available at Homeschool Share!

IngredientsI’ve got a yummy apple cake recipe to share with you this month!  This is actually more like a bread, but it’s still delicious!  Best of all, most of the ingredients are things you probably already have on hand.

Chopped applesStart by chopping your apples.  I usually use Jonathan apples, and I use my food chopper to dice them up small.

SugarThen pour the sugar over the apples and stir well.

MixAdd in the rest of the ingredients (see below for all the details!) and mix them together well.

Mixed upIt should end up looking like this!  Pour the batter into a greased loaf pan and pop it in the oven.  It won’t take long for your kitchen to start smelling really good!  If you want to save some for another time, you can freeze the batter and then defrost and cook it later.

Finished LoafThe finished product!  So yummy!

Here’s the complete recipe:


  • 2 cups chopped raw apples
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup cooking oil
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup nuts
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups flour


  1. Chop apples and sprinkle sugar over them.
  2. Stir in remaining ingredients until well blended.
  3. Bake in a greased loaf pan for one hour at 350 degrees.

Cook with Books Pinterest Board

15 Favorite Fall Books

15 Fall Favorites
Fall is here and the cooler weather means its the perfect time to snuggle up with some favorite books!  Here are a few of the fall books my kids and I have enjoyed over the years!

autumnWe’ve loved all of Steven Schnur’s season acrostic books.  Autumn: An Alphabet Acrostic features many of our favorite autumn things along with beautiful, vivid illustrations.  You can read these short poems all together in one sitting or share one each day.

apple farmer annieI’ve shared about Apple Farmer Annie before, but it’s such a favorite in our house that I had to include it again!  Don’t forget to check out the Apples Connections page on Homeschool Share!

i know and old ladyThere are quite a few of these books out now, but one of my daughter’s favorites was There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Leaves.  Your little ones will love to guess what will happen at the end!

nuts to youFall is the busy season for squirrels, so you’ve got to have some squirrel books on your fall reading list!  Nuts to You! is a great book for little ones.  The rhyming text is simple and easy to read and Lois Ehlert’s collage illustrations are always fun to see!

earl the squirrelEarl the Squirrel was my son’s favorite squirrel book when he was little.  We even made him a little red scarf like Earl’s!  There is so much fun to be had with this book, and you can even check out our Squirrel Unit Study & Lapbook!

miss suzyMy favorite squirrel story is Miss Suzy.  I love her cozy little house and always look forward to pulling this book out each fall!

pumpkinsOf course you need to have some books about pumpkins, too!  Jacqueline Farmer’s Pumpkins is a book that has nice, simple illustrations and lots of good information about fall’s most popular fruit!

from seed to pumpkinI love the Let’s-Read-And-Find-Out Science books and this one is no exception!  From Seed to Pumpkin walks readers through the growing process of a pumpkin.  The text is simple and the illustrations are nice and cheery.

pumpkin circlePumpkin Circle: The Story of a Garden also follows the steps in a pumpkin’s life cycle, but it also does a good job of bringing the story back to the seed and beginning a new pumpkin at the end.  I really like the photographs in the book, too!

red leaf yellow leafFall is also the time to enjoy all the gorgeous leaves!  Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf has beautiful illustrations that really capture fall’s brilliant palette!  There are also instructions in the back for a fun craft to make with your kids.

leaf manIn case you can’t tell by now, let me tell you that I love Lois Ehlert’s books!  In Leaf Man, she takes ordinary leaves and turns them into all kinds of different creatures.  Your kids are sure to be inspired to make some of their own!  We also have a unit on leaves at Homeschool Share you may want to try!

leaves leaves leavesLeaves! Leaves! Leaves! is a book that combines fun illustrations with a good amount of information.  As Buddy and Mama go for a walk, he learns all about trees and leaves and how they change through the seasons.

why do leaves change colorWhy Do Leaves Change Color? is another Let’s-Read-And-Find-Out Science book that gives a good explanation of why we see all of those wonderful colors each fall!

fletcher and the falling leavesI’ve loved Fletcher and the Falling Leaves since my son was tiny!  Fletcher races to save the leaves as the fall from the trees.  At the end of the book, there’s a beautiful surprise!

in novemberIn November is the perfect book for the transition from fall to winter.  Cynthia Rylant’s beautiful words as accompanied by rich, warm illustrations that make you want to snuggle up and read some more!

Happy reading and happy fall!


Evernote: My Essential Homeschool Tool

When it comes to homeschool planning, there are so many options and ideas out there that it’s overwhelming. Bound planners, diy crafter planners, planning sheets, calendar pages – the variety is astounding.

Unfortunately, it seems I can never keep those pretty pages looking very pretty. I always feel like my handwriting ruins the cute factor, plus it doesn’t take long before the papers fall prey to coffee stains, water bottle spills, or toddlers with pens.

So over the last few years I’ve switched over all my planning, tracking, and organizing to a digital format. I have a laptop and an iPod Touch, and between the two of them, I have all the information that I need quickly accessible at home (on the laptop) and on-the-go in my pocket (with the iPod).

The key program in my set-up is Evernote. Evernote is essential to my homeschool planning, both the summer project of planning the year all out and also in the day-to-day working out the plan once the year begins. Evernote is sort of like a huge blank canvas, which makes it very versatile and flexible, but also makes it harder to get started because the options are so wide-open.

Here’s how I set mine up. I hope it will give you some ideas to make using Evernote more manageable.


1. Save articles and ideas in Evernote.

Most of my ideas for our homeschool years now comes from my online reading, so I use the web clipper, the email-to-Evernote function, or the ability to save pdfs to Evernote to capture those ideas into a “Future Possibilities” notebook.
If the idea I want to save is in a print form, I can just snap a picture of it with my iPod straight into an Evernote note. Also, by saving the full text or photo into Evernote, I have that article or review no matter what happens to the source online.

2. Make weekly lesson plans in Evernote

Using Evernote, my weekly plan (a template note I copy each week) morphs into my weekly record as the week progresses. Before the year begins, I make one note that lists all the things we do every week, just like a weekly lesson plan sheet would have. Each week, I copy this note into my “Current Lists” notebook, update the dates, and, throughout the week, fill in the checkboxes and the details of what actually happens. Because it’s digital, it’s also easy to tweak as the year changes and I figure out what will actually work that year or season.

3. Keep records in Evernote.

That weekly planning sheet, after it is filled out, is a record of our week. At the end of the week, I move it to the School Year notebook. At the end of each term, I merge all the weeks’ notes into one, and at the end of the year, have 6 notes that contain the summary and the details of what actually happened in our homeschool. At the end of each week, I also email the week’s school note to my husband, so he stays up to date on what we’re working on, and I get a little accountability for keeping up the lists.

If you prefer working from a paper planner, Evernote can still be useful as the storage place for completed lists. You can scan your filled in planner pages and store them in Evernote, shredding the reams of paper that are so easily collected in this homeschooling lifestyle.

In our state, we have to administer achievement tests every year after a child is 8. I receive the results via a pdf by email, so I can immediately forward it to my Evernote email address and have it saved in my records notebook.

The great thing about saving things in Evernote is that the files are not on your hard drive, but in the cloud. Therefore, if your computer crashes without a backup, your records are not lost or even inconvenient to recover.

4. Tracking yearly tasks in Evernote.

Every year we plan out the next year’s curriculums, goals, book lists, and methods. It’s a process we go through often enough to learn what works for us and what doesn’t, but not so often that it’s easy to remember from one year to another how to make the best start. About three years ago, as I planned our year, I kept a list of each step I did, and made adjustments as I went, noting what would have been a better way or order than what I did. Then, the next year, I could start with that list and remember how I go about planning out our schooling. That has been such a time saver!

5. List lots of lists.

Evernote is so versatile that you can keep any and all useful lists. You can keep notes for classes you teach or programs you use, so you start prepared when you use it for younger children down the line. You can keep book lists: books you want to read, books you have read, book logs for each child, and books for each history cycle. You can keep lists of ideas as they occur to you, lists of pros and cons to certain curriculums, lists of potential field trips, and lists of observations you’ve made about each of your children.

Evernote has become an indispensable part of my homeschool, saving me so much space that would otherwise be taken up by legal pads and binders and file drawers.

How do you use Evernote? I’d love to hear your personal applications or questions in the comments!

Mystie Winckler is a wife, mother, homemaker, and home-educator. Mystie has been married for twelve years to her only sweetheart, Matt, and both are homeschool graduates themselves. Now they raise & educate their five young children. Mystie blogs at Simply Convivial on homemaking, home-educating, reading, and organizing and about simple cooking and menu planning at Simple Pantry Cooking

Tea Time with John Godfrey Saxe


John Godfrey Saxe was born on June 2, 1816 in Vermont to strict Methodist parents. He graduated from college in 1839 and became a lawyer. Bored with legal work, he began to write satirical poems, ridiculing and making fun of human vices or weaknesses, which quickly became popular. Saxe became a newspaper editor, and a sought after speaker. He published his poetry in Harper’s, The Atlantic, and the Knickerbocker. “The Rhyme of the Rail,” poking fun at early rail travel, was his most famous early work.


In the 1870’s, after a series of tragedies including the deaths of his wife and five of his six children, Saxe became reclusive and his poetry took on a more serious and somber tone. He died on March 31, 1887 while living with his only remaining child in Albany, New York. We shall choose to remember him for his fun retelling of the Indian parable, “The Blind Men and the Elephant”.



Saxe’s works found free HERE.

Recite and/or memorize the poem:

The Blind Men and the Elephant Notebook Page

Record what you learn about John Godfrey Saxe on:

John Godfrey Saxe Notebook Page

Practice handwriting skills with:

The Blind Men and the Elephant Manuscript Copywork

The Blind Men and the Elephant Cursive Copywork

Analyze “The Blind Men and the Elephant” using:

The Blind Men and the Elephant Study Notes

Extend your Tea Time with:

Homeschool Share’s FREE Elephant Study and Lapbook


Homeschool Share’s FREE India Study and Lapbook


 For a tea time treat make:

Elephant Ears!

Heat oven to 425 º

Combined: 1 cup flour,  2 tablespoons sugar,  ½ teaspoon baking powder,  ½ teaspoon salt

Stir in: 1/3 cup milk,  3 tablespoons melted butter

Mix until dough forms. Turn onto floured surface and knead 10 times. Roll dough out into a 9” x 5” rectangle. Brush with 1 tablespoon melted butter and sprinkle with mixture of 3 tablespoons of sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Tightly roll dough, starting at narrow end. Cut into 4 equal pieces and place face up on a cookie sheet. Pat each piece into a 6” circle. Bake until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes.

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane


Kate DiCamillo begins her story with a quote from Stanley Kunitz’s poem “The Testing Tree” which says, in part, “The heart breaks and breaks / and lives by breaking.” The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane follows Edward, a china rabbit, as he learns to love and comes truly alive as he passes in and out of the lives of others.

In the beginning of the story, Edward lives in the Tulane house with a little girl named Abilene.  Abilene loves Edward dearly, setting him in the window each day as she leaves for school and telling him she will come for him when her day is done.  Edward is always dressed in fine clothes and while he thinks highly of himself, he does not care much for anyone else.  He doesn’t feel his life is missing anything, but one day Abilene’s grandmother, Pellegrina, tells the tragic story of a beautiful princess who doesn’t love anyone other than herself.  After the story’s gruesome end, Pellegrina tells Edward, “You disappoint me.”  Edward doesn’t understand why she says this, but it bothers him–though not enough to truly change him.

Edward’s life changes drastically, though, when he is accidentally thrown overboard into the ocean on a family trip.  After spending time at the bottom of the sea, he eventually finds himself caught in a fish net.  The fisherman finds him and takes him home, where he is renamed and eventually cherished almost as a child by the fisherman and his wife.  Edward begins to listen to the old couple and care for them and enjoys his life, even if they do call him Susanna and dress him like a girl.  Life changes again, though, when the couple’s daughter sneaks Edward out in the trash and he finds himself at the dump.  Edward eventually spends years traveling with a hobo and his dog before a brief stint as a scarecrow and then as a treasured gift for a dying girl.  With each new owner, Edward finds his heart stretching and growing and sadly, time and again, breaking as he is uprooted from the ones he loves.  He finally understands Pellegrina’s disappointment in him, but feels that maybe it is too late for him.

After an unfortunate incident with an angry diner owner, Edward finds himself in the care of a doll mender who repairs him and brings him back to life.  Edward spends years on the shelf in the doll mender’s shop, waiting for someone to come, and eventually, someone does come, bringing Edward full circle on his miraculous journey.

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane is a chapter book, but the chapters are short and as a read aloud it only took us two days.  The storytelling is simple and straightforward, but at the same time, it touches you deeply, as most of Kate DiCamillo’s books do.  While most middle- to upper-elementary aged kids wouldn’t have trouble with being able to read the words, the story itself is pretty intense in some parts.  May of the people Edward lives with are troubled and broken and there is a little girl (with a drunken and neglectful father) who eventually dies.  If you have a sensitive young reader I would definitely preview this one first.  In spite of some of the hard situations, though, this is an absolutely beautiful story, accompanied by gorgeous illustrations.

As you follow Edward on his journey, you find that you, too, have changed as you witness Edward’s transformation.  This is a journey well worth taking.