Animal Kingdom

The Sweet Life


Sweeter than honey – I think this is our fourth bee study unit – we must so close to earning some sort of bee scholarship certificate – but who could resist the utterly giant, INYOURFACE “Bees – A Honeyed History” by Piotr Socha – AND – the book is even better than I anticipated.  We’re only half way through, but we’ve learned more than we knew previously about

swarming – bees and bears – bees and Napoleon – the waggle dance (!!!)
honey as a preservative – St. Ambrose (patron saint of bees) – pollination

Tonight: how to construct a beehive!  Clever graphics compliment the broad spectrum of bee topics addressed.  We just love this book. There is no other choice but to give it an A+.

bee book

“Wonder” IS wonderful – If you walk into any major book store you cannot miss R.J. Palacio’s prominently displayed book, “Wonder”.  The hype is not overdone.  This is a deeply thought-provoking read, with short chapters that grab your heart.  The author tackles several different points of view with authentic insight.  What a story.  What a privilege to work through this book with my son. (We know the “Wonder” movie is premiering this month.  Alas, our movie theater experiences have not been too positive, so thank heavens we have the book.)


Africa Calls – We have the most interesting and inspirational friend (yes, you, SLC) who serves as a school director in Guinea, Africa.  Lucky, lucky school.  (Sidebar – if I lived anywhere near and had school-age children, they would be enrolled in that school SO FAST).

But to the point:
Here is what my son and I know about Guinea: NOTHING.
Here is what we know about Africa: VERY LITTLE.
– the atrocities of the Congo Free State (late 1800’s) under the shameful King Leopold II of Belgium
– a bit about ancient Egypt
– Dr. Livingston’s travels and his meeting up with Henry Morton Stanley on the shores of Lake Tanganyika in 1871

Shouldn’t we know a LOT more about Africa?

  • We are starting with another “Lonely Planet – Not for Parents” book, this one, “Africa – Everything you wanted to know”.  Already we’ve discussed the ridiculously huge Sahara Desert (and compared it to the size of the Amazon rain forest), wildebeest migration patterns, cannibals (!), African colonization, insects as snacks (we are so not eating bugs as snacks), cheetahs, and the very first heart transplant.
  • We have compared a currant African country map with an African country map from 60 years ago.
  • We have just begun reading “I Will Always Write Back” (this title makes me burst into tears), by Caitlin Alifirenka and Martin Ganda with Liz Welch.  This is a story about pen pals (vocab), one in Pennsylvania and one is Zimbabwe, who began their correspondence in 1997.

We now know where Guinea and Zimbabwe are.  Let the Africa unit begin!


Sweet Students for Sweet Seniors (a Local Diner story problem) The local junior high is hosting a “Design your own Donut” breakfast at Le Fictitious Local Diner, to raise funds for a Thanksgiving party they are planning for the senior citizens center.  It will cost the diner $750 to serve 1,000 donuts with 15 topping choices. Once costs are met, the diner will give all remaining money taken in to the school.  If a “donut and topping experience” will be priced at $3, and all donuts are sold, how much money will the junior high have raised for their Senior Citizen Center Thanksgiving party?
A)  $750    B) $1,000    C) $2,250    D) $3,000

If everyone purchases two donuts each, and half of these people order up a cup of hot chocolate (priced at $2) to enhance the sugar high, how much money will the diner gross from hot chocolate sales?
A)  $200    B) $500    C) $750    D) $2,000


Suite Music – I wanted to solidify in my son’s mind the concept of an orchestral suite and how it differs from a symphony or concerto.  If you are like my son’s grandmother, The Peach, and you have no idea what a suite is, we like to compare a suite to a book of short stories by a single author – each story stands alone, yet the entire collection resonates with the author’s style.  What composer better to turn to than Ottorino Respighi – really such a suite master:

“Pines of Rome” – “The Birds” – “The Fountains of Rome”
“Church Windows” – “Brazilian Impressions” – “Ancient Airs and Dances”

My son and I happen to like “The Cuckoo” from his “The Birds” suite (composed in 1928), so instead of listening to one movement from several suites, I decided we should listen to 3 of the 5 movements from this one work – so we could hear how each movement is complete in itself, yet all three have the Respighi touch (a very clean sound, exquisite attention to his subject matter).

“The Dove”, movement 2 from Respighi’s “The Birds”.  We listened for the cooing of the dove and the magical ending.  The music starts after about a minute-long introduction from the conductor:

“The Hen”, movement 3.  Nailed it:

“The Cuckoo”, movement 5 (We like to count the “cuckoo” sounds – SO many crammed into this 4 minute piece.)  Such a sparkling performance by the youth orchestra from the Bachmann-Mehta School of Music in Tel Aviv (and yet check out the bored stiff audience – how could this happen?):

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH

(story problem answers:  C) $2,250;  B) $500)


A good, good, good day

Good!  Blog posting is back!  The STORIES AND STUDIES classroom is always in full swing every night, but there has been no time to post since “Whale Fall and other Water Wonders” – all extraneous brain power has been directed toward our mid-August family wedding.  The glam couple was surrounded by the best of aunts, uncles, cousins, Godparents, grandmothers, parents, siblings, sorority sisters and fraternity brothers, and it was a good, good, good day.

New Biertuempfels

But I digress. Back to STORIES AND STUDIES –

Dealing with the bad guys – My son and I are glued to “Crime Science – how investigators use science to track down the bad guys” by Vivien Bowers.  Who wouldn’t want to know about such things as COUNTERFEITING?  My son was ultra-focused while we read about eight ways to determine if a dollar bill is counterfeit (vocab).  We examined our own crisp bills as we read through the list.  And then we learned about FORGERY (vocab)!  Last night, fingerprinting.  Oh, we do like this type of book – new vocab (like victim, suspect, evidence) and conversation provokers on every single page.

crime book etc

Those Greek Gods:  SO good! SO bad! – my son and I loved Ken Jennings’ book, “Maphead”, so we welcomed “Ken Jennings Junior Genius Guide to Greek Mythology”.  We have sampled other books on Greek mythology, but the information did not stick – I think the Jennings book may be a winner for us.  It is cleverly assembled like a school composition book: instead of chapters, the book is divided into classroom periods, and the illustrations? student doodles.  Last night we started through the “Greek Gods Trading Cards” section, learning the super-strengths, talents, skills AND trickery, treachery, deviousness and go-sit-in-the-corner badness of Zeus, Hera, and Poseidon (tonight:  Hades, Demeter, Hestia, and Aphrodite are on deck).

Such a good book – may we again recommend “The Extreme Life of the Sea” by Palumbi and Palumbi.  Wow.  The final summation gave us so much to think about – “In the long run, the oceans do not need saving – PEOPLE need saving.”.  The point: over the course of a thousand years, the oceans will adapt and take care of themselves, but people will suffer significantly if the oceans aren’t thoughtfully tended NOW.  This book has been placed in our Sunday night reference section (selected readings to make us think about being grateful and caring citizens of the world).

nail polish

Story problem of the week: Farmer Brown’s daughter gets married!  Farmer Brown is letting the bride and her bridesmaids use a sweet cottage on his property to get ready for the wedding ceremony.  The bride has 6 bridesmaids and one maid of honor.  If all young women are getting a manicure (vocab) and pedicure (vocab) the morning of the wedding, how many nails will be polished?   A) 60    B) 80    C) 120    D) 160
If one bottle of polish will adequately paint 50 nails, how many bottles of nail polish should be available?  OH FOR HEAVENS SAKES!  LET COMMON SENSE PREVAIL!  They don’t have all day – each young woman needs her own bottle!   A) 1 bottle    B) 4 bottles    C) 8 bottles    D) 12 bottles (story problem answers at bottom of post)


Our music listening last night – thinking about sister’s wedding –

  • The Prince of Denmark’s March” composed by Jeremiah Clarke around 1700. This classic wedding ceremony processional (vocab), is often referred to as “Trumpet Voluntary” and in the past, was incorrectly attributed to popular baroque composer Henry Purcell.  Jeremiah Clarke was the church organist for St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, so this piece was written for keyboard, but my son and I love this recording by trumpet virtuoso Wynton Marsalis:

  • Wedding Day at Troldhaugen” by Edvard Grieg, composed in1896, to celebrate his 25th wedding anniversary with his beloved wife, Nina.  (Troldhaugen, meaning “troll hill”, was the name of their home.)  We love this dear piece – two lively country dance sections bookend a somber, reflective, heartbreaking passage:

  • Wedding March from A Midsummer Night’s Dream” written by Felix Mendelssohn in 1842, to accompany Shakespeare’s play. Certainly the grandest of wedding recessionals (vocab), first performed at a real wedding in 1847:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answers:  D) 160,   C) 8 bottles)

Whale Fall and other Water Wonders


Whale Fall* is one of the concepts we are learning about from Stephen and Anthony Palumbi’s book, “The Extreme Life of the Sea” (professor of marine science at Stanford University, Stephen Palumbi is an undisputed expert).  So far, we have also learned about William Beebe (the first man to descend a half mile into the sea in a ridiculously tiny air-tight sphere), bioluminescence (vocab, AND maybe our most beautiful word of 2017), the challenges of tidal pool living, mangrove forest ecosystems – every topic draws us in.  It is a privilege to study from this book.

*Whale Fall – because you want to know – describes the creation of a deep sea ecosystem, put into place when a whale dies and sinks to the bottom of the sea.  Once my son and I got beyond the grimness, we marveled at the genius of this circle-of-life system. BTW, whale fall has been going on for about 33 million years (and yet, surprise surprise, this is the first I have heard about it. Once again, when I study with my son, we both win.).

nessy photo

On the lighter side – we are reading “The Loch Ness Monster (Behind the Legend)”, by Erin Peabody.  This well-organized book presents and intelligently refutes the many Nessie legends and hoaxes (HOAXES:  we remembered when we read about the crop circle hoaxes) (who ARE these people who have time to perpetuate hoaxes?).  But back to the book:  yes, we look forward to reading from this every evening.


The Cursive Suggestion – I enjoyed a thought provoking conversation with a friend who is finishing up certification requirements for dyslexia therapy.  She said current studies indicate that for some, cursive handwriting is FAR easier than plain printing (loads of documented reasons).  Well, this caught my attention – when I am helping my son write, it is difficult to tell when he has finished one letter and is ready to start another.  Cursive writing might be a solution.  Say no more, we are on it.

hot thermometer

Cooling down at Le Fictitious Local Diner – What with the weather being so hot, the diner’s August marketing strategy is to give every lunch patron a paper fan (with diner take-out menu imprinted) as they leave.  The diner can purchase 250 wood handled fans for $120.  The diner averages 1,000 lunch customers a month.  How many sets of fans should be ordered?  How much will the diner spend on 1000 fans?

Last year, the August promotion (sun visors with diner logo) generated an extra $1,500 in take-out orders.  If this year’s promotion brings in a like amount of business, will the fans be a good use of advertising dollars? (story problem answers at bottom of post)

Looking for a Classical Music Controversy?  Might we suggest trying to differentiate between Rounds, Canons, and Fugues?  Apparently, this is a touchy subject among musicologists.  My son and I know what a round is, so we dug deeper – is a canon a round?  “Yes” by some authorities, “Yes, but…” by others. But OH MY GOSH, when it came to trying to understand the difference between a canon and a fugue – we had no idea that a discussion of these music forms was chock full of confusion and heated controversy.  People, is this necessary????  The comment we are going with:  “Compare a Bach fugue to the Pachelbel Canon and you will instantly recognize the gulf between these two forms.”  OK (I think).

– We listened to Johann Pachelbel’s Pachelbel Canon in D.  Composed around 1700, but sort of overlooked until Jean-Francois Pilliard recorded the piece in 1968.  Then, WHOA, how do you spell ubiquitous (vocab)?  Poor Pachelbel! If only he could have lived to collect the royalties:

– Then we listened to J.S. Bach’s fab Fugue in G Minor, (referred to as “The Little Fugue”) composed around 1705 – so almost about the same time as Pachelbel’s Canon, but SO much more complex.  Originally written for organ, we listened to a performance by the Canadian Brass.  I think listening to each brass instrument makes it easier to hear each melody line of the fugue. This is a short piece (yay) and the Canadian Brass are always engaging:

– Finally, for fun, we listed to Fugue for Tinhorns, the opening number of the 1950’s musical, “Guys and Dolls” (music/lyrics by Frank Loesser).  Ever so many musicologists are quick to point out that this IS NOT a fugue, it is either a round or a canon.  OK, people take your fight outside.  This piece is adorable!

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answers: 4 sets, $480, yes!)
PS  There might be a giant time gap until my next post:  family member getting married in 4 weeks!


We’re in A+ Book Territory

We are in A+ Book territory!  Sometimes we’re lucky and every book on the nightly agenda is so first-rate that we can’t wait to get started.  Do we think every book is dandy?  Ha.  Frankly, about half of the books we start do NOT get finished.  If they are dull or poorly edited we give them a quiet farewell, and sort of feel bad about tossing them in the give-away box for the next charity drive.  But this week, we are in A+ Book Territory!


A+ for “Grammar-Land” – what an entertaining book we have found in “Grammar-Land” written by M.L. Nesbitt in – GET THIS – 1877! (never fear, reprinted/available from Amazon).  M.L. Nesbitt must have had so much fun writing this, and as we get caught up in the grammar court room cleverness, we are being drilled over and over with grammar rules. We are getting smarter! Oh my gosh, I was so nervous about last night’s topic – we were tackling “the nominative case” – which ended up being ridiculously easy.  I have reviewed many supposedly “fun” grammar books, which are decidedly NOT.  This one: A+.

A+ for the “DK Eyewitness Book: North American Indian” – we continue our Native North American unit and this book is providing a decent introduction for our survey.  We have admired the sleek design of birch bark canoes, we have learned a bit about the Iroquois League (5 tribes that worked together, under the guidance of a council made up of men – who were chosen by elder tribe WOMEN!!!), and last night, we read through a most interesting mini sketch of Tecumseh.  Two thumbs up for this reference (A+)!

A+ for “The Memory of an Elephant” – We are enjoying this quirky book about elephants by Sophie Strady, gloriously illustrated by Jean-Francois Martin, so the news of the week – the announcement by Ringling Brothers of the imminent close of their circus – caught our attention.  So much to talk about – the skilled performers, the death-defying acts, circus snacks, circus parades, circus music, and then a thoughtful discussion about the realities of “freak exhibits” and circus animals (including a mention about PETA and their role in forcing the circus to retire their elephants).  This book: conversation provoker!  A+!


Story Problem – Too many books in Farmer Brown’s library – Farmer Brown has run out of storage room, so he has decided clean out his book shelves.  He has found 40 hardcover books and 50 paperback books to donate to a charity. He has determined that the worth of each hardcover book is $7, and the worth of each paperback is $3.  How much will Farmer Brown be able to tell his CPA that he has donated in books?  My son did the computation in his head:
A) $90      B) $430      C) $730      D) $900 (answer at bottom of post)


Circus Music Classics – Even though the Ringling Brothers Circus is about to be a thing of the past, we will always love these attention grabbing compositions:

Entry of the Gladiators – composed in 1897 by Julius Fucik.  As I wrote in August 2015, Fucik had quite an interest in the Roman Empire.  He did NOT intend for this composition to be used as a circus SCREAMER (how can you not love this term?????) (a “screamer” is an invigorating circus march).  Is this not THE music that should be blaring in elementary school halls on the first day of school?

Sabre Dance – Aram Khachaturian’s Sabre Dance, composed in 1942, is the definitive go-to music for any and all knife throwing attractions.  We found a simply outstanding performance of this edge-of-your-seat music (and we would do anything to be part of this percussion section):

The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze – composed by Lyle and Lee in 1867 to glorify Jules Leotard, a French acrobat who developed the art of the trapeze AND AS IF THAT WEREN’T ENOUGH, he invented the 1-piece form-fitting knitted gym suit: the leotard.  An extremely popular song for decades! (But I guess not in this decade – last weekend, I was at a leadership workshop, singing with a group of 80 bright collegians, and I was stunned to discover that NOT A ONE OF THEM was familiar with the circus music classics.  REALLY?  NOT ON MY WATCH – I made them listen over and over to “The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze”)

Welcome to the best part of my day!
Jane BH
(story problem answer: B) $430)


Old Business


An old name is a new name – How did this bit of news pass us by?  My son and I just learned that the citizens of Barrow, Alaska voted this past October to change the city’s name back to its ancient traditional name, Utqiagvik!  (Doesn’t everybody know that we love knowing stuff like this?)  The town has been called Utqiagvik – meaning “place for gathering wild roots” – for the past 1,500 years but has been officially “Barrow” since 1825.  Apparently, the governor of Alaska has until mid-December to rule on the name change.  Will the governor want to mess with the decision of the people in America’s northern-most city?  We are standing by!

Animals of yesteryear – our current course of study:  “Lost Animals – Extinction and the Photographic Record”, by Errol Fuller.  Fuller’s research is thorough and each chapter follows a particular species from it’s heyday to its regrettable demise (mostly there are a LOT of bird species that are no longer with us) (and we really wish color photography had been around before the pink headed duck of the Ganges River became extinct).  Last night we read about the thylacine – a species that was in existence when my son’s grandparents were children.  The stories captivate, stay with us, and I think make us more aware and maybe worried for the distant future of every healthy animal we see.


Well, here is an OLDIE – we are enjoying “Understood Betsy” written by Dorothy Canfield Fisher 1917.  This classic shows up on many recommended reading lists, and I was finally persuaded to give it a try after reading a mini-bio of Ms. Fisher on the always informative “Focus on Fraternity” blog (  Happy surprise!  This book presents a wealth of information about how things were 100 years ago, there is a dash of adventure, and a pervasive advocacy of self sufficiency which should put this book on a required reading list for parents and teachers.


Story problem from Le Fictitious Local Diner – The diner is bringing back an old tradition for the month of December: cloth napkins.  They are going to see if it is more economical to rent cloth napkins or to purchase napkins and have them laundered by a service.  The diner goes through 200 napkins daily.  Cloth napkins rental price:  200 napkins for $25.  The laundry service charges $10 to wash and press 200 napkins, but the diner would have to purchase two days worth of napkins first (at a cost of $3 per unit).  If the diner decides to use cloth napkins for December, should they rent or own/pay for a laundry service?  What is the least they can spend for this festive endeavor? (answers at bottom of post)

The music theme this past week:  PARODIES (vocab) – When I was in 5th grade, my friend Pam received the best-record-album-ever at her birthday party: Allan Sherman’s “My Son the Nut”.  I absolutely collapsed in laughter just looking at the album cover (Mr. Sherman, up to his neck in assorted nuts); I did not believe that anything could be more screamingly hilarious (hey folks, this was the early 1960’s – simpler expectations).  On top of a great album cover, THE CLEVER PARODIES!   What fun, some 45 years later, to share this listening experience with my son.


This past week, we matched up a few songs from “My Son the Nut” with the classical compositions from which they were inspired:

“Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah”:  the lyrics were written to a theme from Amilcare Ponchielli’s “Dance of the Hours” (1876).  “Dance of the Hours” was also used in Disney’s “Fantasia” of 1940.

“Hungarian Goulash No. 5”:  the lyrics were written to Brahms’ “Hungarian Dance No. 5” (1869). Gustavo Dudamel conducts in this video – and you know how I feel about Mr. Dudamel.  MERCY.

“Here’s to the Crabgrass”:  the lyrics were written to Percy Grainger’s “Country Gardens” (1918).  This performance by the Hastings College Wind Ensemble really scoots along.

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(Story problem answers: the diner should definitely rent the napkins, renting will run $775. Purchasing napkins and paying a laundry service will cost almost twice as much.)


The Larger Picture

Looming Large:  Hannibal and Elephants

elephant with hannibal

“Hannibal Crossing the Alps on an Elephant” by Nicolas Poussin (1620-ish)

About Hannibal – we are reading from the Wicked History series, “Hannibal – Rome’s Worst Nightmare”.  Hannibal Barca:  an ambitious warrior with strategy skills perhaps surpassing history’s most effective military leaders.  We are currently reading about Hannibal’s most outrageous achievement – crossing the Alps with 100,000 soldiers and 40 elephants.  Interesting fact – when all was said and done – the Alps crossed and the war with Rome over (this would be the second Punic war – and isn’t PUNIC is such a weird word?) – only 1 elephant remained.  (HEARTBREAK)  (but isn’t the painting elegant?  We LOVE it and we’ve ordered a poster of it.)

My son and I wanted to know more, so we also read “Unsolved Mystery: Where did Hannibal get his War Elephants?” from the Ancient Origins website (  This excellent short article: highly recommended.


About Elephants – we are reading from Cheryl Bardoe’s book, “Mammoths and Mastodons – Titans of the Ice Age” (titan – vocab).  Absolutely text-book worthy.  A mini-mini sampling of what we’ve learned:

  • elephant (mammoth/mastodon) tusks are “ringed”, similar to a tree trunk.  Layers of ivory are added every day and reveal all sorts of stuff, like the elephant’s age, whether the female gave birth, food consumed, and the climate.
  • The remains of Columbian mammoths have been found in Texas!  It seems so strange to us that these prehistoric creatures have walked where we walk.  Crazy.

goldberg calendar

Large Pictures – Here is an abrupt change of topic:  my son and I love looking at the ridiculous inventions of Rube Goldberg.  However, Goldberg’s illustrations are so detailed, it is difficult for two people to absorb everything while sharing a book.  So, we have found a most useful vehicle for enjoying the engineering shenanigans of Mr. Goldberg:  a wall calendar!  A big calendar page is the perfect size for us to appreciate every nuance of Goldberg’s contraptions.

waitress in frame

And more large pictures! (at Le Fictitious Local Diner) – A large picture frame (3′ x 4′) has been installed on the wall next to the cash register at Le Fictitious Local Diner to showcase EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH.

If the diner employs 3 excellent cooks and 5 efficient and really nice waitresses, over the course of 4 years, how many times might each employee be designated as “employee of the month”?  If the recognition comes with an honorarium (vocab) of $50,  how much will the diner budget for this per year, and how much should each employee accrue (vocab) over the course of the 4 years?  Lastly, if the diner spends $15 to get a glossy print of each EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH, how much will the diner spend on the photos in a year? (semi-trick question:  some employees may be declared EOTM more than once in a year, and there is no need for duplicate photos, no sir, not at $15 a print).  (answer at bottom of post)

elephant brown

The Elephant in the Living Room – music to celebrate the largest terrestrial (vocab) animal:

  • Baby Elephant Walk, composed by iconic American composer Henry Mancini in 1961 for the movie “Hitari”.  This piece won a Grammy in 1962.

  • Pink Elephants on Parade, from the 1941 Disney movie, Dumbo, composed by Oliver Wallace and Ned Washington.  This movie segment received a bit of bad press, as many thought a film for children should not glorify hallucinations resulting from the mixing of the elephant’s water with champagne.  Ya know, this footage IS sort of disturbing.

  • The Elephant, from Camille Saint-Saens’ “Carnival of the Animals”, composed in 1886.  The orchestra’s double bass perfectly matches the heavy lumbering steps of the elephant.

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH

(story problem answers:  6 times,   $600,   $300,   $120)


Bee Plus!


Let’s pretend that you need to brush up on your knowledge of bees. May we suggest, “The Life and Times of the Honeybee” by Charles Micucci?  This sort of looks like a little kids book, but every single page intrigues with surprising information – my son and I were amazed to learn that a colony of 10,000 to 60,000 bees includes only 100 male bees (the drones)…Those worker bees flitting about in gardens? The bees that sting you? The bees that make the honey?  ALL female.  So my son and I worked the ratios – if there are 100 males and 10,000 in the colony, the ratio of male to female is 1:100.  If there are 100 males and 60,000 in the colony, the ratio is 1:600. (This ratio reminded me of the Jan and Dean hit of 1963, “Surf City” – which starts out “Two Girls for Every Boy” – so I forced my son to view a video of Jan and Dean on The Steve Allen Show. I don’t think I can get him to watch this again.)

But back to “The Life and Times of the Honeybee” – we give this bee book an A!

microscope book

Blood, blood, and more blood (gross overstatement) – Just last night we were reading through “The Usborne Complete Book of the Microscope”, learning the difference between optical (vocab) and electron (vocab) microscopes.  Well!  This morning at a doctor’s appointment, we saw a sample of my son’s blood through the mechanism of an electron microscope!  Perfect timing!  The computer screen view was fascinating – from a pinprick of of blood on the glass slide, the jillions of red blood cells were so easy to see.  Fabulous technology.

The Hand Thump of Appreciation – Sometimes when I read to my son and I think he is dozing off, I consider stopping for the night – and then the HAND THUMP OF APPRECIATION happens. Just as I am about to shut the book, my son’s hand comes crashing down on the page of the book, inferring VEHEMENTLY, “this is cool. KEEP READING”.  This happened last night – we were reading the multi-award winning “Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library” by Chris Grabenstein (a group of 12 lucky kids win the opportunity to spend the night in eccentric Mr. Lemoncello’s brand new city library).  Apparently my son is really enjoying the book!  YES.  Happy day.


Story Problem Alert! Farmer Brown raises bees!  Of course he does.  This past week Farmer Brown purchased new beekeeper outfits for two of his ranch hands.  A complete suit costs $109.  One of the ranch workers needs the 4XL size, which runs and additional $25.  Farmer Brown decided to buy an additional veiled helmet for just in case. The helmet costs $24 and the veil $20. How much will Farmer Brown spend on the new protective wear? (We are not adding in tax or shipping.) (Answer A at bottom of post).  If Farmer Brown sells a pint of honey for $5, how many pint jars will he need to sell to pay for the new beekeeper outfits? (Answer B at bottom of post)

bee on daisy

A soundtrack for worker bees – Our picks:

  • Moto Perpetuo” composed by violin virtuoso, Niccolo Paganini, in 1835.  This is an exhausting piece to play and reminds us of the field bee’s exhausting day – about 10 journeys a day to collect nectar and pollen, with each trip lasting about an hour.

  • The Pizzicato”, from Leo Delibes’ ballet “Sylvia” (1876).  We learned that the bee’s most important contribution is not the honey, but the service of pollination.  We can easily envision a bee delicately darting from flower to flower, pollinating away to the rhythm of this piece.

  • And of course, Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee”, written for his opera “Tsar Saltan” in 1899.  Well, this is perhaps too obvious a choice, but it is a tiny jewel of a masterpiece, and it belongs here.  We like this performance by the London Cello Orchestra, boasting the largest number of cellos that we have ever seen together.

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
A.  $287
B.  58 jars