The Good Lie with Reese Witherspoon – win a DVD for you and a friend

TheGoodLieDVDI have a very quick giveaway to share this weekend! You can win TWO copies of The Good Lie with Reese Witherspoon, which is coming to DVD on December 23rd. You’ll receive one copy for you and one copy to give away to a friend.

They were known simply as “The Lost Boys.”

Orphaned by the brutal civil war in Sudan, which began in 1983, these young victims traveled as many as a thousand miles on foot in search of safety. Fifteen years later, a humanitarian effort would bring 3,600 lost boys, as well as girls, to America. Mamere and Theo are sons of the Chief in their village in Southern Sudan. When an attack by the Northern militia destroys their home and kills their parents, eldest son Theo is forced to assume the role of Chief and lead a group of young survivors, including his sister Abital, away from harm. But the hostile, treacherous terrain has other dangers in store for them. As the tattered group makes the difficult trek to Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, they meet other fleeing children, forging a bond with Jeremiah, who, at 13, is already a man of faith, and Paul, whose skills become essential to their survival.

Thirteen years later, the now young adults are given the opportunity to leave the camp and resettle in America. Upon arriving in Kansas, they are met by Carrie Davis (Witherspoon), an employment agency counselor who has been enlisted to help find them jobs—no easy task, when things like light switches and telephones are brand new to them. Although Carrie has successfully kept herself from any emotional entanglements, these refugees, who desperately require help navigating the 21st century and rebuilding their shattered lives, need just that. So Carrie embarks on her own unchartered territory, enlisting the help of her boss, Jack (Corey Stoll).

“Moving and unforgettable…The Good Lie is a movie that simultaneously enlightens and inspires.” — Michael Medved, The Michael Medved Show

“Reese Witherspoon delivers strong and giving performance.” — James Rocchi, TheWrap

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DIY Fandom Christmas Ornaments

Fandom Christmas tree loaded with DIY ornaments from Star Trek, Star Wars, Sherlock, Once Upon a Time, Middle Earth, and Harry Potter.

Click image to see a larger version

Yesterday I shared my super awesome Fandom Christmas tree (yes, I can gloat – it is super awesome) and I’ve already received many questions about the DIY ornaments! I am thrilled to share how I made them.


Oriental Trading is the source for this adorable little glass bottles. They are 1.5″ tall and come 6 to a pack. The cork is already fitted with a metal loop so these are perfect for ornaments or necklace charms. I use 4 bottles for Harry Potter potions. Inside is nothing more than thinned out blue, white, and green paint and  for the Felix Felicis, I used olive oil.

The fairy dust is my favorite and contains Clear Aurora Borealis Cut Crystal Bicone Beads, also from Oriental Trading. They really do shimmer like fairy dust. The package contains 48 small crystals and you can buy them in 17 different different color tones.

I used the last empty glass bottle for a magic bean. You can see exactly how to make a magic bean with a hot glue gun at Doodlecraft.


Kili is a dwarf from the Hobbit movies. Kili’s rune stone was given to him by his mother before he ventured out on his quest with Thorin and company. I used a bit of air-dry clay to form the shape of an oval stone. Next, I used a toothpick to carve the characters into the clay  Don’t forget to poke a hole at the top for a ribbon. After the clay hardened, I painted it black and then coated it with Mod Podge.


Thorin Oakenshield’s key (from The Hobbit) and Rumplestiltskin’s dagger (from Once Upon a Time) were made using the same layered method that I described in detail in my tutorial for how to create your own 211B Baker Street door.


The thickness was created with 3 layers of cardboard. Next, I spray painted both sides silver and then glued a printed out key (or dagger) on top. Lastly, to make the paper shimmer a little more like metal, I brushed a very very light coat of Folk Art white pearl paint on top.  Here is an image of Thorin’s key and here is Rumple’s dagger.


This little door is sooo adorable. When Christmas is over, I want to hang it on the wall in the garage next to the larger 211B Baker Street door. The door is a simple dollhouse door that I purchased at Hobby Lobby and painted black.  The small 221B was made using the exact same layered method that I used the larger version. See how to create your own 211B Baker Street door.


Lembas bread…the bread that will sustain an Elf for days but 4 pieces cannot sustain a Hobbit for more than 2 hours. (By the way, did you know that TODAY is Eat Like a Hobbit Day!) The “bread” in my ornament is a flat chunk of hardened clay. The leaf template can be printed here.

Thank you again to Oriental Trading for the free product and for helping to make our Christmas even more fantastic.

*Disclosure: this post may contain affiliate links.

Geeky Fandom Christmas Tree

Fandom Christmas tree loaded with DIY ornaments from Star Trek, Star Wars, Sherlock, Once Upon a Time, Middle Earth, and Harry Potter.Update: To see how I created all the ornaments, check out DIY Fandom Christmas Ornaments.

Last week when I showed off our Minecraft Christmas tree, I mentioned that we also had a geeky tree that is dedicated to the fandoms:

  • Star Trek
  • Star Wars
  • Sherlock
  • Once Upon a Time
  • Middle Earth
  • Harry Potter


The only thing missing is Doctor Who and that is because we love Doctor Who so much that it got its very own tree.

All 3 of our Christmas trees are little, and this one is the tallest at 3 feet. We have not had a large tree since our son was about 5. First of all, I love not having to move furniture around to find a space to fit a large tree. Secondly, there is no need to disassemble these table top trees. I simply wrap them up gently in large plastic bags, and seal them up with tape. The lights and ornaments remain in tact until the next year with no fuss.

Fandom Christmas tree loaded with DIY ornaments from Star Trek, Star Wars, Sherlock, Once Upon a Time, Middle Earth, and Harry Potter.

Click image to see a larger version

1Fandom-TreeCan you spot?

  • Hufflepuff from Harry Potter
  • The Enterprise from Star Trek
  • A broom from Harry Potter
  • Felix Felicis from Harry Potter
2Fandom-TreeCan you spot?

  • Lembas bread from Lord of the Rings
  • Felix Felicis from Harry Potter
  • The Enterprise from Star Trek
3Fandom-TreeCan you spot?

  • Polyjuice from Harry Potter
  • A burning pine cone from The Hobbit
4Fandom-TreeCan you spot?

  • Yoda from Star Wars
  • A snitch from Harry Potter
  • Rumplestiltskin’s gold straw from Once Upon a Time
  • Borg Cube from Star Trek
  • Floo powder from Harry Potter
  • Deep Space Nine from Star Trek
10Fandom-TreeCan you spot?

  • Klingon Bird of Prey from Star Trek
  • Elven rope from Lord of the Rings
  • Kili’s rune stone from The Hobbit
  • Marauder’s Map from Harry Potter
13Fandom-TreeCan you spot?

  • Fairy dust from Once Upon a Time
  • Darth Vader from Star Wars
  • Harry’s patronus from Harry Potter
  • Ravenclaw from Harry Potter
6Fandom-TreeCan you spot?

  • 221B Baker Street from Sherlock
  • R2D2 from Star Wars
  • Memory Potion from Once Upon a Time
  • White Tree of Gondor from Lord of the Rings
  • Rumplestiltskin’s dagger from Once Upon a Time
  • The Enterprise from Star Trek
9Fandom-TreeCan you spot?

  • Jefferson’s Mad Hatter hat from Once Upon a Time
  • Lembas bread from Lord of the Rings
  • Romulan ship from Star Trek
8Fandom-TreeCan you spot?

  • The Deathly Hallows from Harry Potter
  • Bone growth potion from Harry Potter
7Fandom-TreeCan you spot?

  • Belle’s chipped cup from Once Upon a Time
  • Thorin Oakenshield’s key from The Hobbit
5Fandom-TreeCan you spot?

  • Hedwig from Harry Potter
  • Bilbo’s sword from The Hobbit
  • Magic bean from Once Upon a Time
  • Yoda from Star Wars
  • A snitch from Harry Potter
  • Rumplestiltskin’s gold straw from Once Upon a Time

Doctor Who Christmas Tree with DIY ornaments   Minecraft Christmas Tree with DIY ornaments

*Disclosure: this post may contain affiliate links.

Create Your Own 221B Baker Street Door

How to Create Your Own 221B Baker Street Door

This is the door leading from our garage into our house. Coming home is like walking into Sherlock’s apartment.

I created this on a whim one day and didn’t even tell my husband what I was planning. He was delightfully surprised to pull into the garage and see the freshly painted door black door (it used to be white) and homemade, but very realistic house numbers.

It has been about 2 months and not a single neighbor has commented on it. Maybe they are just minding their own business and have not noticed it since our garage door is rarely up.


Making the gold 221B was a breeze! Would you like to see how?

If you have a Silhouette Cameo, this will go even faster, but you can use a sharp craft knife instead. However, your hand will probably get tired from all the deep cutting.


Since I discovered this method of making your own chipboard, I have been saving cereal and pasta boxes. Chipboard is just a general name for thicker cardboard like paper. With this method, you can make the letters and numbers as thick as you want. My 221B was create with 4 layers of cereal box cardboard.

I trimmed the boxes and liberally taped them down to my cutting mat. Be sure to use a lot of tape, as they will slide.


Cardboard is thick, so you want to turn your blade up as high as it will go, to setting 10. When you are getting ready to cut out the letters and numbers, be sure to choose chipboard – double cut – thickness: 33 – speed: between 1-3


Cut out at least 4 sets of every single letter and number you need. For mine, I ended up with 8 twos, 4 ones, and 4 Bs.


Using Mod Podge, glue all the layers together. Don’t worry about getting your fingers sticky, you’ll need to get messy in order to make sure all the characters are lined up perfectly.


After the Mod Podge has dried, take your characters outside and spray paint them any color you wish. Sherlock’s door numbers are gold. You’ll need to venture outside 4 times to spray paint…coat #1 on the front side, coat #2 on the front side, coat #1 on the back side, and lastly coat #2 on the back side.

I used double sided adhesive to attach the 221B to the painted black door.

Follow Amy Stults’s board Sherlock on Pinterest.

*Disclosure: this post may contain affiliate links.

Books to Supplement ANY Historical Time Period

Books to Supplement ANY Historical Time Period

History is very important in our homeschool. It is truly our favorite part of the day. Currently, we are in the middle of early British-European History, and are thrilled to be nearing the reign of King Alfred the Great. There are literally hundreds of books to choose from when studying each historical era and culture, and those books need to be cycled through, not only because of the era, but also for age and reading level. I hate getting rid of books, it breaks my heart, but it is a must. There is no reason for us to hang onto elementary level books for any of the historical eras, because we’ll never use them again. However, there is a small collection of books that will remain on our bookshelves forever.

These are the books that can supplement ANY historical time period and can be adapted for any age level. 

1,000 Inventions and Discoveries1,000 Inventions

From making fire to building the gadgets of the 21st century, uncover the stories behind the remarkable ideas and devices that have shaped our world. Innovations in science, space, technology, transportation, medicine, mathematics, and language are covered, along with a timeline of history highlighting all inventions and discoveries from the airbag to DNA, lie detectors to hormones, and money to the signs of the zodiac. Feature boxes delve into the details of the lives of Isaac Newton, Marie Curie, Albert Einstein and more, while amazing images and archive materials bring their achievements to life. 1,000 Inventions and Discoveries will AMAZE and inspire a love of history in kids.

History of the World in 1000 objectsHistory of the World

From the watch Napoleon used to synchronize with his generals at Waterloo and Chinese David vases believed to be the oldest example of blue and white porcelain to the US Constitution and the Mayan Dresden codex, the oldest book written in the Americas, History of the World in 1,000 Objects provides a completely fresh perspective on the history of the world. With objects revealing how our ancestors lived, what they believed and valued, and how these items helped shape civilization, History of the World in 1,000 Objects contains a treasure trove of human creativity from earliest cultures to the present day. Objects are grouped chronologically, under key themes, from art to the history of technology, and together help paint a unique picture that provides detailed insight into each culture. In addition to stunning specially-commissioned photographs, History of the World in 1,000 Objects is packed with timelines and maps that make it easy to compare how people lived at different times and in different parts of the world.

History Year by YearHistory Year by Year

History Year by Year presents the world through a detailed timeline, letting children follow the influences, patterns, and connections between historical events. Produced in association with the Smithsonian Institution and featuring more than 1,500 images, this illustrated book brings the story of the past to life. Beginning with prehistory and running up to the Arab Spring, budding historians will learn about the history of humans across the world. Spreads highlight major historical eras including the Renaissance and the French Revolution, while quotations from primary and secondary sources alongside insight from experts give proper historical context. Children will love the “child of the time” feature, telling the experience of children at important historical periods including Ancient Egypt, Viking England, the Industrial Revolution, and World War II. History Year by Year is a visual journey throughout time and an invaluable reference for kids looking to connect the dots of history across the world.

The Kingfisher Atlas of World HistoryThe Kingfisher Atlas

This colorful and fact-packed book is not only informative but well organized. Sections cover “The Ancient World,” “The Medieval World,” “Exploration and Empire,” and “The Modern World,” and each section contains 15 or 16 thematic maps presented in chronological order, leading the reader through time and place. The text, images, simple maps, and use of picture symbols are all designed to make the atlas accessible to students in second grade and up. Time lines accompany each map, and several feature spreads cover topics such as “The City of Rome” and “Islamic Culture.” “How We Know about the Past” features, introducing the sections on the ancient and medieval worlds, provide some insight into historical research. The pages might be a little busy for some users, but with guidance younger or more distractible readers can find their desired information. The index lists only the main people, places, and topics found in the work, making it easier for the novice user but not as complete as it could be. This work would be a good addition to any elementary school or public library’s children’s room and an excellent addition to a middle school library as well. The size makes it cumbersome as a circulating book, but as a reference book, it is very useful and entertaining as well as data-filled.

A Street Through Timedownload

In a series of fourteen intriguing illustrations, the award-winning A Street Through Time tells the story of human history by exploring a street as it evolves from 10,000 BCE to the present day. Watch the landscape and daily lives of the street’s inhabitants change, as the small settlement grows into a city, is struck by war and plague, and gains trade and industry. Throughout, children are asked to study the photos in order to find a time traveler in each scene, as well as to pick out interesting details, encouraging them to pore over the unique illustrations and more easily learn about the historical background.

A City Through TimeA City

In the bestselling A City Through Time, readers are invited to follow the progress of an imaginary city through six key periods of time, each captured by a scene of the city and zooming in on key buildings like a Roman bathhouse, medieval castle, and a modern skyscraper. Illustrations by award-winning artist Steve Noon provide a unique history of city life, transporting readers from an early Greek settlement to an industrial metropolis, while pull-outs surrounding the illustrations introduce the reader to the people who lived there, from Greek slaves to modern-day commuters. New to this edition is a photographic section exploring amazing real-life cities — from ancient Babylon to Constantinople to 21st-century Tokyo.

Mistakes That WorkedMistakes

Popsicles, potato chips, Silly Putty, Velcro, and many other familiar things have fascinating stories behind them. In fact, dozens of products and everyday items had surprisingly haphazard beginnings.Mistakes That Worked offers forty of these unusual tales, along with hilarious cartoons and weird and amazing facts. Readers will be surprised and inspired! For those readers who feel as though they’ve yet to accomplish anything in life, these discoveries will come as a great relief. None of the inventions described in these pages were planned; in fact, some of the inventors had no idea they’d stumbled on something useful until years later, when their works became popular.

Great MapsGreat Maps

The world’s finest maps explored and explained. From Ptolemy’s world map to the Hereford’s Mappa Mundi, through Mercator’s map of the world to the latest maps of the Moon and Google Earth, Great Maps provides a fascinating overview of cartography through the ages. Revealing the stories behind 55 historical maps by analyzing graphic close-ups, Great Maps also profiles key cartographers and explorers to look why each map was commissioned, who it was for and how they influenced navigation, propaganda, power, art, and politics.

Calendar Questcalendar-quest2

This historical narrative tells the story of the calendar through the eyes of two children and their guide, Father Time. Traveling through time in a refrigerator box, they visit twelve historical periods from early Sumer to 20th century America. Through learning the story of the calendar, they are exposed to every major historical period that contributed to the development of Western civilization. This novel is used to instill in its reader the flow of Western history. Calendar Quest is the literature companion to “What Every Child Needs to Know About Western Civilization”. These two books when used together will develop within the child’s mind a mental scope and sequence of history to which all subsequent historical learning can be related.

Timelines of ScienceTimelines of Science

From the discovery of penicillin to the advent of the Internet, science has been an invaluable part of the human experience. Produced in association with the Smithsonian Institution and highlighting the theories, breakthroughs, and key thinkers that shaped the history of science, Timelines of Science is an informative guide to the history of scientific discovery and technology that follows the path chronologically, and explores everything from ancient Greek geometry to quantum physics. Filled with striking visuals, including specially commissioned photography, arresting infographics, and illustrations that illuminate technological discovery, Timelines of Science includes major advances in all the sciences, including biology, chemistry, physics, and astronomy.

Timelines of HistoryTimelines of History

This book takes readers through the history of cultures and nations around the world to arrive at the present day, Timelines of History caters to readers who want a broad overview, a good story to read, or the nitty-gritty of historical events. With easily accessible cross-references that build bite-size pieces of information into a narrative that leads readers back and forth through time, Timelines of History makes the past accessible to all families, students, and the general reader.

Weapon: A Visual History of Arms and ArmorWeapon

For 4,000 years weapons, and the warriors who used them,have acted as the cutting edge of history, using ax, spear, bow, sword, gun, and cannon to determine the rise of kingdoms and the fall of empires. From the stone axes of the earliest warfare to the heavy artillery of today”s modern armies,this awe-inspiring book portrays for the first time the entire spectrum of weaponry. Illustrations explain key features and working mechanisms of important weapons Beautifully photographed and richly cataloged-often in actual size Details weapons that changed the face of warfare, from the sword to the Gatling gun.


From Alexander the Great’s conquest of the known world to generals leading today’s campaigns in the Middle East, Commanders illuminates the leaders who have forged history on the battlefield. Each entry features key data, a timeline, and an analysis of the commander’s strengths and weaknesses, making Commanders a truly comprehensive look at the greatest leaders in naval, field, and aerial warfare.

*Disclosure: this post may contain affiliate links.

Painted Toy Soldiers

Painted Doctor Who wooden toy soldiers

I am a terrible painter, but I did my best. The month of December just makes me want to craft. One of the many reasons why I love Oriental Trading so much is because they have super cute products like these plain wooden toy soldiers. Products like these really bring out the creativity in adults and kids alike.

When these arrived in the mail, my son took one look at them and suggested we paint them like the 12 Doctors. It was the perfect idea since they are sold in a set of 12! They are so open-ended and the ideas for these little guys are endless!

So here are 9, 10, and 11. I have to admit…I am very intimidated to try to paint Doctors 1 through 8 and 12.

I do want to note that these wooden soldiers are very high quality for the price! A couple of years ago we bought a set of wooden nutcrackers that looked similar to these wooden soldiers except they contained a lever on the back to make them look more like real nutcrackers. Their arms kept falling off! However, the set from Oriental Trading that I am painting are perfect and sturdy. I highly recommend these as a fun Christmas craft for kids who like to paint.

Thank you again to Oriental Trading for the free product and for helping to make our Christmas even more fantastic.

*Disclosure: this post may contain affiliate links.