I've got the kettle on, ya got a minute to visit?

I'm so happy you dropped by! Stay and visit awhile and please leave me a comment- it's so encouraging to hear from you!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Change....and pondering

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There is nothing that tests my faith like a big ol' swig of change.  It makes my mouth pucker, my toenails curl, and a leaves a sick feeling in the pit of my being.  I used to brag that this wasn't true of me- that change was welcome in my life and the mat was always out, waiting to be trod on by a drop in visit from my good buddy, Change. 

Not so true now.  Change will take the swagger out of my step, the wind out of my sails, and the strength from my faith........if I let it.

Change is inevitable.  Thankfully we are not God, God is.  (I know, it's a huge revelation and I understand if it takes a moment for you to get a breath after being sucker-punched like that!)  He gets to decide how things are going to roll and we have nose-bleed section seating when it comes to seeing His great plan. We may be able to see a speck, if we're lucky. 
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But Great God Almighty is on the playing field, and fortunately- He's on our team!

I was doing the dishes and had a great moment with God. (If you don't believe that can happen, please read The Quotidian Mysteries by Kathleen Norris!)  He was showing me all of the change in mine and my loved ones lives over the last few years and boy was there A LOT!!!  Here's the beginning of my list:
Daddy got cancer
We left home to go love on him for a couple of months while he needed us
He died
Momma moved into an apartment
Beth (my sister)got married
Andy's Daddy got cancer
We loved on him
We lost him
Andy's aunt passed away
Tomi, my bro in law, moved to WV without being able to take my sister with him because of a job
My favorite uncle passed away, leaving my aunt (after 62 years of marriage) distraught
A tree fell on my house
We moved to a 2 bedroom apartment for 5 months
We moved back home
My mother lost her job

Change IS inevitable.

I began to ask God to show me people in the bible whom I could relate to and do you know what I got????


OK Lord, fail to see the resemblance here........

Mary was an engaged teenager with a plan...marry a local carpenter, settle down, live in relative obscurity and poverty for the rest of her life...... but change happened.  BIG change.  Life  History  World Soul altering CHANGE!!  And how did she handle this change?  Luke 2:51.....she pondered, treasured it in her heart.

Did she post her opinion on Image Detail with a snarky undertone?

 Did she speak slanderously about the One who had done thisImage Detail to her to her girlfriends?

 Did she crawl in the bed and refuse to get out?

 Did she go buy something new and large to make up for the ill feelings she had?  Image Detail

Did she yell at her other children because she was at her wits' end?

She pondered and treasured the change, Jesus, and all that came with it (him)- in her heart.

Change will come, my Friends.  We may not expect it- may have our head turned the completely opposite direction.  May be startled, shocked, and have the wind knocked out of us.  It may require that we change our plans, change our focus, change our direction.  Change may require us to do something hard, something new, something...dare I say.....unwanted.

You may even have to........sit in the cheap seats.  And if you do?  What then?

Trust in the One on the playing field.

Monday, December 19, 2011

TOS Review: The World's Greatest Stories

The Black Stallion.  Sesame Street.  Bedtime for Francis.

These were my stories on records that I listened to over and over as a child.  Mersmerized by the flashing disco lights on the front of my portable record player, I sat for hours enthralled in great stories, voices, and emotions.  My aunt was a first grade teacher and she used to send me these treasures and if you asked me one thing that would take me back to my childhood in an instant, it would be recorded stories.

I was thrilled to be chosen to review The World's Greatest Stories for two reasons:
1. My children have the same love of recorded stories as I did at their age and we are CONSTANTLY looking in libraries and thrift stores for something to listen to in the car.
2.  These aren't just ANY recorded stories.....these are bible stories taken straight from scripture.  Nothing added, noting taken away!

Creator George Sarris has a background in commercial voice-over for such companies as Burger King, PIzza Hut, AT&T, and Honda to name just a few.  He is educated in speech and has a Master of Divinity from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.  Here is an excellent quote from the website:

   Actor George W. Sarris brings to life in the mind's eye the characters and events of some of the most treasured stories in all of history. The texts of all of the stories are taken directly, word for word, from the Bible. They are told, however, using the art of a dramatic storyteller, incorporating carefully chosen music and sound effects. The result is a very exciting story that comes straight from the words of Scripture.

I find the fact that he memorizes each and every passage before recording remarkable- this must be how he is able to dramatize each story so perfectly and be so engaging!  At $7.95 per CD, I find The World's Greatest Stories to be a great deal.  Even better news is if you order all six volumes, you receive free shipping!  You can choose NIV or KJV and there are six volumes to pick from as well.  Additionally, there is The Real Story of Easter- taken straight from the book of John.

Opinions and observations......

I can see me ordering the other five volumes of The World's Greatest Stories in the future!  Abby LOVED Volume 1: The Prophets. 
Volume One

When I asked her why, this is what she said:

"Momma, that man was so good!  He wasn't boring at all!  He acted out different voices and I liked that he was so dramatic!"

So if your children enjoy listening to a great story while they craft or are riding in the car- please consider going to the website.  You can listen to an audio clip on the Tapes & CDs page.  Let me know what you think!

Disclaimer: I was given The Worrld's Greatest Stories, Volume 1: The Prophets for free in exchange for an honest and objective review through The Old Schoolhouse Crew.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Honor of the Last Box

After you deliver your perfectly packed shoebox to your relay center (maybe your own church), do you know what happens to that treasure chest?  Ever thought about what happens between you and the hands of the child meant to receive it?
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It goes on a fabulous adventure!

First, it goes to the local Collection Center- where all of the boxes in your area go before being sent to a processing center. For example, Mountain Brook Community Church is the Collection Center for the Birmingham, AL metro area and it gets boxes as far as 50 miles or so out.  Lots of boxes......

34,358 to be exact this year!

The Collection center volunteers log your boxes (to help keep the count accurate) and check them for labels and rubber bands.  They do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING else to your gift!

And by the way, they do not descriminate volunteers based on height, weight, or ability to reach the counter....
From the Collection Center it goes to the processing center.  There are 7 of these nationwide:
Atlanta (Our PC)
Orange County
The Processing Center is the last place in the U.S. that your box will be touched.  Here they are opened, your donation is taken out, they are given a quick look through to make sure you didn't accidentally put any liquids or chocolates in (or toys with weapons), then they are taped, scanned if you have a "Follow My Box" label, and cartonized by age and gender.  Once the carton is taped- it will not see the light of day until it is being opened by the receiving country for distribution.


Please hear me now.  I want to disspell some myths that I have heard circulating.....
1.  Yes, plastic shoeboxes are fine.  Some do actually crack/break- but they are used by the receivers as holders for their grain and water and other things that make them very useful.
2. Yes, candy is absolutely welcomed in the box!  It may be, as I saw one lady post on FB, unhealthy- but look at the big picture!!! What is one treat in a lifetime??????!!!!
3. No, packing a HUGE box is NOT a good idea! A standard shoebox size box is VERY important to the logistics of box distribution.  An estimated 14 shoeboxes will fit into each carton.  Distribution Project Leaders in-country request a certain number of cartons based on each carton containing at least those 14- so you see how devastating it could be for a child expecting a box if he is in a line of 10 kids to get a box but there were only 4 huge boot boxes in the carton!! 6 hearts instantly broken!


After the carton is taped, it is loaded and sent to the nearest port city that will be sending them off!  Fairly amazing, isn't it?  You know what's even more amazing?  Taking a team to the Processing Center to work!

And THEN having a member of your team chosen to carton the last box of the season in the Atlanta PC!!!

(That's Lee, our Community Relations Coordinator!)

And what could possibly be EVEN MORE amazing then that?????

Being asked by my fearless leader, Jamie, to.........

PRAY OVER THE SHOEBOXES as they are sent out of the PC on the final day of processing!!!!

Just so you know, I <3 OCC All Year Long! And you can too!  If you have a heart for this ministry, please consider becoming a year round volunteer in your commuinty!  We have lots of roles to fill!  Just ask me and I'll tell you how!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

TOS review: ARTistic Pursuits

The Cains are art lovers.  It is a prerequisite for being in this family! Birmingham has a been blessed with having a LOVELY Museum of Art absolutely FREE to visitors.  My children and I began frequenting it before they ever even knew what art was!  I chose Phonics Museum to teach them how to read- just so I could subject them to more art!  We would all rather paint or create in some expressive form than do just about anything else!  So when the opportunity arose to review ARTistic Pursuits, I jumped on it!

It is very hard for me to find an art curriculum that I am comfortable with.  I am not an accomplished artist, so I have always been intimidated by the thought of teaching my children art.  My children take an art class outside of our home once a week with a FABULOUS teacher, but I have wanted something I could do at home with them that would not only cover technique but also history, composition, and different mediums. ARTistic Pursuits has been just perfect! Take a look at the first lesson below:
lesson one
look at composition
The lesson begins with the children learning about what it means to compose, then they actually study a composition, finishing off by composing something of their own.  The lessons are fairly brief, and easily manageable.  The format and material is engaging and the K-3 book still challenges my 4th grader.  Here is a piece of her original work from Lesson 2 of K-3 Book 1:

ARTistic Pursuits covers up through high school with each instruction book costing $42.95.  There are also art packs available for purchase ranging from $40-$100 including shipping.  This is a great option to ensure that you have all of the supplies you will need when it comes time for a lesson with watercolor crayons! (seriously- the ONE art supply NOT on our shelves!) Also, you should know, the ARTistic Pursuits website is very informative and well layed-out.  I encourage you to meander over there and take a look.  Even if you are not a homeschooler, this would be an awesome project once a week for you to do with your children.  You will both enjoy it!

Time for opinions and observations........

My kids have thoroughly enjoyed the last few weeks while we incorporated this program into our days.  This MAY be the "we can't do without it" product!  I am happy to see them take so much pleasure in taking learning about art to a new level.  .

A word of advise, check your art supply stash.  If it is meek, think about investing in their supply packs.  They seem reasonably priced to me, and it certainly makes project time so much easier if you're not having to go shop for supplies before you can get started!

If you give ARTistic Pursuits a shot, I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Disclaimer: I was given the ARTistic Pursuits K-3 Book 1 manual in exchange for a fair and honest review as part of The Old Homeschool Crew.

Dear Lord,

I will not tire of praising you.  I will not tire of sharing how you have blessed me.  I will not forget what you have taught me this year, and if sharing it with one person makes a difference, I will share it with a hundred to whom it doesn't.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

TOS Review: Time Timer

Ok, nifty gadget alert!!  Have you ever seen something at a store and thought, "Of course!  Of course someone has not only patented THAT but produced it as well!  I've thought of that very same gadget a hundred times!!!!!!"  This is one of those gadgets....the Time Timer.

About a month ago I received this timer in the mail (the 3' model/smallest). 

 My first thought was, "How am I going to use this with the kids?  It's just like any old kitchen timer!" Ohhhhh not quite!  You see, later that same evening, my precious girl got in the shower.  Approximately 52 minutes later, she got out after much fussing and needless hot-water running in the kitchen! (Yes, I am THAT kind of Momma!  I also opened their pjs when they were babies to get them to stay awake for me to feed them!  There- now your opinion of me is completely ruined!)  This has been an ongoing battle with Precious for about 3 years now- when she started taking showers.  We've begged, cajoled, and just plain no avail.  Hmmmmm.....

The smaller timer was perfect for me to sit on the mirror ledge where Sweets could see it while she was showering.  The ingenious thing about this timer is that, with a red panel, you actually SEE the passing of the time.

The red diminishes as the time passes.  Abby knows now that she has a quarter of a "red pie" when she starts her shower, and when she's down to a sliver- that means its time to rinse the conditioner out and turn the water off.  She's doing much better with the timer!  There is also an alarm that will sound at the end of the set time period. 

The timers come in three different sizes and range in price from $30-$40.

Thoughts and opinions:
  I can honestly say that the Time Timer has alleviated a smidgen of my being "the bad guy"!  I no longer need to fuss for Abs to get out of the shower!  I'm also starting to use the Time Timer for lessons and reading time- so I look forward to the same results in those areas as well.
 There are two tiny things I do want to make sure to mention.....One is that the alarm is barely audible.  It sounds once and often we never hear it.  The other is that the battery resides in a deep covered well in the back of the timer.  It doesn't take much jarring at all to dislodge it so if your timer suddenly stops working, please check to see if your battery needs pushed back in.
  As always, if you purchase a Time Timer, please let me know your thoughts!  And certainly pass on any other ideas for incorporating it into the day!
Disclaimer: As part of The Old Homeschool Crew, I was given a 3' Time Timer in exchange for a fair and honest review.  I receive no compensation or commission.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sweet Exhaustion....

There comes a point when a fainting couch is in order.......
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Darlings, NOW is that time!  And it's not the children or the husband or the house that's causing such fatigue.  No it's three simple letters...

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THIS is why I do this every year (for the 15th year!)  Look at that smile! Operation Christmas Child collections for 2011 end tomorrow.  Tomorrow I will spend a FULL day at our Birmingham Collection Center (Mt Brook Community Church) accepting cartons of boxes received from all over the metro area this past week- watching volunteers load semi trailers to the brim. Hopefully Prayerfully, 35,000 shoeboxes. This year has a twist, this year I'm the Captain of the ship.  Praise God I have one FABULOUS crew to help me out!  My area team co-ordinators are phenomenal.....just thinking of them makes me smile.
For now, I am going to go do laundry, read to my kids, and pack our stuff up so we can be out of the house before the kids are usually out of bed.  I'll post again tomorrow with some pics of the joy that causes my sweet exhaustion.

Monday, November 14, 2011

TOS Review: Keyboard Town Pals

I had the opportunity to review a children's typing program, Keyboard Town Pals, recently.  Here's what the website had to say about their program:

The Keyboard Town PALS Learn to Type program teaches your child to type in one hour.

Today, typing properly is a lifelong, necessary skill for success in school and at work.

■Our Mission: Our mission is to teach young children to type on a Qwerty computer keyboard in the fastest, easiest, and least stressful way. In only one hour Keyboard Town PALS’ “Learn To Type”software is able to achieve that goal.

■Stress-Free: We have eliminated the stress normally associated with learning to type and replaced it with adorable puppets who sing songs and tell stories in a relaxed learning environment. Our system has no boring drills or exercises. No mindless games. No nerve-wracking timed-speed tests. We have even deactivated the delete and backspace buttons since mistakes are never counted and scroll right off the screen. Learn more about this method.

■Wholesome: We are dedicated to developing educational software that you can depend on; wholesome products that will help you do your job as a parent – the most important and rewarding job anyone can have.

■Self Motivated: Your child will become an eager participant in the learning process and will be self-motivated to learn and complete the program.

■6 and Up: Keyboard Town PALS is best for the beginner audience of kids ages 6-12 and those with learning differences. All you need is a kid, a computer and an hour.

These are some of the characters introduced:

The main character is "Sunny"

Prices range from $30-$45

My thoughts and opinions...........

Friends, I do not endorse this product.  I could not MAKE Ben sign on after half of the first lesson and he was 6!  It is geared more to 4 year olds in my opinion, possibly even 3 year olds!  Certainly NOT the 6-12 age group suggested.  The characters are far from "wholesome", as you encounter a character VOMMITING in lesson 3!  Also, in lesson 5 the characters taunt and tease some unknown character which disgusted me. Also, just so you know, Ben firmly believes that Sunny would scare small children.

Hard as I try, I can not find one thing positive about this product- which may end my reviewing career- but honesty is, and forevermore shall be, the best policy.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Getting in the November mood.....

Ahhh....after a much needed blog break (Weren't all of those reviews INSANE??!!)  I am back to share with you a few crafties I am pondering.  Now don't get me wrong- our handy craft this month is leather tooling (Anyone seen my leather tooling kit??? Just a few tubs left to unpack...) so I'll be working on that with the kids, but I have found some super cute ideas that I am interested in trying with the kiddos.

Wanna see 'em???

 Love this Berry Wreath over on Martha Stewart.  The fabulous part is the berries are pom poms you "dye" and glue on to a willow wreath!  Easy peesy!  And those trivets?  They're just wooden blocks covered with velvet!  Genius!

Check out how adorable these are!  Mel over at One Crafty Mumma has done it again!  I swear I wish she were my neighbor!!  You can catch the tutorial here!
Owl ornaments

Now I don't think this one would be for the munchkins to attempt, but it is just so lovely I had to post!

Jessica over at Sew Homegrown whipped this beauty up!  It cost her less than $20 to make!!!!

Birds speak to me.  Christmas, Easter, Independence Day- you can use them for any holiday.......well ok, maybe not Independence Day so much. ;o)

And now.....the icing on the cake!  Or pie, as it will be!  Get ready to drool my friends......

Do you know what this bit of loveliness is?  This, Dearies, is Layered Pumpkin Pie Toffee Cheesecake!  (Who would have thought of putting all of that yumminess together?  They need a pat on the back.......maybe even a kiss right on the lips- but seein' as how I've yet to taste it, we'll hold off on that one!)  This little delight is brought to you by the girls over at Our Best Bites. (Though they say they got it from the cover of the Betty Crocker Holiday Mini-Mag!)!!!

I hope you're a smidge inspired!  I hope we can unearth our crafting supplies soon and get started on some holiday projects.  Nothing soothes my soul more than a good craft, a cozy Cainberly, and a nice cup of cider.

Friday, October 28, 2011

TOS Review: Say Anything

Whew!  This has been a marathon of reviews!  I hope you've hung in there with me and enjoyed seeing some of what's out there that you may not have been aware of.  This will be my last review for week or so.....and it's a great one!

The folks at Northstar Games bring us another fun family entertainment golden opportunity with Say Anything Family Edition!  This game is much like Wits & Wagers (see previous review here) in how it is equipped.  You receive a scoring board, dry-erase markers, dry-erase boards, a box of questions, player tokens, and the ever so "state-of-the-art" SELECT-O-MATIC 6000.
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(You see that little cardboard spinner thingy? Yep, SELECT-O-MATIC!)

The judge draws a card and chooses which of 3 questions they would like to ask.  Here are some examples for you:
What am I most likely to be doing in 20 years?
If I could have any musician play a private concert for me, who would it be?
What does the world need less of?

Players (recommended for ages 8+) jot down their answer on their boards, judge chooses which one they like best on the S-O-M and turns it face down.  Players then place their tokens on the answer they believe is most likely to be chosen by the judge, judge flips over S-O-M and VOILA!  Tons of fun and laughter!

Time for thoughts and opinions!
My kids LOVE this game!  They think it is so incredibly fun to guess what everybody thinks.  They felt a real satisfaction from knowing each of their family members so well- and I have to admit that I felt a littleproud of them.  They were thrilled when they had their answer chosen, but they also were happy to hear each other's thoughts and opinions.  It really is a great game for promoting a good dose of family unity.

Now, having said that- I must repeat my only concern which I expressed in my Wits & Wagers review-
" I love the concept, but I see buying more dry erase markers in the future- and what about the little boards once they become stained like dry erase boards tend to do?" 
You can purchase Say Anything Family Edition at Target for $19.99.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

TOS Review: Wits & Wagers Family edition

My family loves nothing more than a good game.  I think the only rival to our book collection is our board game collection!

Northstar Games has produced a challenging game of, you guessed it, wits and wages!  A great trivia based game, with numbers as answers, that challenges you to bet on which guess comes closest to the true answer of a question.

Included in the Wits & Wagers box is your scoreboard, 300 questions with answers, dry erase markers and boards, and Meeples!  Yes, Meeples!  What are they, you ask?  Apparently they are a fun little wooden person that has been popular European strategy gaming but are now being introduced to board games!

Would you like to try your wits at a question?  I'll post the answer at the bottom so you won't be tempted to cheat!

How many total Disney princesses are there?

What percent of U.S. households have at least 1 pet dog?

OK, time for thoughts and opinions.....

My kids really enjoyed this game.  Ben, my 7 year old, had a hard time with the percentages but endeavored to persevere and really enjoyed the game.  My daughter, 9, loved it and was astonished by some of the answers! (Such as there are more than 100 feet in a mile!  Amazing!)  I wonder about the supplies though, if I were to be honest.  I love the concept, but I see buying more dry erase markers in the future- and what about the little boards once they become stained like dry erase boards tend to do?  Nonetheless, we loved it and will be enjoying another round with pizza on a Friday night soon!  Wits & Wagers sells for $19.99 on .  Northstar also offers Say Anything, which will be my next review! 

As always, if you give it a try, let me know what you think!

Oh, your answers!  9 and 37.2%

Monday, October 24, 2011

TOS Revierw: Educating the Whole Hearted Child

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This book was sweet honey to my homeschooling soul!

Chock full of everything a homeschooling family needs to hear from how to get started to which picks of literature are ideal living books.  I began reading....then I began underlining.....then I began highlighting!  This book spoke to me- sometimes reassuringly saying "Good job!  Keep doing that!"  and sometimes "Oy Marla, was that the best choice for your homeschooling day?"  Can I just share with you some of my favorite passages from Educating the Whole Hearted Child?

  • p.13  "Whatever else influences your decision, there is really only one reason in the end that should settle and seal it- that in your heart, before God and by faith, you know that being home with your children is the right thing to do."
  • p.19  "Your child is made for and naturally longs for the home that you can provide."
  • p.20 "Every Christian parents will readily affirm that their children are being raised in a Christian home.  Probe a little deeper, though, and you'll find that often what they really mean is that their children are being raised in Christian culture.  Let me state what should be obvious, but isn't:  Christian activities and interests do not make a Christian home  A Christian home is never defined by what the children are doing; it is defined by what the parents are doing."  
Image DetailOuch!  That last one stung a little- but definitely struck home.  You must understand that while this book is full of awesome homeschooling resources, the Clarksons' goal was to encourage the reader in three particular priorities: Home Nurture, Home Discipleship, and Home Education.  Below is the Table of Contents so that you can see the rich sweetness that awaits you....

Table of Contents

PREFACE: A WholeHearted Journey for Home
 INTRODUCTION: Christian Homeschooling — Taking a Step of Faith toward Home SECTION 1: HOME

Chapter 1: The Christian Home — Learning to Be at Home with Christ
Chapter 2: The Christian Homeschool — Learning at Home to Be with Christ
Chapter 3: Home Nurture — Shepherding Your Child’s Spirit to Long for God
Chapter 4: Home Discipleship — Shaping Your Child’s Heart to Live for God
Chapter 5: Home Education — Strengthening Your Child’s Mind to Learn for God

SECTION 2: LEARNING Chapter 6: The WholeHearted Learning Model — Living and Learning Together at Home
Chapter 7: The WholeHearted Learning Home — Creating a Home You Can Learn Within
Chapter 8: The WholeHearted Learning Child — Understanding Your Child
Chapter 9: The WholeHearted Learning Youth — Beyond the WholeHearted Child

SECTION 3: METHODS Chapter 10: Discipleship Studies Methods — The Study of the Bible
Chapter 11: Disciplined Studies Methods — The Study of the Basics
Chapter 12: Discussion Studies Methods — The Study of Ideas
Chapter 13: Discovery Studies Methods — The Study of Learning
Chapter 14: Discretionary Studies Methods — The Study of Living

Chapter 15: Family — Keeping the Vision Alive
Chapter 16: Structure — Keeping the Homeschooling Together
Chapter 17: Order — Keeping the Home Together
Chapter 18: Support — Keeping the Spirit Strong

POSTSCRIPT: The Challenge — Keeping Faith in the Family RESOURCES
A: Books for the WholeHearted Family
B: Books for WholeHearted Learning
C: Forms for WholeHearted Learning
Notes Pages

Educating the Whole Hearted Child is published by the very reputable Apologia and sells for $22.00 on their site.  (There's also a great wealth of other resources available on their site so head on over there and check 'em out!)

Image DetailTime for my thoughts and opinions:
As you can tell, I loved this book and am so glad that I was chosen to review it.  It inspires, encourages, and even reproofs when necessary.  And I saved the best part to share with you.....those resource pages!!!  Oh my goodness!  Calendar planning, task lists, reading records and lists, family chore charts- all reproducible!  Uh-ma-zing!  There's also notes, resource lists, quotations, and supporting scriptures in the side margins!

This may sound like too much in one book but please let me reassure you- this book is an easy read.  Great, well-thought out ideas.  Definitely going to be a go-to book for me for the next eleven years of homeschooling!

Disclaimer:  I was given a copy of Educating the Whole Hearted Child through The Old Schoolhouse magazine in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Friday, October 21, 2011

TOS Review: E-Mealz

OK, aside from the car, the telephone, and the computer- no invention has  revolutionized my life more than E-mealz!  I'll get to the particulars of it in just a second but know this.....I print a list and recipes, I shop for a week's worth of groceries (that always stretches farther than that), I spend about $90, and I no longer have the 4 o'clock blank stare into the pantry!


Cured of the dreaded daily "What are we going to have for dinner tonight?"  Cured of the multiple trips to the grocery store each week!  Cured of the wasted food in my refrigerator!  Cured of the enormous grocery bills I was suffering under!  Cured of the "food rut" that I am occasionally accused of!


Now, let me give you a little background- because I have some history with E-Mealz....I heard of E-Mealz a few years ago at my church.  Seems it was all the rage and I found out that the founder, Jane DeLaney, is my associate pastor's wife!  So I thought it sounded great and in an effort to support my pastor's wife, I gave it a shot.  It lasted for a month.

Why, you ask?  The menu.  I had a hard time getting the menu to go over with my family.  I had a couple of factors working against me...1)Small children  2) The hubs- he likes NO condiment, certain seasonings, anything from the banana family of fruit, fresh see how this could impede my culinary creativeness?

I am so glad for this opportunity to re-try E-mealz.  Below is directly from their website:

What is E-Mealz?

E-Mealz is a simple system to solve your dinner dilemma with easy meals based on delicious recipes and a consistent grocery budget.

e-mealz meal plans...

•are written and created by REAL moms with REAL families

•are balanced and family friendly

•are as easy as possible, but delicious and kid tested!

•consist of favorite recipes collected from hundred of moms

•come with an organized, aisle by aisle grocery list

•are for 4 to 6 people

•are based on the current week sales at your grocery

•are priced at approximately $75 per week

•Two person plans average $35 total per week

OK, so now you have a little bit of an idea of how E-mealz works so I'm going to break it down for's as easy as

There are multiple plans to choose from so that you may find a fit with your lifestyle.


I chose the low-fat/4 person/Publix/tall/decaf/carmel/macchiato version...o wait...well, you get the idea!  It worked fabulously!  Not too many leftovers, store close by, a little healthier eating than we had been having.... and the humdinger?? 

$5 a month!

That's right- they post a customized menu based on sale items for the store you choose, give you a grocery list, and recipes for only $5 a month!!  SOLD!!!

Time for my thoughts and opinions......
I really think I can't live without E-mealz in my life.  Even though I was given a free 3 month subscription for my review, I will be renewing it when it ends.  I will say that some of the recipes did not suit my family (meatloaf is not a favorite at Cainberly), but that was ok because it allowed for me to substitute in some of my meals that we love (jambalaya, stroganoff, chili, etc).  Also, regarding the recipes- on a couple of them I think some important details may have been left off- chili that hot dog chili sauce or Texas Pete chili sauce?  I just don't know!  Oh, and a couple of times, through absolutely no fault of E-mealz- Publix would not stock items that they advertised as on sale (pet peeve of mine!) so if my meal was based on that item I had to rethink it.  One last thing you should know is that I would buy other things we needed for the house such as breakfast items, toilet paper, etc. and have the check-out person give me a total of the E-mealz items separately.  The totals ALWAYS fell under or at what they were supposed to based on your E-mealz grocery total for the week.

Great job by the folks at E-mealz!  What a great service for those of us who were drowning under the weight of the responsibility of feeding a house.  If you're struggling, or just tired of being in a food rut, give E-mealz a shot and let me know what you think!  Their website has a week's menu for you to try and some great info and recipes!

Disclaimer:  I was given a 3 month free trial membership to E-mealz in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Review: Always Icecream

Um, is it me or do you smell cotton candyBubble gum?Image Detail

Abby must be on   again!

This has got to be the sweetest, girly-est website I have EVER seen!  And every time that girl of mine signs on, I SWEAR I can smeeeeelllllllll SUGAR!!!!!  I even feel like this review should be entirely pink....but I'll spare you that one!  ;o)

Always Icecream is an educational, fun, social website geared for girls ages 7-12.  If I were to be entirely honest.....I have dreaded writing this review!  Why, you may ask?  Because this is the one review that we have enjoyed so much that I want to make sure not to leave anything out!  This website offers so much!

First, there's the great educational games/drills/exercises!  AI covers math, language arts, geography (see picture below), history, science, music, art, typing, foreign languages, and Bible!  whew......

Parents are sent weekly updates via email. (Parents are given a complimentary account that links to their daughter's so that they may be aware of what Little One is doing.)

Second- let's talk FUN!  There's a video round-up with everything from horses to how to draw.  (Don't worry- this is moderated, videos are reviewed before they are efer posted!)  There's a "Mini World" where girls can use scoops (currency) they have earned from the educational activities to buy and furnish/decorate their own house...or palace, even! And this.......

this is Pet World....Abby's version of "You had me at 'Hello'!"!!!!!!!!

Did I mention they can listen to catchy tunes while on the site?

And lastly, there is a social aspect to this website that some of you may love and some of you may hate.  Let me just tell you this to put your mind at rest- ***Content on Always Icecream is subject to moderation, contains no advertising and is blocked to search engines. To assure your child’s online privacy the site is certified by Privo. (I quoted this from fellow crewmate Roberta from over at Pondering on the Prairie- go read her review as well!) There are Cutey-Patootys on there telling about the new horse they just got or their trip to is perfectly adorable!  And I honestly feel very safe having Abby get on it and converse because I know they are policing every bit of content that spills onto the screen.

Ok, here comes my thoughts and pink! It had to be done, People!

This website is perfect if your little girl is ready to have some safe fun on the computer.  It's $4.99 a month or $29.99 a year which I think is an AWESOME deal for all of the content you get!  It goes even one step further and you can get a lifetime membership for $99.99!  Oh I can think of a thing or 12 that I waste more than that on....and you should see how thrilled Abby is to get to practice the drills and learning games!  As if, for just a a sea of pink and cotton candy- she has forgotten that she is actually LEARNING something! Great motto!

Also, in my opinion, the graphics are FABULOUS!  I absolutely love that there are NO ads whatsoever to be found on Always Icecream!  The only negative I could find is that it's so darn hard getting Abby off!!  As I stated earlier, we are THRILLED with this product and hope that you will jump on over and take a look for yourself!  Let me know what you think!

Disclaimer:  I was given a free membership to Always Icecream in exchange for a fair and honest review.