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!

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.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Review: Visual Latin

"Et tu, Brute?"

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If you're anything like me.....these and "E pluribus unum"

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are the only latin that you know!  Sure, I know lots of our medical words and random words here and there are based on latin- but I certainly couldn't tell you what any of them mean!

I've been wanting to try a foreign language with the kiddos.  Abby had some french the last two years and Benji hasn't had any exposure to another language except for the few spanish words and sign language motions I have taught him.  I was thrilled when the opportunity to review Visual Latin came along!

Visual Latin is a curriculum brain child of 2 homeschooling dads who believed they could produce a video series that would keep students engaged, and even mildly entertained, in learning latin.  Dwane Thomas is the instructor and he does a fabulous job.  He is very clear and obviously knowledgable (he's been teaching latin for 15 years!) and has a great sense of humor.

As far as classes go, there are two series of videos available, Latin 1 and Latin 2.  You may choose to download lessons or purchase DVDs. (Dwane also teaches online courses) For Latin 1 Lessons 1-30 DVDs are $80 (on sale now from $90!) and the download is $50.

The video lesson presentation is broken into 3 segments:




There are also three printable worksheets with each lesson for each video segment.

Here's a few thoughts and opinions...... I tried to have Ben do this along with Abby and it was just too advanced for him.  It is recommended for ages 9 and up and I would have to say that I agree with that whole-heartedly.  Abby loves it, but Ben just became frustrated and ultimately abandoned the lessons.  This is a great program for visual learners, which Abby DEFINITELY is!  My last opinion is this- the Visual Latin website is fantastic!  They have great, accurate information with answers to lots of questions and links to other latin resources.  Best of all, you can download 6 FREE LESSONS to try it out!

Disclaimer: As a reviewer for The Old Schoolhouse magazine, I was provided with the above curriculum free of charge in exchange for an honest and objective review.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Fair warning!

Let it not be said that you weren't warned!

I wanted to let you friends know that I will be reviewing quite a few products over the next 2 weeks or so. I'll mix in personal tidbits as well- but I will have reviews of everything from board games, to meal planning, to books, websites, and Latin lessons! I'm pretty excited about them but I wanted to forwarn you lest you feel barraged by reviews! I hope they are helpful to you and you enjoy them!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Coming back around......

Ya know, I never intended to be one of those blogs that, when you look over in your blog roll to see whose is updated, fell at the bottom of the list.  I always believed with my whole heart that my blog would be updated with my morning coffee.  Full of lively photos, greetings, ideas- it would inspire and create new friendships.

But I have fallen to the bottom of the update list and am actually in jeopardy of losing my ability to review products for you.  Thankfully, I think I'm on an upswing!  Dear friends, we have moved home.  Oooo, it sounds so wonderful, let me say it again...

Dear friends, we have moved home!

No more internet via the iPhone.  No more walking back and forth between the apartment and the house for baking supplies.  No more coaxing the children with "Please, can't you just hang in there with us a little while longer???"  We're home.  All is right in the universe.

EXCEPT FOR THIS MESS!!!!!  But, with a little elbow grease and some TLC, that too will (hopefully, at least momentarily) be a thing of the past.

We have learned so much over the past five months.  I told Andy that I really want to write a book.  I'm thinking of calling it "Mommy, You Forgot My Froggie" because that's when I remember it all starting.....that crazy morning when I threw the kids in our bed and Ben needed his lovie to comfort him.  I went to get it, came back, and quite literally- our world shook!  We're on the backside now, and in my heart, I think I can sincerely count it all joy.

I think, with some grace and divine providence, I'm coming back around.