Saturday, April 16, 2016

Book Review: Like Never Before by Melissa Tagg



Like Never Before by Melissa Tagg

This is the second book in the the Walker Family series by Melissa Tagg. I love a good historical fiction and have been an avid reader of that genre for some time. But between Melissa Tagg and Becky Wade, they’ve turned my eyes to modern Christian fiction. I’m hooked!

Amelia Bentley is the editor of a small town newspaper whose time is coming to an end. Logan Walker is the reluctant new owner of the newspaper. He just wants to shut it down or sell it so he can move on to bigger things; Running a presidential campaign. So when Logan and his daughter come to visit family and get the paper in order, Amelia has her chance to try to convince him that the paper is worth saving.

I love this series! I love the characters. This is the second book I’ve read recently with a single father and daughter :) The cover art is beautiful and cozy. I also really enjoyed the whole mysterious story of that Amelia and Logan chase down, as well as, the road trip.

Newspapers have always been fascinating to me. I wrote for my high school paper in Tennessee, did 4H newspaper projects and also spent a semester writing for my college paper at Lee University. Add into that my love for Superman/Clark Kent and I’m a little obsessed with newsprint.

I highly recommend this book, the previous one From the Start and Melissa Tagg’s other series Made to Last and Here to Stay!

I was given a copy of this book in return for posting a review. But I would have read it anyways :)

Book Review: Her Texas Family by Jill Lynn


Lucy Grayson is looking for a new start in a new state. When she moves from Colorado to Texas to find a new job and get away from some past issues, this independent woman finds something she doesn’t even know she needs. A family. Lucy and the town doctor,Graham, don’t really get along from the beginning. He’s a widower with a young daughter and he’s still grieving the loss of his wife. When Graham’s daughter takes to Lucy it seems to soften his heart. Can they learn to get along with Graham’s in-laws watching closely? Her Texas Family is a wonderful story!

Having never read anything by Jill Lynn before, I can tell you I am now a fan! Her writing style is very conversational and down to earth. The characters are real and so are the situations. Wonderfully written modern romance! I can’t wait to get my hands on the previous book, Falling for Texas.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

THM Sugar free Pink Floof (S)

I've been doing the THM lifestyle for about 2 years now. THM is Trim Healthy Mama. This, however, is my first THM-ified recipe.  I can't give all the details of the recipe because it's based on a recipe from the THM cookbook. However, I can tell you that I created the rest myself. I LOVE jello salad! It's basically jello and cool whip which equals a ton of sugar. And since I've been off sugar for 2 years and have really bad detox symptoms when I eat it I shy away from a lot of southern favorites.

So when I tried out the recipe for Lemon Pucker Gummies from the new cookbook (pg. 397) and discovered the consistency was like jello I had a total clarity moment.

In recent post on Facebook groups someone suggested replacing the 2 cups of liquid in the recipe with an equal amount of Bai5. So I did that and let the "gummies" gel up. After that, I got out my immersion blender and blended about a cup of heavy whipping cream and 2 packs of truvia into whipped cream. Then using a fork and knife chopped the jello up. Added the whipped cream to the jello and mixed it until it looked like pink floof. Actually it came out more purple.

The gummies on their own are a fuel pull but adding the whipped cream makes this yummy dessert an S.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

What's in the Stack - March 2016


Another month, another stack of yummy books. So over the past couple of months I've had lots of time to sit and read what with the broken wrist thing. And I've found a new favorite author. Karen Witemeyer is the latest in a series of authors whose work I've devoured. I tend to find an author and read everything they've ever written. My last one was Mary Connealy and although she's still by far my favorite to stalk, I've had to take a break as I've read all of her most current series. And it's her fault I've found Witemeyer anyways. They've done a few of those novella collections together.

I've also run out of Witemeyer books now. But since the last book I read was With This Ring?: A Novella Collection of Proposals Gone Awry, I discovered yet another wonderful author, Melissa Jagears!

So this month’s stack has a couple of Jaeger’s books included as well as a couple of books by an author that my book buddy recommended, Laurie Alice Eakes. Also, I am so happy to be reviewing a copy of Playing the Part by Jen Turano! I’ve been lucky enough to meet her at my local library since she happens to be a local. All her books are excellent. They have such rich characters and settings. You can’t help but literally laugh out loud while reading her page-turners.

So here’s the stack:
  1. Playing the Part by Jen Turano
  2. A Bride for Keeps by Melissa Jaegers
  3. A Bride in Store by Melissa Jaegers
  4. A Lady’s Honor by Laurie Alice Eakes
  5. Heart’s Safe Passage by Laurie Alice Eakes
  6. Who Switched off My Brain? By Dr. Caroline Leaf - (Doing some research for homeschool)



If you’ve gotten this far, I’d love to follow you on Goodreads. Here’s my profile: https://www.goodreads.com/etandksmom

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Review of HelpTeaching.com Pro Plan

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So, I’ve really been loving this new educational website I got the opportunity to use and review. It’s called HelpTeaching.com and we’ve been using the Pro Plan

HelpTeaching.com makes some areas of homeschooling much easier. I know for our family testing isn’t always the priority but sometimes it really helps to reassure where your kids are academically. Many times I find that I’d like to have the kids dig a little deeper in a subject. And HelpTeaching.com provides lots of ready made resources like worksheets, online tests and also lessons.


I’ve especially liked the upper grade science and English resources. This one is a worksheet for a unit on the Respiratory System.


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And this one is showing the structure of DNA! The printables are really high quality and very easy to understand. I also love that you can save the tests as pdf files for later use or for reference.


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Another cool feature is the Games area. You can create custom bingo cards and word searches with the generators. The Test Maker is amazing! You simply search through the over 130,000 available questions and add them to make your own test. You can also share the test with your kids/students online. They also have a great help section should you run into any problems while creating your tests. Here are just few of the helps topics from the testing section:


  1. How to Administer Tests Online
  2. How to Find Questions
  3. How to Customize Your Tests
  4. How To Use Questions with Images
  5. Using Question Groups
  6. How to Design a Good Test
  7. How to Write Good Test Questions


There are lots of freebies on HelpTeaching.com but I’ve found that the Pro Plan really is a way better experience. They're always adding more resources. One of my favorite resources is the Blog. I’ve always been a follower of homeschooling and educational blogs! I’ve gotten some amazingly useful ideas from blogs. This is the most recent blog entry from the HelpTeaching.com blog. It’s relevant to homeschoolers!


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I have to be honest, as I first toured the site I was worried that it was geared more towards public school teachers. As a homeschooler, my needs don’t always line up with what is geared toward the schools. However, after digging a little deeper I found some really great resources that I hope to continue using for years to come. My daughter and I love the word search puzzles. I found lots of great science lessons and worksheets that my 2 high schoolers will no doubt be using as well. It really does have something for all age groups. Many resource sites  are also geared more toward elementary education. So it was really refreshing to find resources for junior high and high school as well!


Here are some of the perks of using the Pro Plan on HelpTeaching.com


  1. Use Test Maker™ to create unlimited custom tests and worksheets
  2. Up to 100 questions in your custom tests and worksheets
  3. You get to use questions with images
  4. Save your own tests as PDFs
  5. Use Test Room™ to administer unlimited online tests & lessons
  6. Pre-made premium content(Common Core ELA and Math)
  7. Browse and search CCSS-aligned questions by standard
  8. It’s only $24.95 for the whole year!


HelpTeaching.com has been an interesting find. It comes highly recommended!

Click here to see what other Schoolhouse Review Crew members had to say about HelpTeaching.com and the Pro Plan!












Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Review of Home School in the Woods HISTORY Through the Ages Hands-on History Lap-Pak: U.S. Elections

Our family recently to the chance to use and review HISTORY Through the Ages Hands-on History Lap-Pak: U.S. Elections from Home School in the Woods. We've been homeschooling for a really long time and Home School in the Woods has been around for much longer than we've been choosing curriculum. They are a trusted source for high quality curriculum. It was so cool to get a chance to give feedback on one of their products.


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It’s our first time trying a lapbook product. I was a little unsure when I first looked at the product because it honestly at first glance looks like a lot of cut and paste. But because it’s an election year and I really want my kids to get an idea of what’s involved in the election, I gave it a go.


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Here’s a little information on the product. It’s broken down into 21 sections/projects. 


  1. Definition of Election
  2. Different forms of Government
  3. The American Experiment
  4. The Three Branches of Government
  5. Suffrage
  6. Who Do We Vote For?
  7. Terms of Office
  8. A "Handful" of Political Parties
  9. Caucuses and Primaries
  10. National Conventions
  11. The Presidential Campaign: Platform
  12. The Presidential Campaign: Stump Speaking
  13. The Presidential Campaign: Media — News Source
  14. The Presidential Campaign: Campaign Advertising — Spreading the Word!
  15. Raising Money
  16. Statistics
  17. Election Day
  18. The Electoral College
  19. Inauguration Day
  20. The Electoral Race!
  21. The "Vocabinet"


Each section has an audio portion that give you the information that’s also presented in the booklet that you print out and assemble. You can use the booklet and audio as a read-along for emergent readers. My daughter preferred me to read the sections to her as we worked on the different parts of the lapbook.


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You can see she really loves the coloring part. The audio portions range from 1-7-ish minutes which is very easy to fit into any school day. I printed out portions as we got to them but you could print it all out at once. I found it easier for me to cut sections out and she would do the coloring and adding the pieces to the lapbook. My advice is: Get good glue. You want the pieces to stick and stay. My daughter has had a little more experience with the Home School in the Woods as she was in a homeschool co-op class that used the Time Travelers curriculum. She really loves all things crafty.


Here’s some product shots to show the finished product.
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The little one on the right actually moves with a brass fastener! So cool!


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The doors really open!


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I really appreciate all the interactivity that results from the projects. It makes for a fun piece they can hold onto and show off. This was such a fun project. I’m not sure we are lapbooking converts but in the very least we had fun with this particular lapbook.

As a supplement to the lapbook, we also got some books from the library. Here's a couple of the ones we found. Monster Needs Your Vote by Paul Czajak and Vote from Eyewitness Books. 




Click here to see what other Schoolhouse Review Crew members had to say about HISTORY Through the Ages Hands-on History Lap-Pak: U.S. Elections from Home School in the Woods!


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Monday, February 15, 2016

Minor mishap and a lesson in physics

Miss me? Me too :) On January 23rd, it was a Saturday, I was helping a friend pack their kids room for a move. I stepped up on a bed. Of course, I removed my shoes because I'm not rude. After I finished the work that took me up on top of a bed, I stepped off...on to my shoe...and fell. So yeah, I broke my left wrist. I heard a loud pop. And this thing has been my constant companion ever since. Pretty, huh?


This is the second time in my life I've broken a bone. The other time I was 10 and it was my right wrist. I can tell you that this time around has been so much worse for several reasons. 

  1. I am not great at typing with one hand. 
  2. I can't drive well with one hand. 
  3. One word...bra...'nough said. Seriously, try it one handed. 
  4. Showers with one arm wrapped in a trash bag? Not easy. 
  5. I can't straighten my arm...even when sleeping. 
  6. I can't open ziploc bags unless they have actual zippers. 
  7. I haven't tied my shoes in almost a month. I just step in and deal. 
  8. Toothpaste...try it.
  9. Putting hair up in a ponytail/clip one-handed...not happening. 
  10. I don't bother unbuttoning or unzipping pants anymore. I've become the master of quick changes.
It's also been eye opening. I'm a very prideful person. I know! I never realized how self-sufficient I am. I've had to learn to ask for help for little stuff. It really stinks. I have to trust that my daughters hairdressing skills are not going to give me a "daddy ponytail". But I've also come to be thankful because: 
  1. It could have been so much worse. 
  2. Where I fell was between two hard wooden beds. 
  3. My head missed the second bed by inches. 
  4. My back and spine missed a large wooden dresser by inches. 
  5. When I fell, I was holding a handful of nails. 
  6. I was in the company of a friend who saw me fall and was there to help. 
  7. I didn't twist my ankle stepping on my shoe. 
  8. I have a amazing husband who came to be with me at the ER.
  9. I'm right handed!
  10. My family is amazing! They've been really helpful and patient with me. 
Anyways, it's not been a great month for me but then again sometimes it takes something sucky to make you stop and appreciate the wonder of the ordinary. I get to rid myself of the beast next week. But in the meantime, I'll survive. 

Here's my yucky X-ray for all you sciency people. Pretty gross. 


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

A New year, a new stack of books!


It's a new year and that means a new stack of books to read! Every year for the past 5+ years I've been doing the Goodreads reading challenge. I think it's suppose to be something like 100 books in a year but the most I've ever read in a year was 43 books last year. 

Anyways, these are some books in my stack right now:


My goal for this year is only 12 books. Funny, that's what my goal was for last year also. I've found that if I make smaller goals it's super easy to succeed. So, what's on your list?

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Tales of a Grungy Crockpot...and how to de-grime it! Plus, a recipe!


I don't know about you but I use my crockpot about 1 to 2 times per week. It gets loaded down with everything from barbecue chicken to chili and sometimes it gets a little gross. The kids (and the adults) drip some food down the side or the chili boils over a little and the poor crockpot gets messy. So today, I saw the poor thing sitting on the counter and thought I'd give it a good scrub.

Here's the before photo. It's seen better days. I don't usually think about this thing. I just clean out the stoneware part and go about my business.


Here are the supplies I used to give this thing a good scrub. 


I hold on to old yogurt containers so I can use them for random things like this. You need baking soda, water, an old toothbrush, a cloth or paper towel and an empty container. First you are going to pour a couple spoonfuls of baking soda in to the empty container. Them pour some water in to make a paste. Like this. Sorry, I realize it's a little difficult to see the paste. It should be the consistency of school glue.


Then you will take your toothbrush and dip it in the paste and scrub the inside of the crockpot base. You can re-dip as needed. The baking soda acts as an abrasive to help loosen the caked on grime. Just keep scrubbing and dipping until you get it all loosened. It only took about 2-3 minutes.


This next part was a learning process as I obviously hadn't cleaned this thing in a while. You want to take the crockpot base and set it on the sink so that it's sort of straddling the sink (see the picture below). You aren't suppose to submerge the crockpot.  Then pour really hot water into the crockpot base. I started my electric kettle before I began scrubbing so I'd have the hot water ready. 


Placing it on the sink is very important because you see those 2 little dots in the bottom of the base? Yeah, apparently they are hole :) Learned that the hard way. But my countertop got an amazing steam bath. When you have rinsed it thoroughly and wipe down the inside this is what you'll have left. 


It could probably use a little more scrubbing but it's clean. Then use the paper towel or cloth and some hot soapy water to clean off the outside. And voila! A clean crockpot that's not disgusting or embarrassing. You won't mind bringing this to a potluck. You might even be so proud that you'll leave it out on the counter!


Now here's my favorite barbecue chicken recipe: 

Crockpot Chicken

3-4 chicken breast halves
1 bottle your favorite barbecue sauce

  1. Place chicken in the crockpot. 
  2. Pour barbecue sauce over the chicken. Save a little sauce if you want to use as a condiment later. 
  3. Cook on High for 3-4 hours or Low for around 5-6 hours. 
  4. Shred the chicken and serve.
My family loves it on hamburger buns with cole slaw and chips on the side. 




Thursday, January 7, 2016

Review of SchoolHouseTeachers.com Yearly Membership

See below review for more information and a coupon code for 50% off SchoolHouseTeachers.com!

I was recently given the opportunity to review the Yearly Membership from SchoolhouseTeachers.com! I’m completely hooked. I’ve been clicking through all the resources available and making my list for future class to teach while utilizing the website.






My favorite class so far is called Foundations for Teens. It’s a video based Bible curriculum for High Schoolers and probably nobody younger than Junior High ages (12+) as there are some mature themes covered. And I just happen to have 2 of those...High Schoolers that is. Here are some of the topics covered:


  • Apologetics
  • Prayer
  • Doctrine (The Bible, the Trinity, Creation, Sin, Salvation, Worship, the Church)
  • Why We Trust the Bible
  • Redeeming Darwin: The Intelligent Design Controversy
  • The Bible: Why Does It Endure?
Even in the very first video, I was hooked. I previewed the video and then immediately had to show my teens. They reluctantly came in to watch the video, which is only 19 minutes. But sometimes as a teen that feels like forever. Not the case here. This is a photo of the boys watching intently.

This is a 22 unit course with “approximately 28 hours of video instruction”. It should easily count for ½ credit. Probably as an elective.
On a more personal note, I found the hosts backstory very interesting. He gave his testimony and told about his Muslim family. I also enjoyed Mac Powell from Third Day! The kids really enjoyed that the video wasn’t super long and the footage was actually shot in Jerusalem. 

I think I would consider this particular curriculum for use in homeschool, as well as, in a homeschool co-op setting. It includes questions to print out and essay questions to complete as well. We printed out the questions for the first series and did those while watching the video. The boys said they appreciated the high quality of the video. And they brought up some interesting points afterwards about the cave which is the suspected site of Jesus’ birth. You know it’s good when your teens who don’t want to talk start telling you what they learned. This curriculum comes highly recommended!
My 12 year old even came in to get in on the action.

I also took some time looking through the SchoolhouseTeachers.com website. There are lots of resources on there. I found the Planners especially interesting. The Schoolhouse Planner alone has 800 pages of calendars and schedules to make your school year planning go more smoothly. 

Also, with your Yearly Membership you get access to over 10,000 streaming videos through the Media Library provided by RightNow Media! Titles include VeggieTales, What's In the Bible, John MacArthur, Dave Ramsey, John Maxwell and lots of others. There's literally something for your whole family to watch. 

Something else I found to be really interesting and worth digging in to is the variety of courses available. The courses are broken up by subject and grade level to make it easier to find what you are looking for. 

Members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew were recently given a  full Yearly Membership Option to SchoolhouseTeachers.com for review. SchoolhouseTeachers.com is a homeschool online learning experience unlike any other, brought to the homeschool community by The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine.
FEATURES:
Available to families World Wide
  • Work at your own pace
  • Help Tutorials
  • Media Library with over 10,000 streaming videos
  • Courses are listed by subject or grade level.
  • Quick links to courses you know you are taking
  • Achievement Certificates
  • FREE planners and monthly bonus eBooks.
  • Record Keeping Help
  • High School Help
  • Focused Learning Centre to help struggling students with specific skills
  • Course Check Lists
  • Encouragement and much much more.

WHAT CLASSES ARE AVAILABLE?

HOW MUCH DOES A MEMBERSHIP COST?
SchoolhouseTeachers.com


To see a FULL list of classes available in the following subject areas click on the links below:
Join monthly for $12.95 each month or save over 10% on a one-year membership for $139. One fee serves your entire family. Anyone living in your home can use the site 24/7. You can cancel anytime. Special pricing is available for small groups and co-cops.
Price includes all available teacher interaction and lessons, hundreds of e-books, the Schoolhouse Planners, and other downloadable teaching and learning products. Remember, you don’t need a membership for each child; one membership serves your entire family! From today until the end of the month we have a 50% discount coupon code for our followers.
In addition to the daily, weekly, or monthly lesson plans offered, members of SchoolhouseTeachers also receive many extras — Digital back issues of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, all 5 of the popular Schoolhouse Planners, recordings of the Schoolhouse Expos, free monthly eBooks and TOS supplements, and membership to Applecore, an online homeschool tracking software, among them.
Click here to see what other Schoolhouse Review Crew members had to say about SchoolHouseTeachers.com!