Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Few of My Favorite Things

I love a good deal!  A good deal to me is a quality product at a great price.  Free is awesome, too!  So, I thought I'd share with you some online resources that keep me coming back for more.  Take a look.  There may be something here for you.  If you have a resource you love I'd love for you to share it in the comments.  I'm always looking for something new.  Here are a few of my favorite things in no particular order:

Pout in Pink
- A Unique Boutique and Party Center

PIP is a relatively new discovery for me, and I love it!  We've got one little female in the house that benefits from my new discovery, and with the new PIP Tween line, our older female will certainly end up with an item or two for her girly self.  With my Michigan location, and their only storefronts being located in Arizona, Texas, and Minnesota, I am strictly an online customer.  They have always been kind and quick with online support.  Our little diva will get her first clothing item from PIP for Christmas, so you'll have to wait for pictures.  My favorite thing about the site is there is a nice clearance section.  You know that's always the first place I look!

Free Homeschool Deals
- Affording the Homeschool Life

This is by far my favorite homeschool resource site.  There is always an abundance of free Kindle books, and I LOVE that!  Jamerill has her site packed with resources.  Like I said before, free is awesome, and this site is LOADED with free resources for the homeschooling family.  It's a treasure trove of information just waiting to be utilized.  You will find coupons, apps, free downloads, inspiration, and more.  I am always excited to see Free Homeschool Deals come through my feed on Facebook.  It's a rare occasion that I don't click through and at least download a book or ten.


If you're a shopaholic you may want to avoid this site.  It's amazing!  I did a lot of my Christmas shopping for the kids here this year, but there is something here for everyone, and it changes ALL THE TIME.  Zulily is like an online outlet mall with all high quality items at nicely discounted prices, and sometimes there's even free shipping.  Bonus!  When you poke around the site you will find everything from kids' shoes to housewares to men's clothing to supplements to jewelry to handbags and sunglasses.  You can search the site by product, category, or size, and you can earn money by inviting friends.  This is one of the first places I look when I need a quality gift.


I love to take pictures, and the world of photo editing is rather new and exciting to me.  I am by no means a professional, but I do enjoy taking pictures.  PicMonkey makes it a whole lot more fun.  This is an online, FREE, photo editing site.  It is very simple to use.  You simply download your picture directly to the site and begin editing immediately.  PicMonkey does not store your pictures, but it is a breeze to share them instantly to social media and save them to your computer.  I have made some awesome gifts with this tool, and there is even a reasonably priced upgrade should you desire to have full access to all of the available actions.

You Version

What better way to start your day than with Bible study?  My favorite resource for this is You Version.  I have this app on my Kindle, my Smart Phone, and my laptop.  It's awesome because I can sign up for various studies, and it will keep track of my progress, allow me to catch up if I miss a day or three, and send me reminders if I want it to.  I can enjoy multiple study topics at once all in one convenient, easy to use location.  You Version makes my morning study a simple possibility when life gets hectic.

Bible App for Kids

The Bible App for Kids is a new resource recently put out by You Version.  My kids ages three to eight LOVE it!  It's like an animated story book that teaches children about the bible.  I hear my eight year old talking to friends about it and comparing how far they've gotten, and my three year old regularly asks to play her "Jesus story" on my Kindle.  It is FREE for Android.  Kids are sure to enjoy the bible stories, games, and activities.


Our favorite kid app of all time is Zoodles.  My kids, especially the younger two, LOVE this app.  They play it on my Kindle.  It's awesome because it can be completely customized for each child.  There is a paid upgrade, but we've never felt the need to purchase it for our family.  The free option is amazing all on its own.  You get age appropriate content, regular email updates, and loads of control.

Empowering Parents

This is a wonderful parenting resource.  My favorite thing about Empowering Parents is the search option on the site.  You can actually search the site for your particular parenting issue and find articles to search relevant to the issue you are trying to learn about.  I love that!  This is a wonderful resource for parents of children of all ages.

Homestead Survival

Are you interested in learning more about sustainable living, or are you a homesteader wannabe?  I am in the process of taking baby steps in this direction.  Homestead Survival is like an encyclopedia on the topics.  Here you will find interesting resources on a plethora of subjects all related to homesteading and survival.  The content is updated regularly and is always fresh.  There is SO MUCH to learn here!

I hope you enjoy poking around these sites and that you'll find something here of lasting value.  I love sharing resources, especially those of great value, and I hope you share some of your favorite things with me.



The Zoo Crew

Saturday, December 14, 2013 Review

My first assignment as I put my product reviewer hat back on this month was to review an amazing online resource. is a treasure trove of academia that offers new discoveries and adventures to be had each and every day.  The Yearly Membership Option offers a frugal homeschooler the ultimate in valuable resources. provides everything for teaching subjects from art to science and all interests in between.  New learning opportunities are added on a daily basis keeping the content fresh and interesting.  A printable spreadsheet is available to help you keep track of the courses available and track your progress.  There are even printables that you can use to record the skills covered by each student each month.  Plenty of extras are available as well.  Things like back issues of the TOS Magazine, Schoolhouse Planners for all levels of education, bonus weekly e-books, and various other supplements are all available to enhance your homeschooling experience.

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Our family is completely enjoying the "electives" available through  We already had plans to incorporate photography into our homeschool, but we hadn't quite gotten around to it.  Harmony, early elementary level, was thrilled to learn that a complete Photography course appropriate for all ages is available through our membership.  I was happy to have the complete course planned and laid out for me.  All I had to do was familiarize myself with the lesson plan and explain the assignment.  Awesome!

Harmony also LOVES to sing, so we are also currently having fun with the Music/Voice course.  With Christmas right around the corner, I chose the Christmas Changes lesson.  The goal of the three-week lesson fit right in with our current curriculum.  It challenges us to consider how it is we think about things and how our perceptions can change the way we view ourselves and the world around us.  We are enjoying the story of Joseph Mohr and the history of the cherished Christmas carol "Silent Night, Holy Night".  I think my favorite thing about the Music/Voice course is that it is designed with the 'Whole Family is The Student' approach.  Very fun!

With the plethora of options available on we are looking forward to exploring many more subjects together as a family.  I chose to focus my energy on the early elementary level.  In the future I will be exploring more with our two resident preschoolers as well.  It will be a long time before we hit high school level again in our home, but there is plenty of content there for middle school and high school levels as well.  Actually, there are resources available to all age groups, even adult.  I plan to explore the Family Nutrition course myself sharing with the family as I learn along the way.

Academics aside, offers many other free resources and extras.  My current favorite is AppleCore, an online record keeping and course tracking system.  Currently, our family is using a different system, but I plan to switch fully to this one when we change to the next level of curriculum in the spring.  It is VERY user friendly and super simple to set up.  Record keeping has always been a challenge for me.  This system will keep everything organized and right at my fingertips.  Love it!

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If you'd like to try before you buy, and see how your family can benefit from, a one month subscription may be purchased for a mere $3!  Once you've had the opportunity to explore the website and discover all the amazing content for yourself the investment is minimal.  For just $12.95 per month, or 10% off at $139 for the entire year, your whole family will have access to an abundance of lesson plans, e-books, planners, and loads of other learning materials providing a complete homeschool experience or richly enhancing what you are already doing within your home.  The application possibilities are endless. is sure to be a valued resource in our homeschool for years to come.

Click to read Crew Reviews
Crew Disclaimer

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

4-H Snowman Craft

We made the cutest snowmen at 4-H this week!

It was a rather simple craft, but I was having an off day.  It took me a little change in strategy, but eventually I got it.  Thankfully the club volunteers are kind, friendly, and super helpful.  Making crafts with toddlers that are intended for grade school children can pose a bit of a challenge.  Especially when you are helping two toddlers and one grade school child!

There are some great ideas for applying the same technique on various designs over at SL by Stephanie Lynn by Kristen from wRIte iT DOwN.  I particularly love the reindeer ornament!  I'm thinking we'll have to try that one on our own next year.

Anyone that knows me well knows I LOVE snowmen and snowflakes.  These little cuties are going to fit right in on our tree.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


I love winter!

It's like God gives the earth a little face lift with each beautiful blanket of snow.  Watching all four seasons has been especially enjoyable for me this past year.  Just over two years ago we left the city life behind and found our forever home, Lord willing, in the country.  I still haven't gotten a pair of cowboy boots, but their time will come.

Just when we thought things were settling down for us our little snow-globe got turned upside down and shaken heard.  It has caused me to stop and reflect and SEEK the beauty around me with that much more zeal.  Yesterday, we received a light dusting of snow.  You know, the kind where it just barely covers things, and you can see the grass poking through, and the roadways are clear.  In years gone past that would have disappointed me.  I love the kind of snowfall where the sky just opens up, and it never seems like it will stop dropping buckets of snowflakes everywhere.  I love the kind of snowfall where time stops, and hot cocoa is sipped, and books are read.  That is my kind of snowfall.  However, yesterdays flakes were enjoyed by me just as much as the pulling your neighbors car out of the snowbank kind.  Beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder, and how we perceive things really is up to us.

The snowfall didn't change.  I did.

Through immense challenges comes tremendous growth, if we allow ourselves to be taught.  I am making a concerted effort to be a willing student.  We learn SO MUCH more when we actually allow ourselves to be taught.

"Teach me, and I will hold my tongue:
and cause me to understand where I have erred."
~ Job 6:24

My constant prayer is to learn as much as possible, as quickly as possible, from the lessons laid before me so that my wisdom may increase, and the duration of my lesson may decrease.  Lord willing, I will see the days of repeating the same lessons over, and over, and over as a distant memory.  I continuously ask God for more wisdom.  It is only through fully learning and understanding the lessons we are given that our outlook, or perspective, on life can be healed.  We must be taught to see the beauty in all things.  It is always there for us to behold.  We just have to choose to see it.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Lentils - A Biblical Lesson

This weeks biblical lesson fit nicely in with our Sabbath preparations.  In our home Friday is Preparation Day.  We do our best to get the house tidy, food prepared ahead for Sabbath, and our things that we need for church in the morning laid out ahead of time.  These simple steps really do contribute greatly to making Sabbath a joy.

We have been learning the story of Jacob and Esau.  With this comes a lesson on the power of hunger to influence our decision making.  According to Genesis 25:29-34 Esau was so hungry that he gave Jacob his birthright for a bowl of lentil stew.

In Bible lands lentils have been an important food for centuries.  They can grow in very poor soil.  Lentils are small and resemble a pea.  They are hearty and nutritious.

Today, as part of our lesson, and in preparation for our Sabbath Potluck at church tomorrow, Harmony and I made homemade lentil stew.

Here's how we did it:

Lentil Stew
We used Green Lentils,
and fresh lemon juice makes all the difference!

2 T Olive Oil
1 Large Onion, chopped
1 Head Garlic, minced
4 Stalks Celery, chopped
2 Carrots, peeled and chopped
6 cups Water
4 packets George Washington's Golden Broth
1 15oz. can Petite Diced Tomatoes
2 T Cumin
2 Lemons, juiced

*The ingredients in italics are not authentic, but this is how we like it.

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pan.  Add onion, garlic, celery and carrot.  Cook on medium high heat until they start to soften.

Add some salt and the cumin.  Cook until vegetables are tender.

Add the water, GW Golden Broth, and the can of tomatoes.  Let simmer for about 45 minutes.

Add the juice of the two lemons and season to taste with salt and pepper just before serving.

Have a Happy Sabbath!

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Behold the Power

One of the most powerful books I have ever read, more than once, is The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian.  If your marriage is anything at all like mine you have weathered a storm or two, or fifty, as a married couple.  I don't think I've ever felt more helpless than when my husband is struggling on a deep and personal level.  How this book crossed my path I am unsure, but I am forever thankful.

Personally, I believe there no more powerful tool at our disposal than prayer, and I hold it as a treasured gift.  It is unclear to me how I ever made it as far as I did before I ever discovered the power of prayer within my own life.  I do, however, attribute my survival to my dedicated and prayerful grandmother, among other caring family members.  Prayer is our direct connection to God; our family tie if you will.  There is no better place to focus our time and energy than with our relationship with the Father.

I have felt compelled to pick up this wonderful tool once again.  Initially I was just going to access the prayers, as they are powerful in and of themselves.  So much so that they have now published the prayers separately for quick reference.  However, it has been about a year now that life fully knocked us off our feet, and my time with the Creator has suffered.  Inadvertently so has my marriage relationship.  It's no surprise, really, when time is of a premium.  There are only so many hours in a day, and some things take longer to bounce back from than others.  When life throws you a curve ball sometimes it hits you square between the eyes!  It can take some time to focus past the stars circling your head.

In the past year we have welcomed two new young ones into our fold, settled more fully into our county home, experienced the re-entrance and exit of our college age son to and from our home - leaving a huge wake that we are still recovering from, and severed some pretty strong family ties.  There is a lot of emotional energy that was expended through these huge life events right at a time when we were expecting to experience a more laid back way of life.  Then, of course there's more, you add on a struggling business just to frost that tasty life cake, and you've got one sweet concoction sitting right in the middle of your dining room table.  It's a cake I'd rather toss in the trash than indulge in, but alas it is our lot to eat every last bite.

Here in lies the choice.  Will every bite be bitter and hard to swallow, or will we find the sweetness that lies within?  Enter The Power of a Praying Wife.  Past experience has taught me that when my mind is focused on my relationship above, and my relationships with those near and dear, the bites I do have to swallow taste all the more sweet.  When I choose to start my day with prayer, especially prayer focused on my most important relationship, the day goes by much more smoothly than when I neglect to do so.  Today I choose to focus on the most important things.  Today I begin with focused prayer for my husband.

"Through wisdom a house is built, 
and by understanding it is established; 
by knowledge the rooms are filled 
with all precious and pleasant riches."
~ Proverbs 24:3,4


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