Monday, November 16, 2015

MercyMe It's Christmas! CD - A FlyBy Promotions Review & GIVEAWAY

I love the sentiment of Christmas and the entire holiday season.  Despite growing up in a very financially poor home I have very fond memories of the Christmas season.  It's a time to more acutely focus on the things that matter most; the little things.  Maybe at least in part that is why I love the winter so very much.  Yes, I am one of those peculiar individuals that will merrily answer, "Winter!" when asked, "What is your favorite season?"


What is not to like?

There is magic in winter, a simple joy that exists in none of the other seasons, and I have been blessed to call a region home for most all of my life that has four distinct season.  Yes, it IS a blessing!  Without winter there would be no snowmen, hot cocoa, crackling fires, cute hats, snow angels, dogs flinging flakes with their noses, and Christmas just wouldn't quite feel the same.  One of the most beautiful side effects of winter and Christmas time, I believe, is seasonal music.  I have loved Christmas music ever since my mom introduced us to John Denver and The Muppets all those years ago.

My last experience with a Pizza Ranch original CD was so joyous that I couldn't resist the opportunity to review their latest CD, MercyMe, It's Christmas!  This is BY FAR my most favorite Christmas CD ever.

No joke.

I 100% absolutely LOVE this CD!!!

I would gladly share with you my favorite song if I could actually choose one.  It really is that good.  It's crankable!  (I'm a blogger.  I can make up words.) Really!  This is a full of energy, praise, joy, harmony, and power.  It evokes emotion, commands your accompaniment (you cannot help but sing along), and puts your focus on the reason for the season.  Despite this being a Christmas CD I could seriously listen to this year round.  I've got no problem playing the whole album on repeat.  It's THAT good!

In our family we have a tradition.  Christmas morning my husband and I get to go downstairs alone.  We make a pot of coffee and make sure everything is perfect and tend to any breakfast details that may be needed.  It's a quiet, peaceful time just for us.  Once we start hearing activity on the floor above, we wait just a little longer.  Suspense is a beautiful thing sometimes.  Then, when it feels right we turn on the music loud enough for the miniature humans anxiously awaiting the cue upstairs.  So begins our Christmas morning together as a family.

I bet you can guess which CD we'll be cranking to call down the children this Christmas morning.  I almost cannot wait.  Take my word for it.  This is one amazing CD!

About MercyMe It's Christmas CD and its debut with Pizza Ranch:

Mercy Me It's Christmas CD is available in Pizza Ranch locations through December 31st of this year.  It has 4 exclusive songs that can only be found on the CD version being sold by Pizza Ranch.  Each CD will be sold for $5 plus tax.  Pizza Ranch will give away the CD with a $25 gift card purchase as well as sell the full album at each of its 200 locations throughout the Midwest and Great Plains states.  "We are so excited to debu our new Christmas album, MercyMe, It's Christmas. with Pizza Ranch", said Bart Millard with MercyMe.  "Pizza Ranch is a fantastic restaurant with a great mission to glorify God.  It's the perfect gift to give this Christmas season and the perfect CD to get you in the Christmas spirit."

You know what's even better than this CD?  A FREE COPY just for you!  Just leave me a comment below and share with me your most cherished Christmas tradition, and you'll be entered in a random drawing for your very own copy shipped to your door for FREE.  It's that simple!  Trust me.  You WANT this CD.  Deadline to enter is Sunday, November 22nd.  Don't miss out on your chance!

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
 Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Grapevine Studies - A Review

This year I set out to make studying the Bible a real part of our homeschool.  Since we just started our 2015-16 routine last month this resource could not have come to us at a better time.  Grapevine Studies has created and AWESOME curriculum in Stick Figure Through the Bible.  The kids and I have been joyously working through Old Testament 1:  Level 1 Creation to Jacob.  I must be getting more keen on spotting resources that span the sea of years between our oldest homeschooler and the two youngest.  Five years can be a tough gap to bridge, but I am happy to say that this Bible curriculum does it phenomenally for our family.

There is so much to love about this curriculum.  Aside from bridging the gap between my children my absolute favorite thing from a teaching standpoint is that it requires ZERO planning on my part.  Aside from printing the sheets from my downloaded student book there is nothing for me to do other than pulling up the teacher book on my laptop and grabbing a dry erase marker.  That's it!  Nothing to it.  Everything is spelled out for me, and I simply love that!  Another amazing benefit that was totally unforeseen for me is that my ten year old can teach it!  YES!  GIGANTIC BONUS!  A couple of times I have had interruptions during our studies that demanded my attention.  I handed her the marker, and she took over with ease.  How wonderful is that?

From a kid standpoint all I can say is that they all absolutely love this course of study.  The ten year old practically begs to do it each morning, and I get no flack from the younger two.  The fact that they can use the traceable version makes all the difference in the world in regard to their desire to fully participate in the lesson.  It's perfect for their four and five year old skill levels and encourages them in their fine motor skills, letter recognition, imagination, biblical understanding, and creativity.  They actively participate in the lesson, and I have to say that it just warms my heart.

I do have to admit that I am a book in hand kind of gal.  We were blessed with the downloadable, e-book version of this curriculum.  However, given a choice I would have preferred the printed book version.  It's taken a little getting used to having to have my laptop in front of me when I teach the lesson.  I even think I would love each kid to have their own workbook.  However, we are making it work with ease, and this old school mama is moving a little further into the 21st Century, albeit a tad unwillingly.  I am old enough to have listened to eight track tapes with headphones the size of softballs, so I'm sure you understand.  However, if you don't know what eight track tapes are then you probably have no way of relating to my struggle.

Our family enjoys our Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning studies with Grapevine.  I know this resource will stand the test of time.  I am sure we'll continue on with it and move to the next level next year.  There are so many topics to cover.  There are four different levels that carry you through middle school age as well as topical studies to explore.  This is a great resource for home, church, and school.  The lessons are flexible allowing you to keep it simple or expand on the topic and dig deeper.  We're so happy to have made Grapevines Studies a part of our homeschool.

Grapevine Studies Review

Crew Disclaimer

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Basics of Critical Thinking - A Review

We've been privileged with the task to review a few quality products from The Critical Thinking Co. over the couple of years we've been doing reviews for The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew, and The Basics of Critical Thinking is no exception.  I volunteered for this product because critical thinking skills are something that really need sharpening for the resident 10 year old.  To be honest, working side by side with her through this engaging workbook I've learned that my skills aren't exactly as sharp as I thought they were either.  

Despite the target age group of fourth through ninth grade I think this is a great resource for young adults and adults as well.  The exercises are short allowing time for discussion and contemplation without a great deal of direct teaching required.  I like that you don't have to work through the book from beginning to end.  As you well know by now, I just love resources that are modifiable and easily adapted to our unique makeup here at The Zoo Crew.  

With the stage of growth that we're at The Basics of Critical Thinking is a perfect tool to aid in the stretching of our thinking processes.  The exercises and processes presented in this book provide a foundation that can only help to serve the reader for the rest of their life.  Topics like evaluating evidence, facts and probability, advertising, and fallacies, just to name a few, are covered creatively and effectively.  All answers to the exercises are thoroughly explained in the back of the book allowing for review and discussion of any areas that pose a particular challenge.

Working with products from The Critical Thinking Co. makes it very clear why they have won so many national awards for their books and software.  I may be just a little partial since the author, Michael Baker, is a graduate of the University of Michigan with a major in philosophy.  The products that he produces are nothing short of excellent.  In The Basics of Critical Thinking his experience and dedication to the sharpening of young minds shines brightly.

This timeless workbook is flexible enough to be a perfect fit with any educational style.  It is an easy accompaniment to about any subject and can be used as a stand alone resource or to build upon a different lesson within a separate course of study.  The possibilities for application are only limited by your creativity and inspiration.  In this mad world of deception we can all benefit from a little discernment.  The Basics of Critical Thinking provides just the road map we need to guide our young people through the trains of thought that protect us and help us to make quality decisions throughout life.  

I am happy to have such a valuable resource at my fingertips.  We will surely be implementing the exercises within our homeschool throughout the year as well as applying the principles throughout life.  If you'd like to learn more you can get social with The Critical Thinking Co. on Facebook, Google+, Twitter and Pinterest.  There's nothing to lose and everything to gain!

The Critical Thinking Company Review
Crew Disclaimer

Monday, November 09, 2015

Things I'd Rather Be Doing than Folding the Laundry

So, I've been thinking about what I like to do.  It's simple to figure out what I don't like to do.  At the top of my list is housework, and at the very top of that list is folding the laundry.  Currently, there are about five loads of laundry waiting for me to fold them and another load going in both the washer and dryer with about another two loads still waiting to enter the mix.  Yeah, I let it go a little bit.  Your point is?

Anyway, on to the fun stuff.  Maybe this list will help you think about things you like to do that feed your soul, nurture you, and bring you joy.  Here is what I've come up with so far:

Instead of folding the laundry, I would rather... a good book.

...edit pictures.

...learn to use text fonts more creatively.

...write a story.

...draw a picture.

...color color a picture.

...take pictures in nature.

...walk by the river.

...visit a farm stand.

...bake a cake.

...make cookies.

...can pickles.

...observe my chickens.

...commune with the sheep.

...write a letter.

...drink coffee and read all of my emails.

...create busy bags for the kids.

...learn to crochet toys. the piano. the clarinet.

...rearrange a room in my house.

...refinish my bedroom furniture.

...catalog my library.

...start an online bookstore.

...list items for sale online.

...organize a closet.

...locate the rest of my digital pictures.

...create a yearbook for our homeschool.

...write in the empty school days albums for my kids.

...plan fun unit studies.

...listen to music and dance. my children play.

...sit in a quiet corner and read.

...attend a theatrical production.

...listen to music really loud.

...plan my spring garden.

...go for a long country drive taking time to stop and explore.

...walk the Wadhams to Avoca Trail.

...take pictures of my children.

...promote my business.

...spend time with a friend.

...visit my grandparents.

...walk by the water. a book in my car by the water.

For those of you that have told me I wouldn't know what to do with myself if I had the time.  You are wrong!  I even surprised myself.  I could go on, but this list was just growing and growing.  Besides, I'd love to hear what it is YOU would rather be doing than folding laundry.  Reality is that I'll be spending the better portion of tomorrow managing our clothing.  Reading your comments will make the mundane much more enjoyable.  Do share!

Ann McCallum Books - A Review

Homework has never tasted SO GOOD!

I have a confession to make.  We haven't been using a set math curriculum.  *GASP*  I know!  I have to admit that with all of my planning for this school year I just couldn't settle on a plan for math in our homeschool.  Curriculum?  No curriculum?  Online?  Real life?  How on earth will these children learn their fractions and how to make change?  It will come.  This I do know.  In the meantime we are enjoying our extremely eclectic approach to math this year.  So, what better resource than Eat Your Math Homework by Ann McCallum Books?  We're really getting into this whole literature based approach to learning, and it's just the perfect resource for us right now.  What better way to learn math than to eat it?

Eat Your Math Homework takes learning math in the kitchen to a whole new level.  We're not just baking cookies and casually learning fractions and adding.  Not that there is a lick wrong with that.  We still do it.  We always will.  However, within the pages of this fun book with its cute illustrations you will find complete lessons.  How far you take them is fully up to you, but the foundation is well laid, and with the downloadable Teacher's Guide you can really pull off an awesome lesson that the kids will be talking about long after their delicious snack has disappeared.
One fun lesson that we really enjoyed was Fibonnaci Snack Sticks: Research.  The longer I homeschool along with my children the more I love history.  It is still sad for me to think about how much I missed out on over the years due to the fact that  I hated history so much in high school.  It's fascinating!  That may be at least part of the reason I liked this lesson so much.  There was history involved.   I think it's important for children to make the connection between subjects, and this lesson is a wonderful blend of history, math, and art.  We got to explore, aka research, and learn just who this Fibonnaci guy was anyway.  We enjoyed learning about his discovery and exploring the pattern ourselves.  We continue to look for Fibonnaci patterns in nature as well as exploring online resources to build on the lesson.

Annabella skewering bananas to form her pattern.

I think Avery is a tad pleased with his pattern.

Included in the book are lessons solving sequences, looking at nature, vocabulary, and more.  Each lesson provides you with a list of needed supplies so you can easily plan ahead.  We have found that for the most part we already have everything we need on hand.  The activities are simple and very easy for the kids to be hands-on.  I have to say using this book has been one of the easiest things we've done this year.  What I love about it is that there is such a huge payout for my little effort.  What homeschooling mom wouldn't love that?  We love Eat Your Math Homework so much that we also plan to eat our science homework and our U.S. history homework thanks to the other two publications by Ann McCullum Books in this series.  

We may not have a solid plan in place for math this year, but we certainly are having a lot of fun with the subject thanks in great part to this fabulously fun and imaginative book!

Ann McCallum Books Review
Crew Disclaimer

Friday, October 30, 2015

NIV Bible for Teen Girls - A FlyBy Promotions Review & GIVEAWAY

Okay.  I don't currently have a teen girl residing in my home.  That is, unless you count the four-year-old that acts like a teen girl already.  That being said, we have raised five girls through the treacherous teen year, and we've got one right on the heels of adolescence.  I have to admit that I get a tad nervous time and again at the thought of braving those rough waters yet once again.  However, the Lord is good and faithful.  Hindsight, as painful as it can be at times, is a tremendous gift when you're put to the task of traveling a journey once already trodden.  

One thing I am greatly thankful for is the abundance of resources that have been put in my lap that help prepare me for what lies ahead.  Our first journey through parenthood was very much by the seat of our pants.  This time around we not only have the benefit of experience, we also have the benefit of advanced preparation.  I am so excited to have in my grasp the new NIV Bible for Teen Girls published by Zondervan.  I love everything about it!

The first thing I noticed aside from it's fun and beautiful cover is the way it feels in my hands.  There's just something about the cover and binding that gives it a very sturdy and substantial feel.  I'm a very texture sensitive person, and I love the material used to cover this bible.  It's smooth and feels wonderful to the touch.  Everything about it comes together perfectly providing you with a quality Bible to last a lifetime.

Despite the fact that this bible is designed for teen girls I am super excited to read it.  There are real treasures contained within.  Each book is introduced with a little history and facts so you know what you are about to read.  Scattered throughout you find mini-bios of various biblical women as well as inspirational pages that provide valuable insights on growing in faith, hope, and love,

Growing up is never easy.  Today's teens face an ever changing social landscape that provides its own unique roadblocks and hurdles to overcome.  Being a young woman provides it's own unique challenges.  Sometimes even the most seemingly small thing can make all the difference in our ability to face what's before us.  What better resource to arm our budding women than a bible specifically designed just with them in mind?  

Today's teen girl needs reassurance that no issue is too big for God.  The NIV Bible for Teen Girls, designed specifically for girls ages 13-18, will do just that.  This Bible is packed with daily readings, highlighted promises of God, challenging insights, smart advice, and open discussions about the realities of life.  This Bible is designed to help teen girls grow in faith, hope, and love.  It is as sincere about a teen girl's walk with God as they are, helping them discover his will for all areas of their life, including relating to their family, dealing with friends, work,sports, guys, and so much more.

- DAILY READINGS by popular Christian female authors including Bethany Hamilton (Soul Surfer), Annie Downs, Christine Caline, Nicole Weider, Elsa Kok Colopy, Crystal Kirgiss, Bekah Hamrick Martin, Denise Van Eck, and more

- CHARACTER PROFILES of women in the Bible

- BOOK INTRODUCTIONS for each book of the Bible

- HIGHLIGHTED PROMISES OF GOD are verses worth remembering

- A CONCORDANCE for helping find verses

- The bestselling NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION (NIV) of the Bible

Please comment below for your chance to win!  Be sure to check the box to be notified of follow-up comments as I will announce the winner in the comment section.  Deadline to enter is Friday, November 6th.


"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
 Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Sauerkraut Making - A Lesson Plan

One of the things I found most exciting about the location of our home when we moved here over three years ago is its proximity to the 4-H County Fair Grounds.  Ever since we started homeschooling over 15 years ago in the city I have wanted to get involved with 4-H.  For whatever reason, it never worked out with the last group of children.  However, things are looking up this time around.  

Attending the fair has already become a family tradition.  Now, we're taking the next step.  I totally feel like a fish out of water, but we're putting one foot in front of the other and working our way toward participating with entries into this years fair.  Harmony plans to do photography, and Avery is considering entering a collection or a piece of artwork.  We'll see where it all leads.

For now, we are enjoying getting together with another family as a farm group similar to the 4-H groups that meet throughout the year in preparation for the summer fair.  We are enjoying ourselves now that both of our families are finally well, and we held our first hands on meeting this week.  The kids learned about sauerkraut, and we're trying our hands and making our own batch.  

I really enjoy cooking with kids.  It's such a fun way to learn.  This lesson could easily be used to compliment a study in history, geography, food preservation, or even science.  Below is the precise lesson plan I followed at our last meeting.  

Lesson – How to Make Sauerkraut

Needed Supplies for Sauerkraut -


1 medium head green cabbage (about 3 pounds)
1 ½ tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon caraway seeds (optional, for flavor)


Cutting board
Chef's knife
Mixing bowl
2-quart widemouth canning jar (or two, one-quart mason jars)
Canning funnel (optional)
Smaller jelly jar that fits inside the larger mason jar
Clean stones, marbles, or other weights for weighing the jelly jar
Cloth for covering the jar
Rubber band or twine for securing the cloth

*See attached document for instructions.

Process of Lesson -

  1. Bake treat ahead of time, if desired, or bake together as a group. *I made this ahead of time, served it to them at the end of the meeting, and then told them that one of the ingredients included sauerkraut. Two recipes are included to choose from.
  2. Advance prep supplies and ingredients as desired.
  3. Share the background of sauerkraut with the kids, and answer any questions they may have.
  4. Make sauerkraut together.
  5. Handout recipe for Bratwurst and Sauerkraut for use at the end of fermentation of their sauerkraut.
  6. Serve the snack.
  7. After they've stated how good it is let them know sauerkraut is one of the ingredients. :)

Background – Sauerkraut has been made and used for centuries in various cultures. The word sauerkraut means “sour cabbage” in German. It is made through a process called fermentation where you combine shredded cabbage and salt and allow it to sit, or ferment, for several days. In history this method was used to preserve food for long periods of time such as the long winters experienced in Germany. Sauerkraut is very high in vitamin C and was often taken on long sea voyages as a treatment for scurvy, a disease common among sailors from lack of vitamin C.

The Chinese are credited with the creation of sauerkraut over 2000 years ago. They used to ferment the cabbage in wine, but over the years it was discovered that using salt produced a better tasting product.

There are many traditions around the world that involve eating sauerkraut. The Dutch eat a special Chicken dish stuffed with sauerkraut at Christmas as well as a special dish made with pork and sauerkraut at the New Year. Many cultures also believe it is good luck to eat sauerkraut at times of celebration like Christmas, New Year, graduations and other family celebrations.

Worldwide more than one billion servings of sauerkraut are eaten each year. Two out of three Americans eat sauerkraut on a regular basis. Sauerkraut can be eaten hot or cold and can be included in recipes from soups and sandwiches to burgers and casseroles, and even smoothies and desserts!

Snack Choices and Ingredient Lists -

Sauerkraut Brownies

¾ cup salted butter
1 ½ cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. Almond extract
½ cup + 2 Tbsp. Flour
½ cup + 2 Tbsp. Unsweetened cocoa powder
1 – 16 ounce package sauerkraut, rinsed and drained
1 cup water (approximate)
½ cup whole pecans
½ cup butterscotch chips

    - OR -

Crunchy Date Bars *This is the recipe I made.  I used GF All Purpose Flour.

2 cups (1lb. Package) pitted dates
1 cup sauerkraut, rinsed and drained
½ cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp. Cinnamon
2 ½ cups water
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp. Vanilla
2 ½ cups sifted flour
¾ tsp. Salt
1 ½ tsp. Baking soda
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup butter


Eat Your Way Around the World by Jamie Armini, pg.44

The Nutcracker by Maestro Classics - A Review

It's reviews like this that I love the most.  It's not that they're easy to write, because they're not.  In fact the writing is more challenging.  Rather, it's the product quality and enjoyment that we receive as a family that makes me love them so.  The just released CD The Nutcracker by Maestro Classics is a real treasure.  I may be just a tad partial as to the story, but that doesn't change the fact that this is a superb product.

When I was a young girl I had the pleasure of experiencing The Nutcracker Ballet at Fox Theater in Detroit.  I will never forget it as long as I live and remain truly thankful to the wonderful woman that saw the importance of exposing young people to true works of art and took the time to share her love of music and dance with me personally.  It was my first live production, and it was amazingly incredible!  The story of a Clara, the Nutcracker Prince, and the Rat King is a sheer delight of imagination and wonder.  Unlike the original production, no intermission is needed for this one-hour adaptation.  Even if you've never seen or listened to The Nutcracker in any form you will surely enjoy this adaptation in great part due to the wonderful narration provided by Jim Weiss.  Not to mention the musical perfection of the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

Like any good product preferred by homeschoolers and educators alike, Maestro Classics provides supplementary resources that complement this production quite nicely.  The insert itself provides a program so you can follow along with the acts and scenes as they are performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and narrated by Jim Weiss.

Included within the insert is a little history on the art of ballet, the harp, and Tchaikovsky himself as well as a musical snippet, Overture to The Nutcracker, and a couple of fun activities.  Also, tucked right inside the front cover of the case you will find a web address that leads you to additional educational materials.  There are such an abundance of resources associated with this CD that one could easily put together an entire unit study.  There are countless possibilities for the incorporation of this into an educational plan.  There are even resources for teachers of dance.  An MP3 version is available as well.

The kids and I enjoyed listening to The Nutcracker on CD a few times already.  We're sure to enjoy it for years to come.  It was fun to explore online videos that elaborated more on the history of the story, the composer, and the actual production.  I was disappointed to discover that the original story I viewed as a child is not available on DVD, but we do have plans to enjoy a newer adaptation as a family this week.  The story just never gets old.  There is such value in music for children, especially classic pieces.  If you've not yet introduced such things into your homeschool this is the absolute perfect place to start.  Children and adults of all ages are sure to enjoy the talent, history, and creativity that all came together perfectly to create a musical memory, maybe even a tradition, for your family.

Maestro Classics Review

Maestro Classics Review

Crew Disclaimer

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Koru Naturals - A Review

As you may well remember, I was first introduced to Koru Naturals earlier this year when I was invited to review a couple of their products.  Well, I loved them!  So, when the opportunity came along again I jumped at the chance to explore their product line further.  This time around I got the opportunity to enjoy three of their products; Emu Oil and Blue Tansy Oil Cream, Manuka Honey Propolis Soap, and Skin Care Creme.  The short of it is that all of these products are amazing!  Read on for the specifics.

Let me preface by saying that I have struggled with various issues with my skin for pretty much my entire life.  With this in mind it makes me nervous at times to try different things where my skin is involved.  Anything too strong, and my skin is red and irritated.  I don't like skin care products that leave an oil or film behind.  Washing too much dries my skin out.  Most things don't help my personal issues.  Point being, skin care is a complex issue for me, and I tend to approach it from the inside out.  I had basically given up on topical care beyond the necessities.  That is until Koru Naturals came into my life.  Here are the details of what I've been enjoying this time around:

Emu Oil and Blue Tansy Oil Creme with Aloe Vera and MSM - I was given a bit of a choice in regard to the products I got to try, and I indicated an interest in this particular creme with my husband in mind.  He's a transmission mechanic therefore his hands work hard.  They tend to bother him a lot and at the time they were achy.  Well, in the short time it took for me to have the product in hand his hands were no longer bothering him.  So much for that idea!  BUT, hold the phone!  As luck would have it, for the review not me, I injured my right arm.  I am right handed, so this is a tad inconvenient.  Having the Emu Oil and Blue Tansy Oil Creme with Aloe Vera and MSM on hand made all the difference for me.  The muscles in my arm were strained, and it is taking a very long time to heal.  The creme is wonderful.  It does not leave an oily residue, which is surprising to me wince it's actually an oil blend.  My skin absorbed it nicely, and it has helped me through the healing process.  I like that it doesn't have a strong, offensive smell like some products that I have tried in the past.  In fact it is odorless.  I also like that it contains Arnica.  We keep arnica on hand, and it is wonderful for trauma.  It's nice to have a product that I can feel comfortable using that actually helps my body through the healing process.

Manuka Honey Propolis Soap - Let me start out by saying that this is a VERY generous bar of soap.  Weighing in at 4.93 ounces it's almost more than a handful!  I should tell you that I am not normally a fan of bar soap.  So, when I say that I just love to use this soap it really does say something.  I love it's silky texture and the way it lathers right up in our hard well-water.  It's an attractive bar with its honeycomb shape, layered design, and embossed bumblebee.  I love, love, love the way it makes my skin feel!  I never have to worry about my hands drying out and cracking while using the Manuka Honey Propolis Soap.  In fact, I love it so much that I think I am going to pick up a second bar for the shower.

Skin Clear Creme - As I mentioned above I do have sensitive skin, especially on my face.  Well, I was a tad nervous to put this creme on my face, but I braved up and took one for the team.  I don't really struggle with acne.  Praise God!  So, I just tried it to see what it's like, and I was pleasantly surprised.  It didn't feel bad to have it on my face.  My skin didn't get red or irritated.  In fact, it felt kind of nice.  I can see why others enjoy using Skin Clear Creme as a day and night creme.  It makes your skin feel soft and supple.  I would have loved to have the resident, female adolescent give it a try, but she's still got a couple years to go to meet the age recommendation.  You better believe that I'm keeping this on hand for those dry, winter months when our wood burner is kicking out that dry air, and I'm keeping it in my bag of tricks for when these younger humans that I reside with reach that dreaded right of passage we call puberty.

Over the past year or so I have been on a quest to become more conscious of not only the things we put in our bodies but also the things we use on our bodies.  I am happy to have discovered Koru Naturals and look forward to trying more of their products in the future.  Next on my list is shampoo and conditioner.  With their free shipping to the U.S. for orders $35 and over it will be easy to pick my next products as well as cross a few things off my Christmas gift list.

Be sure to check out Koru Naturals on Facebook and Pinterest, and don't forget to check out the other reviews by the crew to learn more about the other products available.

Koru Naturals Review
Crew Disclaimer

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Galaxy Buck: Mission to Sector 9 - Review & GIVEAWAY

As long time Veggie Tale fans and the other creations of Phil Vischer it is no surprise that we love the movie Galaxy Buck:  Mission to Sector 9 which just released on DVD this week.  We were fortunate to receive an advanced peek at the film, and the kids couldn't be more thrilled.

What could possibly go wrong?

Buck Denver is "just" a phone operator at a call center when he's convinced that he isn't doing BIG enough things for God.  The poster in his cubicle tells him so.  Completely self-driven he sets out on a mission to Sector 9 with his co-workers; never mind that he's never actually piloted a ship in space before.  On his journey to this "uninhabited" planet, Buck learns a valuable lesson about helping others and what exactly it means to follow God and obey the rule of love.

About the movie:

Buck Denver has a simple dream - to save the galaxy.  Working for the Galactic Mission Board, Buck dreams of carrying God's love to every corner of the Milky Way!  Except he doesn't have a starship.  Or a crew.  Or even a captain's license.  He just needs a chance.  But when that chance comes and Buck finds himself leading a real mission into deep space, things don't go at ALL like he imagined!  If he's doing what God wants him to do, why is everything going wrong?  From VeggieTales® and What's in the Bible? creator Phil Vischer, Galaxy Buck: Mission to Sector 9 is a wild, galactic adventure that teaches kids a powerful lesson about trusting God with everything - even our dreams! 

Run time: Approximately 40 minutes 

The kids and I previewed the movie together, and they all enjoyed it very much.  As soon as the film ended both the four and five year old shouted, "Watch it again!  Watch it again!"  The ten year old enjoyed it as well.  She said, "That was a good movie."  As a parent, I appreciate the lesson and the platform it provides me for talking with my children about what it means to obey the rule of love.

The Zoo Crew has been blessed with a copy of Galaxy Buck: Mission to Sector 9 to give to you, my loyal readers.  If you would like to be entered to win please share your favorite way to show love by helping others in the comment section below.  Be sure to comment with a profile that I will be able to contact you should you be randomly chosen as the winner.  I have had people miss out in the past due to providing me with no contact information.  Winner will be chosen on Monday, October 26th.

Social Corner

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
 Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Thursday, October 15, 2015

FishFlix - Little Boy - A Review

I have to admit I LOVE GOOD MOVIES.  Like, I really, really enjoy movies, especially the quality films that make you wonder, if you don't already know, was this a book before it was a movie?  I have very fond memories of enjoying movies together as a family with pizza and popcorn for birthday celebrations when my older crew was growing up.  As the oldest ones grew into young adults and ventured out on their own, we transitioned into a different tradition of private outings with just me and one of my teens which always seemed to include a trip to the "cheap theater."  I have to admit I didn't always enjoy the film we saw together, but I cherish the moments spent one on one.  Now, raising three more young ones we've become a bit more discerning in our viewing selections.  We have the occasional family movie night, and have ventured to the drive-in once as a family to enjoy a double feature under the stars.

With this round two parenting journey we are traveling I am so thankful for companies like where you can find quality films at an affordable price in the convenience of your own home.  A good movie is a real treasure; similar to a good book.  As a homeschooling family that caters to the individual learning styles of each family member, movies are included in our learning experience from time to time.  I am thankful that I had the honor of reviewing the movie, recently released on DVD, Little Boy.  The hubby and I enjoyed it on our own after the children were tucked away for pleasant dreams.  Although this story is told through the eyes of a seven year old little boy, it's rating is PG-13 for "some thematic material including violence."  All of mine are 10 years and younger, so we wanted to preview it on our own first to determine if it was appropriate viewing material for any of our crew.

The story takes place in a small town in the United States during World War II.  This appealed to me, because we recently studied World War II in our homeschool.  Harmony has found it fascinating, and I really like building on what we've learned through various types of resources.  I do plan to watch this with her in the future.  Despite her age, I do feel that she will find the movie enjoyable, and I am not concerned about the rating having viewed the film and discerned the elements for myself.  I should note that it is an appropriately emotional movie at times, but it is difficult to have a story about war not contain at least some violence and emotion.

Little Boy is a wonderful film filled with faith and inspiration.  I love that it's told from the perspective of a child.  Many elements of family life are present and well represented providing an abundance of opportunities for quality conversations between parents and children.  There is great potential for inclusion within the homeschool as part of a unit study or a curriculum supplement in a family with middle school aged children and above.  We will be enjoying it for years to come as a family, and also within our homeschool.  I can't wait to watch it again!

Get Social with Fish Flix Review No 2
Crew Disclaimer

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Reading Kingdom - A Review

We have two very eager early learners in our family, and they are super excited about learning to read.  Bella is four, the youngest age for which this program is recommend, and Avery is five.  They both cannot wait to read on their own.  Books are huge in our family.  Despite my lack of shelving (Can a dozen bookcases really be enough for any one family?) I continue to pick up books on a regular basis.  We take a very relaxed approach to education, especially reading.  I've tried a curriculum here or there more out of curiosity, but I still hold the belief that a child often read to will learn to read when he is ready.  It worked for the older ones, so why shouldn't it for the ones we're bringing up now?  However, times have certainly changed over the years.  As a home educator the biggest change I have noticed is the sheer amount of tools we have at our fingertips to help us integrate knowledge into our homes through the ease of access via the internet.  Our latest tool being Reading Kingdom.

Reading Kingdom Review
Reading Kingdom Online is a complete reading curriculum that is perfect for the home educating family.  It is unique in that it is not a phonics based program.  Rather, it integrates six specific skills that help children more easily learn reading AND writing.

Our budding readers and writers have been enjoying their experience with Reading Kingdom Online.  They are both at the beginning stages of learning to read, so the program has met them at the beginning.  Both children are learning to identify the letters of the alphabet through the typing portion of their exercises.  Lowercase letters float on the screen, and they locate them on the keyboard to shoot them off the screen.  Although parents are not supposed to provide help, an effort in keeping the program completely customized to their learning level, I have had to provide some coaching.  It is simple for them to match a lowercase letter with another lowercase letter.  However, matching a lowercase letter with an uppercase letter is a skill they are still working to master.  Reading Kingdom Online is bringing them along nicely and strengthening this skill rather quickly.

The added benefit of this portion of the program is that they learn the keyboard, which I think is the main point of the exercise.  Honestly, it never dawned on me to teach them to type at this young of an age.  It does make a lot of sense though with the amount of technology that gets used in our home nowadays.  Not to mention the fact that through this program they are using the computer to learn to read, so knowing where the letters are right from the beginning will save in a lot of frustration.

The other portion of the level they are currently working teaches them to spell words by recognizing the correct letters.  A line of letters is shown to them that contains a short word mixed into letters that are not part of the word.  The child clicks on the appropriate letters and makes a word.  Through both of these exercises they are learning valuable letter identification skills and laying the foundation needed to progress further through the program and their journey toward being a proficient reader.

Currently, we are using the Reading Kingdom Online as a supplement to our regular schedule of learning activities.  The two young ones spend a lot of their day playing, but they do enjoy technology and learning through the laptop and tablets.  This has been a fun and worthwhile addition to our educational resources.  I know that Bella and Avery will gain a lot from our one year subscription.  It is recommended that they spend about 15 minutes working with the program at least four times per week in order to complete it in one year.  Though our family is home to budding readers this program is also suitable children through third grade as well as struggling readers.  Despite Harmony, age 10, being beyond the scope of Reading Kingdom Online she very much enjoys watching the younger kids work the program and was initially jealous that it wasn't for her as well.  It really is a fun and engaging approach to learning to read.

Through the past several weeks I have watched both Bella and Avery grow in their individual skill sets.  They enjoy learning the keyboard, and their letter recognition has greatly improved.  This comes out in their other daily activities.  Learning to read is a fun adventure made even more enjoyable and encouraging for them through this added resource.  It's exciting to think where they may be at the end of this school year with the help of Reading Kingdom Online.

Reading Kingdom Review

Crew Disclaimer

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Care and Keeping of ME

I've been focusing on myself a lot lately.  

As a homeschooling mom it is all too easy to put myself last.  In the long run that is the worst thing I could be doing for my family.  Sure, we give up a lot when we become a parent, especially when we decide to home educate, but one of the most loving things we can do for our family is to be the best that we can be.  That certainly cannot happen if we allow ourselves to get lost in the mire.  Unfortunately, I am 100% guilty of doing just that.  I've allowed myself to disappear.

"Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you
and that you may be in good health,
as it goes well with your soul."
~ I John 1:2

We are not meant to sacrifice ourselves; our health, our soul, our very being.  Sure, we are here to serve our family and our community, but how do we best do these things?  First we must be in good health, both physically and spiritually.  When things get out of balance that is when we start to fall apart.  We lose touch with ourselves and things begin to suffer.  If we allow it to go too far unchecked then those around us begin to suffer as well.

How patient can we be when we are exhausted and stressed?  How much of a spiritual guide can we be if we've not fed our soul in days, weeks, or even months?  How much fun can we be if we never indulge our passions and interests?  How can we give of ourselves to anyone if we've allowed all the things that make us who we are to be swept away in the current of a busy and demanding life?

Just how important are you anyway?

"For by grace you have been saved by faith.
And this is not your own doing; 
it is the gift of God,
not a result of works, so that no one may boast."
~ Ephesians 2:8-9

Go gives us grace.  Freely he gives it to us.  It is a gift.  We have done nothing to earn, or even deserve, this gift.  Yet, it is freely given.  

I wonder...

Have we accepted the gift of grace?

What does it look like to accept the gift of grace from God?

What exactly is grace, anyway?

Grace - the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners, and the bestowal of blessings.

The favor of God?

"For you bless the righteous, oh Lord;
you cover him with favor as with a shield."
~ Psalm 5:12

For many years I thought going on a mission trip overseas, feeding and clothing the impoverished, building churches in third world countries, helping those outside of my family - those were the only ways to serve God.  I thought that I had to do BIG things away from home.  Little did I know that the big things are at home.  I am a big deal.  My family is a big deal.  

I accept God's grace by doing the things before me with a dedicated and willing heart.  I am actually honoring God by putting myself first.  Let me say that again.

I am actually honoring God by putting myself first!

How can I put myself first?

For me, right now, it boils down to making time for the things that I enjoy; maybe even learning all over again what it is that I enjoy.  Recently I found this cute sheet:  50 Ways to Take a Break.  There are 50 fun and simple ways to just take some time for joy.  If you are visual person like I am this is the perfect thing to print out and hang where you can see it.  Heck, it's good for the whole family!  Personally, I think it's way better than those 'I'm Bored' lists for kids.  Everyone can find something to do here.

If you've been reading around here lately you know that I've been struggling with focusing on the task at hand, whatever that may be.  It was suggested that I use this sheet as a means for transitioning into something I need to do.  The idea is to find something on this sheet, do it, and then work on what I need to get done.  I have to admit this is a new idea that I've not tried, but I like it a lot and this picture is getting hung right by my desk in my office.

I have decided to accept the grace fully given to me and embrace my life just as it is, glaring flaws and all.  I have decided to put myself first.  You have heard me mention the oxygen mask a time or two, right?  Well, I'm grabbing the mask and putting it on.  Each and every day I will spend time putting myself first; taking care of my health, feeding my soul, indulging my passions.

"For the word of God is living and active,
sharper than any two-edged sword, 
piercing to the division of soul and of spirit,
of joints and of marrow,
and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart."
~ Hebrews 4:12

I'd love to hear from you!

Do you struggle to put yourself first?

Are you in the process of a similar mission?

Have you learned this lesson already?

How do you care for your body?

How do you feed your soul?

What passions do you indulge?

Let's talk in the comments below!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...