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

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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
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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
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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

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