Monday, November 24, 2014

Full of Holes #colander12

I received this product free from for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own.

Do you cook a lot during the holidays? I do. We aren't having any gatherings at our house this year but I like to take a couple of dishes wherever we go. Each year I pick a couple of recipes and make them to take everywhere. This year it's Eclair Pie and fruit salad. Both are very easy and travel well.

Eclair Pie

1 tub chocolate frosting (heat in the microwave without the lid or metal seal for 1-1.5 minutes to melt)
1 box graham crackers
2 boxes french vanilla Jello
1 tub Cool Whip
3 cups of milk

Blend the milk slowly with the Jello powder. When it is well blended, fold in the Cool Whip. Line a 13 x 9 pan with a layer of grahams. Spread 1/2 of pudding mix on. Put on another layer of grahams. Spread the rest of the pudding mix on top. Lay one more layer of graham crackers. Pour melted frosting on top and spread out where needed. Cover and refrigerate a few hours.

Fruit Salad

This is how my grandma always made fruit salad. It isn't even really a recipe but just a great idea! You can add or subtract any fruit you'd like. I personally prefer to throw in some chopped pecans too but I have one child that doesn't like them so I refrain.

1 tub of Cool Whip
3-4 large apples peeled, chopped, and tossed in some lemon juice (to prevent browning)
Grapes (washed and drained)
1 can pineapple chunks (drained)
1 can mandarin oranges (drained)
mini marshmallows
shredded coconut

Mix it all together. Watch it disappear.

Want to know what new tool is really going to help me with that fruit salad? The Bellemain Micro-Perforated Stainless Steel 5 Qt. Colander. I have been using 2 plastic colanders for forever. Neither one has nearly enough holes. You know the kind? I put something in to drain and then I have to roll it around in the colander to get all the water or juice out. Not the case with this Bellemain colander! It has sooooo many holes that any liquid immediately drains right out.

I made a mexican casserole for dinner the other night and look at how easy it was:

I opened cans of corn, olives, and iced tomatoes with green chiles and tossed them all into this HUGE (but not so big it doesn't fit in the sink) colander. I poured all those ingredients into a bowl.

Next I browned my ground beef then used my colander to drain the grease off into a bowl. I returned the beef to the pan and cooked it with some taco seasoning. 

Next I mixed a can of refried beans with the veggie/ corn mixture in the bowl. Then I layered that mixture with tortillas and the ground beef until my pan was full. I topped it all off with some shredded cheese and cooked it until the cheese was melted. My family then devoured it before I could get a picture of the final product! 

The Bellemain colander made a difference because:

*It is large enough to drain several things at once
*The sturdy ring base lets it sit securely on any flat surface including in the sink
*The numerous holes allow all the liquid to drain out quickly and efficiently
*Those holes are small so your food won't slip through them
*It is dishwasher safe! This is a must
*The stainless steel is pleasing to the eye and ensures the colander won't rust, melt, or warp

I am happy to trade my old plastic colanders for this sturdy one with handles. Now I feel comfortable teaching my daughter to drain hot noodles. I know this one won't tip over on her. 

This Bellemain 5 Qt colander would be a wonderful Christmas gift for the cook in your life!

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Just Trying to Keep Up

How is it the end of November already? Am I the only one feeling like it was just summer? This time of year is oh so busy. I vividly remember thinking as a child, "I can't understand why grown ups don't like Christmas. What's not to like about Christmas?!?!" Now I know. Lists. Busyness. Added responsibilities in an already overwhelming world. Now I'm the grown up that feels too tired to decorate, and I'm the one who is bemoaning shopping. ME! Not enjoying shopping. Next I'll be yelling at kids to get off my lawn......

In all seriousness, we are doing our best to enjoy what this season is really all about. We enjoyed one Thanksgiving family gathering over the weekend, and it was so nice. There was a ton of food, lots of laughs, and everyone had a good time. We are looking forward to another family event on Thursday.

I haven't been posting on social media about the things I'm thankful for. I haven't had time! This year I drew a "thankful tree". Each day (we are a little behind) we write on our own colored leaves. Some days it has been easy to think of things and other days have been a little harder. I've enjoyed reading their "entries". This was a fun way to document our gratitude this year.

How do you encourage thankfulness in your kids? 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Get Into Nature

I usually choose home school materials that have lessons all laid out including a worksheet or practice box, but my kids (read "all kids") tend to prefer fun, exciting studies with lots of opportunity to learn outside the box. I am *TRYING* to lean to their preferences so I jumped at the chance to review the Creative Nature Study from The Old Schoolhouse Magazine for the Schoolhouse Review Crew. This 100 page e-book isn't a unit study but a guide for parents, home educators, and co-op groups to follow as they give their children living lessons in nature. Each of the 8 chapters addresses a specific way to study nature. The topics include everything from packing a nature bag to gardening to bird watching. There are ideas for creating a nature notebook, journaling, keeping a perpetual calendar, and more. I appreciate how the contributing authors compiled this useful information into a collection to aid in studying nature with my kids in a relaxed, uncontrolled way.

This semester I've had the children spend about 30 minutes outside each morning. Some days they race out to ride their bicycles or play with the dog but other days they seem to have trouble finding a way to pass the time. I'm excited to take some of the tips from this book to encourage them in undercover learning activities. One chapter of this book discusses nature scavenger hunts. Yesterday morning I encouraged the kids to find as many different types of leaves and rocks as they could. When their time was up they had a fun pile of nature findings. They enjoyed it so much that I can't wait to use more of the ideas in the Creative Nature Study from The Old Schoolhouse for future hunts.

Scavenger hunt finds. Sticks are always included in outdoor time.
I have failed at teaching my kids NOT to play with sticks.

Today after our seat work was finished, we took a short nature walk. There are so many ideas for unique nature walks included in the book. I felt my creative juices flowing and I had the kids do nature acrostics of their names. Apple and Speedy both loved this simple writing exercise! Personally I was thrilled that they did it with no complaints at all and they were creative in the process! The book includes 16 printables for journaling and studying various aspects of nature. I'm glad to have those available for the days I'm not feeling so creative. (I'm rarely creative.)

Speedy is searching for bugs. 

Apple writing out her acrostic.

The Creative Nature Study has encouraged me to explore more learning opportunities like these for my kids. I am excited that there are ideas in the book for every season. We are looking forward to utilizing more of the ideas included in the book into our school time.  I appreciate that this book encourages seeing the handiwork of God's creation while learning about science, writing, counting, sorting, and more. This makes it the perfect handbook for parents teaching multiple ages and grade levels. This guide doesn't have specific lessons all laid out, but all the unique ideas included in it make learning about nature while in nature easy and comfortable even for an inside the box mom like me! 

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Instilling Confidence and Truth in Teen Girls #10Truths

I received a free copy of this book from Tommy Nelson in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

I think we can all agree that being a tween/ teen girl has unique difficulties. Apple is at the very beginning edge of tweendom and already the drama and mood swings and cliques are unsettling. Lots of days I feel inadequate to provide the guidance and direction she needs through this age. I didn't grow up in a Christian home and during my teen years I was usually navigating life on my own. I never want Apple to feel that way. I want her (and her friends) to have clear goals and paths from here until adulthood.

So many parents take the passive notion that some things are just part of growing up- a poor parent/ child relationship, multiple relationships beginning at a young age, experimentation with alcohol and drugs. I personally know many amazing families that have brought up kids and teens that didn't have to deal with those roadblocks on the path to adulthood. I want my relationship with my kids to be just as strong when they are teens and I want them to stay true to themselves and to their relationship with Christ no matter what age they are.

So I will take all the help I can get! Kari Kampakis is a blogger who wrote a post about truths girls need to know. It went viral and now Kampakis has turned that post into her book 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know. This book is such a fresh breath of air. Kampakis has written this book directly to your girls. She tackles so many topics from popularity to purity to modesty and it is in a loving way. She gives practical advice and carefully explains the consequences of poor choices in each area. Y'all this book is so good. I found some tidbits I needed to hear myself! Even if you are in the midst of a struggle with your teenage daughter, I encourage you to get a copy of this book. I'm so excited to put my copy back for Apple (she'll probably be ready for it around the age of 12) but to be honest there are a couple of sections I may sit down and show her as topics come up.

This is a beautiful guidebook for teen girls. It will increase their self-confidence, give them answers to some of the tough questions, and hopefully help them to set goals and expectations for themselves. We know teens want to make their own decisions and so we need to give them the tools to do so wisely. Nothing will ever take the place of a strong relationship with Christ and a solid relationship with parents that includes an open floor for discussion. However this book is an excellent tool. I am so thankful to Kampakis for putting to paper what so many of us have in our heads but aren't quite sure how to relay it to our daughters.

Do you have a daughter who needs to read this? It would be a lovely Christmas gift. I have 1 copy to give away to a reader! Enter via the easy Giveaway Tools widget.

Trying New Products for Free from Influenster

Written as a part of a promotional campaign. 

Do you ever wish you could try new products for free before you buy them? Do you wish there was one place to go to find reviews of products from real people that have tried the brand? Have you ever wanted one easy place to go to learn about new and old products that you might consider buying? Well I know that place. The place for all of those things! Influenster is a program that matches consumers to products to try and review.

Meaningful Beauty Vox Box I received free.

Getting started on Influenster is easy. You open a free account and then answer some easy questions. These questions will give Influenster your demographic category and some more specific questions will define your lifestyle and product choices. When you are a match for a Vox Box (the unique campaigns from Influenster that may be one product, many products, or a virtual task) you will receive a survey or notification that you are in. If you are receiving a physical product it will soon arrive direct to your door at no cost to you.

Part of a Vox Box I received free. 

Every Vox Box or campaign has its own mandatory tasks but usually they are just to check in your box and complete a final survey. Now if you are really into free products (I AM!) you can do additional tasks in hopes of earning more free swag.

Part of a Vox Box I received free. 

Don't think I forgot about the reviews! The Hub is the spot on Influenster where you can post all your reviews and you can read the reviews from others that have tried products. Influensters don't just review products they receive in a Vox Box, they can review a wide assortment of products and give each one a score (A, B, etc). I love reading the reviews before I buy something new!

In conclusion, I love Influenster! It is free. It is easy. Anyone can try it! Sign up today at!

Get Your $10 Now!

Contains affiliate links. 

I have great news! Right now Educents is giving every new member a $10 credit! You can use this credit for any of their awesome deals. Their deals change all the time but right now there are Life of Fred discounts, Melissa and Doug deals, and even some specially priced Ninja Turtle downloads!

Educents has great offers for parents, teachers, and home school families. I encourage you to take advantage of this special offer and see what Educents has on special! You could also use your $10 credit towards books or puzzles that would make great Christmas gifts!

Need Help Planning Your Holidays?

Contains affiliate links.

I've told you many times how much I LOVE the Well Planned Day homeschool planner. It has so many useful features including a special holiday planning section. If I don't write down what I'm buying (in code of course!) then I will definitely lose track. I also like to keep up with the Christmas cards I send, money spent, meal plans, etc. Well HEDUA has expanded their holiday planning.

For a VERY limited time you can get the Well Planned Holidays e-book for FREE! Yes free. I am so excited to share this offer with you. Simply go to the website, add it to your cart, and follow the check out process. No worries, you will not need to add any payment information because this download is FREE for now!

This will normally sell for $19.95 and includes:

*articles/ ideas
*meal planning pages
*a Bible reading plan

And so much more! The best part is this plan covers Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's activities. I hope you will take advantage of this offer while it is FREE!