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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Sisters on the Trail of a Mystery {Review}


We received a brand new FaithGirlz book to review. Award winner Natalie Grant has started a series of books for tween girls. The books focus on the Glimmer Girls who are 3 sisters with a Mom who is a singer. Two of the sisters are twins. This echoes Grant's real life where she has twin daughters and another daughter. The first book of the series is London Art Chase.



Twins Mia and Maddie are in London with little sister Lulu and their parents. Their nanny Miss Julia is along for the trip to care for the girls while their parents are preparing for concerts in the big city. The girls each have a unique personality, and this book begins with Maddie working hard to figure out how she fits into the family. The girls spend some time with their family and then set off on some adventures with Miss Julia. Along the way they find themselves in a real life mystery, and Maddie feels compelled to solve it. 

This book has a fun storyline about adventures in London. The mystery is intriguing and each character is unique. The characters pray and there are other Christian references scattered throughout the book. The parents seem to be loving and involved. However the attitudes of the three girls were less than desirable. There are multiple incidences of disobedience and even backtalk. I felt uncomfortable as I was reading each of those sections. While the nanny and/ or the parents addressed some of the behavior, no real consequences ever occured. There was talk of an overall consequence towards the end of the book, but it felt flat. I hope that future books in the series will include better behavior from Mia, Maddie, and Lulu.


Apple's review:

"I really like how she sort of related it to her own life based on the biography on the back of the book. I also liked that it wasn't "perfect" and showed the family having fights and stuff. Just like happens in real life. I also liked how unique each of the sisters were. It really explained them, and I could actually imagine meeting them. I really liked the mystery and the way the story went. I think kids a tad bit younger would really like the story. I can think of younger boys and girls that would like this story. I really like that Natalie Grant doesn't stick with just one thing. She sings and now she's writing books, and she's started an organization to help victims of hman trafficking. I really enjoyed the character Maddie because she likes art and I like art. I could relate to the things she was scared about, but I'm glad she had courage to try new things. I hope I can be more like that."



Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Unique Book and Journal for Middle School Girls {Review}

Sherry Kyle has penned Love, Lexi. This book is aimed toward middle school girls and it is a unique combination of a fiction story with journaling pages throughout. Lexi is a 7th grade girl going through typical 7th grader awkward moments. She and her friends Ellie and Abby face exclusion as well as embarrassment in a typical day.



Lexi sets out to change the course of things at her school but will her efforts push away her best friends? Can things really change or will she just embarrass herself further? The author has done a fantastic job weaving together a story that could happen to any girl at any middle school in America. She has written Lexi as the typical girl next door who has some brave moments that bring on some big surprises.

The book is written as Lexi's letters to God. The form of the written prayers does a great job echoing a young girl's prayers in written form. The letters are each "answered" with a Bible verse. Then there is room for answering questions and journaling thoughts. Strewn throughout the book are "doodles" of kitty cats and chocolate bars and more Bible verses.

I really like this book, and I knew Apple would enjoy it as well. The only thing I'd change about the book is downplaying Lexi's crush. While most girls in the age range do have crushes, we prefer Apple's focus to be on her relationship with God and not particular boys. This book definitely zeroes in on a steady relationship with the Lord. The book did end on a happy note with more of a friendship vibe. Throughout the story, there is some great advice about popularity, honesty, and friendship.


Apple had this to say after reading the book:

"I really like the spaces to write and journal. I like the verses because they are written out so you don't have to look them up. I liked the unexpected turns, but I do think the ending could have been better. Some things were left unfinished. There could have been less about crushes. Otherwise I really liked the book and how realistic the story was. I could imagine myself in some of those same situations with my parents or sibling. I like that it is Lexi's point of view but the author still made it clear what Kate and others were thinking sometimes. I would recommend this book to several of my friends, and I hope the author will come out with more books similar to this!"


THIS BOOK WILL BE RELEASED ON MARCH 1, 2016.



Monday, February 8, 2016

Occasion

Dictionary.com defines occasion as a particular time, especially as marked by certain circumstances or occurences. I am the type of person that really enjoys order and scheduling (ahem...control freak), and so I generally think of homeschool as a particular time and place. We have a school room. We have a fairly consistent schedule. I like to have everything marked down in a planner and check it off as we complete each item. For us, homeschool is an occasion (in some sense of the word because this week is "o").


Since we very first began homeschooling, a few negative thoughts have regularly plagued me.

Am I doing enough? Are we accomplishing a similar amount of things as would be accomplished in a private or public school setting? Are they learning enough? Are they doing well enough? Could we be doing more?

We do some school in the summer most summers. We work diligently through our regular semesters. We meet the state requirements for days and times, but I still question myself. In reality, I KNOW they are on target with their public/ private schooled peers (and beyond them in most subject areas). I KNOW they achieve many goals each semester. I KNOW how far they've come. Still it can be hard to quantify a level of learning in homeschool. We can do tests or use state standards to judge but I don't always feel like those are reliable measuring sticks.

God has sent a few people that give me grief in the opposite direction. "Do you ever give your kids a day off school? Aren't they on break yet? How can she/ he be working on THAT already?" (Thanks Mom.) Those comments do allow me to take a deep breath and relax a little.

The thing that gives me the most confidence though is what my kids choose to do on the OCCASIONS (like how I threw that in again?) that they aren't doing school. Now on a regular rushed day we do school, have lunch, do chores, do errands, have dinner, etc. On those days their free time is precious because it is short. On other occasions (now it's just funny), they have days off for our regularly scheduled breaks. Their favorite activities always make me smile.


They like to play with neighborhood friends. SOCIALIZATION! (Just saying.)

They like to read. FOR FUN. Apple usually finishes 2-3 books per week aside from her assigned reading. Speedy always has a book going that he is reading before bed or during free time.

They like to play games together. They enjoy checkers and other board and card games. Now they don't always get along, but they have days when they genuinely enjoy one another's company.

They play outside. Willingly. With no screens.

I could go on and on. They play with Legos. They cook. They make up jingles to popular music. They write "books" and make up plays and business plans. Sometimes they even watch tv or play online games but many times they opt for educational or religious themed media.

All this rambling to say, it doesn't matter if I do enough. They are learning and growing and electing for good activities even in their free time. It's easy to understand that when they are toddlers, they are learning through play. It's just as easy to assume that ends at a certain age. It doesn't always! Take heart. If you worry that the occasions you are doing school aren't enough, take some time to watch your kids in their free time. Think about what they are learning and accomplishing through those activities. Then take a deep breath and realize you are doing just fine!

I'm linking up with Through the Calm and Through the Storm and Adventures with Jude for Blogging Through the Alphabet. Be sure to check out the other "O" posts.


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Saturday, February 6, 2016

Non-Stick Pan Review




I jumped at the opportunity to review a 3 pack of Green Earth Pans by Ozeri. The opportunity excited me because I still frequently use the 10" Green Earth pan I reviewed for them a couple of years ago. This package of 3, available on Amazon, includes 8", 10", and 12" pans.

These pans are all non-stick. They are made with a textured ceramic coating called Greblon. This coating is tough. It keeps things moving in the pan and I haven't had any issues with the coating chipping or cracking. I've used these pans for a range of foods from sausage links to eggs to taco meat. The range of sizes makes these pans even more versatile. From cooking for 1 person (although that's rare around here) to normal weeknight meals to extended family meals on Sundays, this set gives you a frying pan for any situation.

These Ozeri pans are heavy duty without being too heavy. I've tried to cook with pans that are weighted before and that's no fun for anyone. Unless you are a body building cook. Then maybe you like super heavy pans. The grips on the handles add to the ease and comfort of cooking with these pans. At first I was a little disappointed that lids weren't included in the set. However I already had lids in each of these sizes! Ozeri does have lids available for separate purchase to fit these pans. Honestly not having extra lids is a plus for me. I like to conserve as much cabinet space as possible.

This is a great set for any home chef. It would also be a lovely housewarming or wedding gift. The set even includes 3 felt protectors to keep your pans in their best condition when you nest them for storage. Ozeri really pays attention to little details like that. As I said earlier, I've used my other Green Earth pan for nearly 2 years with no issues at all. These pans are easy to use and easy to clean.



Thursday, February 4, 2016

Memory Verse



I was writing down the next memory verse for the kids, and I just felt really led to share it today. Maybe one of you needed this reminder or maybe some of you have never read this verse before. This is the NKJV version on a picture of the ocean from a few years ago. I first thought that the ocean had nothing to do with the verse (it's just my favorite place), but then we know God's love is like the ocean.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Hospitality Update


It's the first day of the second month of 2016 and I haven't done a fabulous job at my "Word of the Year" goal. To be fair (to myself), I haven't done a horrible job either. I did not manage to plan a meal or hangout at my house for January. However, my parents came to eat lunch on several Sundays, and we did have a drop in from one family friend. I had full intention of actually organizing a meal and having friends over but Hubby was on a schedule that made that difficult and the month really got away from me. However it's a new month with new possibilities!

Just to make myself feel better...I have been doing very well with meal planning! I've had a meal plan every week this year so far. I forgot how great it was to not need to decide what to eat every single day. I set myself up with a daily/ weekly schedule for working, cleaning, etc. I've only done so-so with that so far in 2016. Having the "work" schedule has been very helpful although I've had to rearrange a few dates here and there. The cleaning schedule will work if I can ever get a routine going. I have had "make up" days a few times when I needed to get the whole house clean in one day because my schedule fell apart. It seems crazy that some days I don't have 15-20 minutes to spend on the housework, but it does happen.

How is 2016 going for you? Have you stepped up and worked hard on your goals? Have you already completely abandoned them? Just remember February can be a fresh start!

Niece & Nephews



Growing up as an only child, I worried that I would never have nieces or nephews. I'm a "kid person" so that thought made me sad. Little did I know God would bless me abundantly in the niece and nephew division!

Our oldest nephew came a year after Apple. He's a smart, funny guy who is so similar to Speedy it's scary! Falling in the age range between our 2, he fits in with both kids and they are always happy to spend time together.

The only niece is the bunch is a shy princess. She always takes a little while to warm up to us, but once she does it's pure joy! She helps balance the boy/ girl ratio a little. Her quiet demeanor is unique from the other cousins.

Next by age is our nephew on the other side of the family. He recently got to come and stay the night with us. There was a LOT of giggling that night! He lives farther away than the others so we really try to cherish any time we get to spend with him. He always jumps right in on whatever activities we have planned.

Then we have one more little nephew. He's younger than all the rest so he's still developing his personality a bit. He makes sure his presence is known, and he works hard to get his way. Since my husband has 2 brothers, it seems fitting there are 3 grandsons on that side of the family now. No worries...the 2 girls hold their own!

I absolutely love to spend time with all 4! I only wish they all lived closer. I look forward to our kids and these kids all growing up with fond memories of time spent together. And I'm glad God gave me a beautiful niece and 3 wonderful nephews even though I grew up with no siblings.

I'm adding this N post to Blogging Through the Alphabet with Adventures with Jude and Through the Calm and Through the Storm. Be sure you check out the huge variety of posts each week!



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