And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children. Isaiah 54:13 KJV

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

I Finally Found It

The turn in the economy has prompted me to look for more traditional solutions for things. I've found different ways to use inexpensive ingredients and products to replace many of the pricier brands and items I was using in the past. All the old school wisdom of our elders and tricks and tips from the older generations are coming back into play.

One area that I've had trouble finding simple, inexpensive ingredients to use is cooking. It seems like every cookbook I have or recipe I see online uses a long list of expensive ingredients. I just want simple stuff! I usually can't find the exotic items that many recipes call for and a lot of them that I can find are so expensive that I can't afford them!


I was THRILLED to see the Simply Delicious Amish Cookbook as a selection to review from Booksneeze. I LOVE cookbooks anyway and I just knew this one would be STOCK full of all natural recipes that have survived many generations. I was not disappointed in the least.


There are so many things to love about this cookbook. It has over 300 recipes. It includes cute stories and anecdotes from the Amish community. I have seen several familiar recipes that I've always wished I had access to. I've seen several recipes that I've used for years (now I don't have to worry about losing them!) including the same recipe my Grandma used for chocolate cream pie. Almost every recipe has inexpensive, easy to find ingredients (there are a few exotics like the one that calls for alligator meat!). The recipes are family friendly, my kids are going to LOVE them (Fresh Fruit & Yogurt Parfaits anyone?)! There are beautiful full color photos of some of the dishes and many charming black and white photos from the Amish community. 

I love this cookbook. I love it from start to finish. If you like simply delicious cooking then you will love it too!

I can't wait to try them all! This is timely for my family too because one of my goals for the summer is to help Apple learn to cook two whole meals (dinners) from start to finish. She now has a whole new collection of desserts to learn too! 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Sugar N Spice

I got another special orange VoxBox from Influenster stocked full of AWESOME (FREE!) goodies!



Here are the goods:

Nectresse sweetner by Splenda, perfect for tea, coffee, and recipes


Vaseline Spray & Go moisturizer, perfect for after the shower or swimming, just spray close to the skin! If you don't you will end up with a slick spot on the bathroom floor that could be dangerous. It's light weight moisturizer that smells great and dries quickly!
Dickinson's Original Witch Hazel Oil Controlling Towelettes, these HUGE towelettes ROCK! They make my nighttime routine so quick and easy. My face is clean and happy!
belVita Breakfast Biscuits, yum yum for the tum tum. The crunchy snacks are flavorful, filling, and nutritious. Perfect for on the go! They aren't just for breakfast either, eat them for an afternoon snack with that all important 2:00 cup o' joe!

The Colgate Optic White line, perfect for a coffee addict with less than sparkly white teeth. The toothbrush is great, the toothpaste will leave your mouth fresh and clean. The mouthwash is bubbly and fresh!


These terrific products are all available in stores now! Check them out! 





Sunday, April 28, 2013

Cleanest Clean

I got free samples of Cottonelle products for the purpose of review from Crowdtap. All opinions are my own.


Has your family tried the new Cottonelle Clean Care routine? We tried the Cottonelle Clean Care toilet paper and Fresh Care wipes and we've really enjoyed both! Bathroom habits are normally a private affair but I can't resist sharing these great products with you.


I received samples for my friends too! Family F said they love the wipes but felt like the toilet paper was really thick compared to the brand they normally use. I will agree that the tp takes a little while to adjust to. It is thick and not a super soft paper. However the rolls seem to last a really long time and I definitely feel clean after using it!

The wipes are GREAT for kids. My kids have both been potty trained since they were 2 but let's face it kids can always use reinforcement in the clean habits area. Having 2 products to use gives me peace of mind that they are getting clean.

As for us adults, we can appreciate the confidence that comes from feeling super clean!


Look for the Cottonelle line to keep your family feeling super clean too.

Good Snacks

I received free samples of this product for a BzzCampaign from BzzAgent.com. All opinions are my own.

 

Are you looking for a wholesome snack that your whole family can enjoy without guilt? Green Giant (the brand we all know and trust) has a great new snack! Veggie Snack Chips come in 2 flavors- Multigrain Sweet Potato Chips with Sea Salt and Roasted Veggie Tortilla Chips in the Zesty Cheddar flavor.

These chips don't taste like veggies at all! They taste like yummy lightly salted chips. We've enjoyed them plain and they are great for dipping too. They even passed the Speedy test. That's HUGE because Speedy is suspicious of ALL vegetables.


Can you see all the flavor in that bright orange chip? 

The nutrition facts speak for themselves- the Roasted Veggie Tortilla Chips have 17g of whole grains and the Multigrain Sweet Potato Chips have 40% less fat than regular potato chips.

If you are like me you are always scrambling to keep wholesome snacks on hand for the kids. Now that my children are older I love to have the cabinets stocked with plenty of foods that they can munch on whenever they are hungry. We will be keeping these around to replace the salty snacks they usually like. 


We enjoyed both flavors but the 4 of us agreed that the Multigrain Sweet Potato Sea Salt chips were our favorite of the two.

You can find these yummy snacks in your local Kroger family stores!


Saturday, April 27, 2013

Inspiration

I received a free copy of this book for the purpose of review from the Waterbrook Multnomah Blogging for Books program. All opinions are my own.





I told you here how much I love Nick Vujicic's book Unstoppable. I finally had the chance to read and review Vujicic's first book Life Without Limbs. In this book Nick tells us his story from the beginning. He gives insight into his life and the struggles he has faced. He also shares his faith and why it is so strong.

There are really only 2 words to say about this book and its author- inspiring and encouraging. I believe Nick's story could lift anyone from the foulest mood. God is using him in some amazing ways. Vujicic says that his different appearance gets attention so he can spread God's word. He's absolutely right.

I think the most inspiring thing about Nick's story is that he isn't just content to share in comfortable, easy settings. Nick could easily make a living flying around first world countries, sharing his word, while resting in beautiful hotels. He isn't satisfied with that though. Instead Nick goes anywhere and everywhere, from the poorest part of India to the beach to surf with Bethany Hamilton.



I'd love for you to read one or both of Vujicic's books. I know you won't be disappointed. Check out his website here. You can read an excerpt of chapter one here. If there is someone downtrodden in your life, recommend this book to them. They will find a ray of hope in the pages.

Friday, April 26, 2013

How Do You Do It?

Tonight we ran into a family we've recently met and chatted with them for a few minutes. It was a chance encounter at a local fast food restaurant (*GASP* yes we occasionally eat fast food because it's FAST). As we talked over the roar of the kids Hubby threw me under the bus. He told them we home school. 

Honestly we never try to hide the fact that we home school but if it hasn't naturally come up in conversation then I tend not to mention it. The reason I don't mention it isn't because I'm ashamed or embarrassed. I don't mention it because of the questions. Questions, questions, questions. We live in a city with a LARGE home school population, home school is slowly becoming more familiar to the general public, and my kids don't present themselves as aliens so I'm always surprised at the QUESTIONS.

This family wasn't rude or judgemental (well there was that one thing they said) but they were curious. THE QUESTION was "How DO you do it?" I tried to polite gloss over it the first time. Then she asked again. I tried to shrug it off. Then she asked again. I took a deep breath. It wasn't the time or the place to delve into our story (although I'm 95% sure she will ask about it more in the future). We know the family is a church going family so maybe this woman is so curious because she's considered it. Maybe she has never known a home school family. Maybe she thinks we're crazy. Either way I took some more deep breaths and tried to condense 4 years of home school into 2 sentences.

"Well home school takes less time than traditional school so we are typically finished around lunchtime. It also works great with Hubby's rotating schedule."

Her husband was kind and said it must be like a full time job. "Well yeah it is." Then she commented that it was a good thing we keep our kids in sports so they can be around other kids (see note above). I don't think she was trying to judge though. That's just the one thing most people think about home school. Oh ya gotta socialize them!

When I get asked this question my snarky inner voice wants to say "How DO you send your kids to public school everyday?" but I don't because I know home school isn't for everyone and I know that isn't a fair question. I know public school is a blessing for some families. I don't expect everyone to follow our model. And I don't want them to expect us to follow theirs.

In the car on the way home I thanked Hubby for throwing me under the bus. He smiled and said that's the only way to get people to stop questioning him about police work. :) Bless him.

So if I had all the time in the world to answer the question here are some of the things I'd want to say:

How do you do it?

* With God's grace
* Because my kids are awesome
* With a super strong support system
* With some amazing curriculum
* With loads of Bible verses floating in my head to keep me from losing my mind
* Some days I can't, we just muddle through
* With buckets of coffee
* Facebook chats with other home school moms to keep me from pulling my hair out
* With lots of healthy recess time which requires my children to go outside
* Because I can laugh at things like this:
A Banana Playing a Trumpet (obviously)

* Prayer, prayer, prayer
* And last but not least with some great friends who don't home school and don't judge us for homeschooling

This verse came to mind earlier so I posted it to my personal Facebook page but I feel I should share it here to:

I Pet 3:15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.


Monday, April 22, 2013

Colorful Fun!

Apple is our artist. She's constantly doodling and is always in need of new Crayola crayons and colored pencils. I enjoyed the same kind of crayons when I was a child. It's hard to imagine life without Crayola!

I was so excited to hear from CRAYOLA that the original 8 Crayola crayon colors are celebrating their 110th birthday! To celebrate they are hosting Crayola's Big Colorful Birthday Adventure at the NEW Crayola Experience in Pennsylvania!

"The new Crayola Experience features four floors of new interactive exhibits and one-of-a-kind attractions that will bring the magic of color and your child's creativity to life! The winner will be among the first to experience the fun, along with a three- night, all-expenses paid stay. It's an experience your kids will never forget - and neither will you!"

Is this a trip your child would LOVE?!?! I know Apple would (Speedy too)! You can go to Crayola's Facebook page an enter now for the chance to win a trip for your family to be the first in line when Crayola Experience opens!


This information was provided to me by Crayola. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Stinky Kids


As you can see Speedy spent most of the day yesterday outside playing. Since it was a nice Spring day with temps hitting 88 (hint of sarcasm in there, did ya catch it?) he got a bit.....sweaty.....and stinky. 

Thankfully both of my children love to take showers and baths. Last night he was even more excited to try our new Dial Kids Body and Hair Wash that came free in the mail from the Purex Insiders program. He was happy to report that it smells good and it has a boy and a girl on the front (a big deal for the little boy that refuses to use any "girl" stuff). I love that it's easy for him to use all by himself and it gets rid of all the stinky and sweaty!
Apple used the new Dial Kids Body Wash too and she was just as impressed! While she refused to use it for her hair (because she's particular about her shampoo) she did enjoy using it as body wash. She has trouble with eczema and we are happy to report that this product didn't irritate her skin at all! She loved the Watery Melon scent too.

Dial Kids Body & Hair Wash comes in 2 formulas- one for the 2+ crowd and one for 6+.


Speedy has been growing his hair out for a few months now. I have no idea how to cut "long" boy hair so it's just doing its own thing right now. We have fun brushing it in different ways every night after his shower. This look is credited to my Hubby who said he was going for an Ace Ventura do. Silly boys!

So on to the really FUN stuff! I've got an extra coupon for a FREE bottle of Dial Kids Body + Hair Wash. Want to win it? Fill out the easy Rafflecopter for your chance. This is a SPEEDY giveaway so it will end on Sunday. Get your entries in now!

You know I love to bring you all the chances to win that I can! Dial has a special Kids Body and Hair Wash sweepstakes happening now! The special link is available in the Rafflecopter form. Enter to win the GRAND PRIZE of $1,000. 250 second place winners will get a coupon for a FREE bottle of NEW DIAL Kids Body & Hair Wash.

I received a FREE product as a Purex Insiders member for the purpose of this review. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

From the Inside Out




Sometimes pictures speak louder than words.......



Apple was so excited when we unfolded this......


She and Speedy plopped right down to examine each section.....


Apple enjoyed reading all the information on each panel while Speedy was digging all the cool pictures!

Are you intrigued yet? The kids sure were when this large package arrived free from Master Books for the special launch of......

Introducing the Big Book of Earth & Sky!


Brought to you by the same amazing team that released the Big Book of History, this is a 15 foot chart to guide you 7-12 year olds from the inner core of the Earth all the way to the outer atmosphere! From the geographic ages during the Flood period to how erosion works to greenhouse gases, your children are sure to love learning with this fun chart! 

Let's face it some days home school needs a FUN boost. The Big Book of Earth & Sky certainly provides us with that! The colorful pictures, fun trivia, and vast array of information in enough to keep Speedy and Apple interested. I LOVE this book because I'm not a scientist by any means. This is the type of resource that teaches me as much as it does the children. 

This fun chart can be hung on the wall, spread on the floor, or folded up and kept in the outer "book" cover. I have ours stored for now but we plan to study astronomy for science next school year so I will probably hang this up for us to reference. I think understanding the Earth is the first step to understanding the other planets!

See a special preview here.

Would you love to have one of these for your children? Enter via the super easy Rafflecopter and one reader will receive a free copy!

I received this book from Master Books for the purpose of this review. All opinions are my own and I was not required to write a positive review.


My Own Faith

My journey to faith was unique (as everyone's is). My parents weren't active Christians when I was growing up. Any time I spent in church was due to other family members and the families of my friends. When I reached high school I made the choice to go to church. My initial "relationship" with God was based on head knowledge and emotion surrounding a friend's unexpected death. Later in life after I met Hubby and we hit some bumpy patches we came to a true relationship with Jesus together.

Since that time we have pursued Jesus and a growing relationship with Him. I often talk to others about the importance of the relationship vs. Biblical knowledge. It's something we've struggled with as we raise our children. We want them to learn the Bible stories that we didn't necessarily learn as kids. We want them to find their relationship with Jesus much earlier than we did but how do we get them to that point? Reviewing this book for Waterbrook Multnomah has given me some great places to start.



Ryan & Josh Shook were raised by fantastic Christian parents. They spent their childhoods in church but later in life the brothers both felt as if something was missing. Over time they both let go of their "secondhand" religion to find firsthand faith. Ryan & Josh have combined their stories into one book to help others seeking something bigger find their own firsthand faith. 

The 8 chapters really fly by. The format of the book is perfect for a Sunday School class or small group setting. Each chapter ends with "Think About It" questions and "Might Try This" suggestions. The Shooks have also included loads of quotes from people who have lived through the same journey of finding their own faith. Firsthand would also be a wonderful study for an older youth or college group. Check it out if you find yourself struggling to find your own relationship with the One who created it all.

I received a free copy of this book from Waterbrook Multnomah. All opinions are my own.

Do Unto Others


Do your kids ever humble you? Mine sure do. Sweet Apple is playing softball for the first time this year. Isn't she cute? 

Last night her team played against a team that was full of little girls we know from church and other activities. I commented to our friend (who is one of the coaches for the opposing team) that I wanted to cheer for all our little friends but I didn't feel right about cheering against Apple's team.

Lo and behold, last night after the game one of the moms from the other team posted on Facebook that Apple had spent the game (as hind catcher) cheering on her friends from the other team as they went to bat. It is still making me tear up just thinking about it! My sweet girl had it right. I was wrong. 

Apple has it figured out. She knows that we should treat others the way we want to be treated (well as long as it isn't her brother!). This is such an important lesson for our children to learn and carry through life. As I consider and pray about the horrible events at the Boston Marathon yesterday, I can't help but think that the person responsible wasn't taught this Biblical nugget.



There is a WONDERFUL cartoon to help reinforce this with your children. It is called Cocka Doodle Doo the Right Thing. Your kids will enjoy spending a day at the farm with Hercules, Sam, and all their friends. These farm animals will learn important lessons about doing the right thing and treating others with love. For your younger children, this video features the letter "C" and will help your kids recognize "C." Apple and Speedy both found the DVD entertaining and the story has stuck with them. I thought it was funny and I LOVE LOVE LOVE the message in the story!

Do you have a little one that would love it too? Enter via the easy Rafflecopter for your chance to win a copy of Cocka Doodle Doo the Right Thing.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Bright White

My coffee habit doesn't give me the whitest smile. Add in a sweet tea or soda a day and my smile is less than desirable.



I was so excited to open my Influenster Sugar 'n Spice VoxBox to find a whole line of Colgate Optic White products.











Would I really see results in just one week as the toothpaste promised? I sure did! Using all 3 products- the toothpaste, mouth wash, and 360 toothbrush- I had an Optic White smile in less than a week. After using for 2 weeks I love my smile! My teeth are showing obvious improvement. Hubby has been enjoying the Optic White line as well. The mouth wash has a bit of an aftertaste from the hydrogen peroxide in it but it isn't horrible. The toothbrush has a nice wide head with loads of bristles to get every nook and cranny. The toothpaste has a great flavor and works so well!


Look for the red and white packaging on your next trip down the dental aisle. You won't be disappointed!

 I received free samples from @Influenster for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own and I was not required to write a positive report.


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Bringing It All Together

Don't you just love it when God brings it all together? Recent conversations in Sunday School about parenting with grace, a conversation with a fellow mom who was feeling like her relationship with God was getting distant, praying over my child who was very ill- those are the things from the last few weeks of my life that felt like they all came together as I was reading Prayer Warrior Mom: Covering Your Kids With God's Blessing and Protection by Marla Alupoaicei.


This lovely book presents 15 chapters to guide you in your most honored position: Mom. The chapters will enhance your prayer life, encourage you as you move through the years as a mother, and draw you closer to God and His purposes for you. Each chapter is punctuated with group discussion questions, verses to learn, and a prayer. Alupeaicei pulls in quotes and guides from some wonderful resources throughout the book and then includes a list of them at the back of the book for quick reference.

As I told friends in various conversations in the last few weeks, I've found over the last few years that the most effect "prayer plan" for me (in this season) is continual prayer throughout the day. I rarely get the quiet time in the morning or evening that I would like to have. Instead I pray throughout the day during conversations, moments with my kids and Hubby, as my heart is pressed about someone or something, etc. I also don't always get dedicated time to read my Bible like I would like to. However I find that reading books like this, helping my kids memorize scripture, and listening to sermons keeps me active in the Word and keeps my "sword" sharp.

Moms let me encourage you: if you are in the midst of a season that has you feeling far from God and frustrated take heart. Don't stress about the 10 minutes or hour you need to reconnect. Instead reconnect during any moment of the day that you can. If your child has a behavior issue, stop and pray. If your spouse is grating your nerves, say a prayer. If you feel stressed and out of control, recall a favorite verse. You will draw closer after just a few days of putting that into action.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Sound, Soothing Advice

Y'all know I love coffee. It's warm, comforting, energizing, bliss. I rarely find that same type of comfort and warm cozy feeling from a book. I should have known that a time honored Christian classic would give me that peace.


I've heard of Charles Spurgeon for years and have enjoyed many of his quotes but I had never read any of his works. When Advice for Seekers arrived I was so excited! The style of this reproduction (published by Attic Books, a division of New Leaf Publishing Group) is amazing in itself. The soothing colors remind me of coffee! The tattered page edges invite you to gingerly thumb through the wisdom included in the text. 

I wish I had read this book years ago. I've never seen such sound Biblical advice included in one place. Spurgeon took some really simple teachings of Jesus and applied them to real life questions. Those same questions that people were asking in the 1890s are valid today. The beautiful language is like a warm blanket of comfort. 

I would recommend this to everyone. Those curious about Christianity. those who have been Christians for decades, those that are stumbling in their walk will all gain valuable wisdom from God's Word in this beautiful text.




I received a free copy of this book from New Leaf Publishing for the purpose of this review. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Hope

I lost my dad a few years ago under tragic circumstances that I will someday be brave enough to write about. I go through periods of peace with his loss and periods of the stabbing pain of grief. I ache when I tell stories of him to my children because they don't remember him and so don't fully understand him or my tales of his antics. I think anyone who losses a parent or child grieves in a unique way. No two journeys of grief seem to be the same. The process of grief is like a snowflake- unique, beautiful, and cold.

Shannon Huffman Polson lost her father and stepmother in a tragic event. She was far away as they lost their lives to a bear attack in the Artic. North of Hope: A Daughter's Artic Journey is Polson's journey of grief following the loss of these two loved ones. Polson sets out on a journey to retrace the steps of her Dad and Kathy on that fateful trip down the HulaHula river.



I've never been to Alaska and I'm not much of an outdoor enthusiast so there was quite a bit of unfamiliar language in this book. Once I began reading, though I was drawn into her story. I could relate to many of her feelings since I too lost my father. I could understand her emotions following her parents' divorce. Reading someone else's memoir can be difficult with the flow of thought and differences in rhetoric, but I did enjoy the tribute to her dad and stepmother.

Just as we (Christians) each hold a different and special relationship with Jesus, we each follow the path of loss and grief differently. I think reading someone else's trek through a difficult loss can give us strength and motivation to maneuver our own process.

This is a great book for those struggling through grief, still processing a loss, and those who live the outdoor lifestyle of hiking and canoeing.

Learn more here:


 

I received a free copy of this book from Handlebar Publishing for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Clean Bowl



Who likes cleaning the toilet? Raise your hands. No one? That's what I thought. Cleaning toilets is NOT one of my favorite things. Not by any means. However it's one of those things that just has to be done. 

No matter how often I clean the toilet (shudder) it never stays fresh and clean for long. I'm so thankful for new Soft Scrub 4-in-1 Toilet Care! 

*Cleans
*Prevents Future Buildup
*Fights Toilet Ring
*Freshens Up to 4 Weeks

How awesome is that? See those 4 unique cleaning pods? Those are going to keep your toilet (and bathroom) cleaner than before! This isn't the old school toilet hanger. No way. This is going to do so much more. The best part is that it smells GREAT! No mystery lemon scent here. The one I am trying is Sapphire Waters. It's a fresh, clean scent that isn't overpowering. There is also the option of Alpine Fresh with Bleach. I plan to try it next! At less than $2 each I can get several of each fragrance to keep on hand.


I don't want to mislead you. The bubbles in my toilet are from cleaning the bowl with Soft Scrub Total before I hung the 4-in-1 on the bowl. That was almost a week ago. My toilet bowl is still clean and my 4-in-1 is still securely on the rim hanger.

When Speedy went to the restroom after I had put it on he yelled, "Mom, what are these balls in the toilet?" I snickered and told him it was just a cleaner and not to worry about it. He then asked if he could pee on them. I had to go in and explain the 4-in-1 cleaner to him at that point. I wouldn't recommend your children peeing directly on them. That might undo some of that freshness!

Do you want to try Soft Scrub 4-in-1 Toilet Care or another fantastic Soft Scrub product? If so fill in this nifty Rafflecopter for your chance at a Soft Scrub FREE product coupon. 3 winners will be selected.

For ANOTHER awesome chance to win, check out the Brighter Bowl Sweepstakes. The grand prize winner will get $1,000 and a year's supply of Soft Scrub coupons. 250 second place winners will receive a coupon for a free Soft Scrub product.

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


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Cooking Burnout

Do you ever get cooking burnout? I know I do. Several times a year it seems. From the recent influx of foodie posts on Facebook, I don't think I'm alone. So what are the options when prepping food, cooking, and kitchen clean up seems like more than you can do? I have a few standards I try:


Plan. I know it seems counterproductive to spend MORE time thinking about meals but I have found that if I meal plan there are several benefits:

1. I will have all the ingredients I need on hand.
2. I am more likely to have the correct meat thawed and ready to go.
3. I don't have the stress of deciding what to cook an hour before we need to eat.
4. When I have meals pre-planned my family is less likely to complain about the meal before them at dinner time.

Meal planning can be done several different ways. You can invest a lot of time at once and plan for a whole month or you can use a little time to plan for the week. Plan BEFORE you go to the grocery store unless you've committed to using whatever you have on hand. If you're home during the day (like we are) keep in mind that you will need items on hand for breakfast and lunch too (it's amazing how often I forget this even after staying home for 8 years). Some folks go as far as putting the ingredients for each meal in a separate basket or on a shelf together. Like I said you can invest lots of time or a little time. You can use a giant magnetic calendar board or just jot it down on a piece of paper.

Vary your meals. This seems like a no brainer but I often get in the rut of making the same 5 or 6 meals and after several weeks we are all SICK of those meals. I recently got a pretty journal with kitchen items on the front and I've been jotting down meals I prepare and all the ingredients that go in them and what side items we like with them. This way when I get ready to meal plan my lists are all ready there I just have to transfer them to the grocery list. AND when we are sick of the same meals I can flip through for new ideas. If you haven't made lists, no worries! Google meal ideas, hit up Pinterest, or just scroll through your Facebook feed. Don't be afraid to try something new (keep a frozen pizza on hand for disasters!). Also don't be afraid to put something new in front of your kids. You will be doing them a favor by expanding their palate. Speedy is our picky eater. If he doesn't like it then he eats the minimum and has a bigger breakfast the next day. We move on with life. I make several meals that 1 of the 4 of us don't enjoy. It's impossible to find lots of meals that we all like. The one who doesn't like the meal learns they will have something they enjoy more the next day (that goes for me too). Last night I made one of my great-grandmother's favorite meals. It's been awhile since I did this one and everyone RAVED over it.



These are so simple that it's laughable. And they are super versatile. But you need an iron skillet. Really an iron skillet is the trick. Anyhow these are just burger patties. I take some hamburger meat and mix in whatever I'm in the mood for. Last night it was steak sauce, season salt, a little garlic salt, and pepper. Pat them out. Put them in an aluminum foil square. Stack on veggies. Last night it was chopped onion, bell pepper, and tomato. Seal the foil packet and back in the oven. I had them on 400 for 20-25 minutes. That's it. We enjoyed some fried okra and sweet tea with that meal. The kids LOVED the cooked onions and each gamely tried bites of the tomato and bell pepper. Clean up was a breeze!

Enlist your family! Apple loves to be in the kitchen and she's developing some lovely cooking skills. She can't do a whole meal by herself just yet but each time she comes in to help me she learns something new. My goal this summer is to teach her a few simple dinners that she can cook on her own from start to finish like frozen lasagna, hot dogs, etc. Hubby is also a great cook and he can be depended upon to grill up a feast or make grilled cheese sandwiches. Speedy is a great mixer and he's always willing to help with setting the table and after dinner clean up. Get everyone involved so you don't shoulder the burden alone!


Last but not least you can always scope out a good pizza coupon and send Hubby to pick it up. This isn't viable for our budget all the time but it's a great option on the nights when I just can't get up the drive to cook.

Let's you and I make it through these cooking burnouts together! Another great option is to invite friends over for dinner! Do a potluck. Let the kids play. Laugh and enjoy the evening. :)

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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Bon Bons

Ya know there are some common misconceptions out there about stay at home moms and homeschooling families. Many well-meaning people assume that stay at home moms kick up their feet, eat bon bons, and watch soap operas all day. Others believe all homeschooling families are churning their own butter, sewing their own clothes, and/ or stockpiling weapons all day. Allow me to help you with some of those misconceptions:

*I haven't watched a soap opera since I quit working full time. When I was employed full time I often spent my lunch break watching my favorite soap in the break room. I haven't seen one since I began staying at home.

*I've never, ever eaten a bon bon. I have been known, however, to hide in the closet and munch on a snack cake when my kids were otherwise occupied.

*I rarely get to kick up my feet. For example today I got up, helped my kids get their breakfast (although they are fully capable of getting it themselves and usually do), washed a few dishes and made myself a cup of coffee, headed to the school room with the kids where I stayed the next few hours other than occasionally slipping out to work on laundry, then I prepared lunch, we ate (my first food of the day), cleaned up after lunch and then promptly began a cleaning spree that lasted several hours. During that time my children played outside and in their rooms. Once my cleaning spree was over it was time to prepare dinner. I did pause long enough to shower before going into the kitchen. I fixed dinner, we all ate together, and then I washed the left over dishes while the children swept and put away meal items. Following our meal I sat down to do a little over an hour of work. Yes I work part time from home in addition to blogging. As soon as I completed my work it was bedtime for my children. I put them to bed, sat down with my hot cup of tea, flipped on Criminal Minds and began this post. Any "breaks" I've had today lasted less than 10 minutes.

*I can sew and do sew. I make my own bread (sometimes) and do lots of other "home ec" type activities. We don't have a massive stockpile of weapons and I couldn't churn butter to save my life.

If I'm not in the school room with my children during the day then I'm usually cleaning, working, blogging, paying bills, or doing other family/ household chores. I most assuredly had more downtime at my job then I do at home. If you do not stay at home then please don't assume all your stay at home mommy friends are living the life of luxury. They probably aren't. We sacrifice much so I can stay at home with our children. It is more than worth it. I will never look back and say I wish I had sent them to school or that I wish I had spent less time with them. It is a lifestyle we willing choose.



Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Busy Days

So we've discussed Cleaning Up and Putting it in a Plan but what do you do on the days that go awry? The days that end up with too many activities and too few hours? Or the days that put you off of your plan? Well you roll with it. But I don't mean roll with it as in let it all fall apart. No no. I mean roll with it in a controlled manner.

I failed to put 2 activities on my calendar one week and after making lunch plans an extra practice was thrown at us for that evening. That meant we had a lunch date, consignment sale drop off, choir, and 2 ball practices all in one day. AND since it was a weekday we had school as well. I wanted to panic. That's too much in one day....but I don't like to get behind in school so that had to stay. I needed a break away from the house with my friends so that had to stay. We aren't big on allowing the kids to miss their activities unless there is a conflict that we can't work around so those all had to stay.



I considered early that it might be a drive thru meal that evening. However since we had lunch out that wasn't really in the budget. Instead on the way from one place to another I stopped at the store to grab some easy meal fixings for the slow cooker. Now our dinner was cooking and we could eat when we had time. It was hot dogs and kraut for dinner but that's still healthier than a burger and fries!

Also don't be afraid to ask for help! Enlist your husband, nearby relatives, and friends. Chances are you know another mom or dad on your child's team. Ask them to swap pick up and drop off with you. You will find that most people will be glad to help you out on a crazy day.

Apple running a special race.
I've had lots of friends ask me where I find the motivation to keep going when we have so much happening. Well my answer is this- the motivation doesn't come to me. I don't suddenly feel a rush to get moving. I just have to get up and go. Once I'm in motion I can usually find the motivation to keep going. I get tired, we all do but that's part of this stage of life. Parenting requires energy and motion. So get up. Get going. Tackle it. Conquer it. You'll feel great at the end of the day that you were able to accomplish so much!

I always hear Paul's words echoing in my mind:

I Cor 9:24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Telling the Truth

Hermie & Friends are back on DVD to teach your kids about telling the truth. Hermie and Flo use 2 cartoon episodes to teach children the importance of their words. The Bible lets us know again and again that our tongues are quick to lead us to sin. It can be hard to impart this knowledge on your children though. As children learn to speak and develop their speech, most go through a stage (or two) when they try lying and manipulation. Which of us hasn't blurted out an untruth in a stressful situation?


I love the Hermie and his friends always present Biblical truth in a positive way. These cute characters don't use scare tactics or harsh words. Instead they tell simple stories that give children perspective on what Biblical truths look like in everyday situations. This awesome DVD contains 2 episodes and bonus material like songs and a game.

My children were so excited to sit down and watch I Will Tell the Truth & Be Careful What I Say. They recognized Flo and Hermie on the cover. I love that the episodes address telling the truth and being cautious not to insult others or hurt their feelings.  Hermie and his friends always find a way to work out a bad situation through prayer.

Both of my kids have spoken without thinking many times. This is one of those areas that I feel like we need to constantly reinforce. We are training our children for their future so we need to continually stress the importance of the truth and kindness in our words. Recently our preacher spoke on only using words that tell the truth, are kind, and are helpful. Apple & Speedy spoke about that sermon for several days. They discussed examples of things that are helpful and kind. What a perfect time to reinforce those concepts with Hermie & Flo!

Which does your child struggle with the most- telling the truth or making sure their words aren't hurtful?

Enter below to win your own copy of this fabulous DVD!

I received a free copy of this DVD as a Tommy Nelson mommy for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own.


Put It In a Plan

So you might have noticed from last week's Cleaning Up series that I LOVE to plan and organize. I feel most at peace when I have a list and a plan. Checking things off of a list makes me feel SO accomplished. While everyone (ahem my Hubby) does not share my affinity for organization, I think it is imperative for a household to have a certain level of organization.


Luke 14:28

28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?

See- it's Biblical!

I think it's also important for children to have a plan. My kids feel the most secure when they know what is happening next. This is so important for our kids that I used a GIANT dry erase board to write out our weekly activities. Not only does this help the kids begin to use time management skills but it saves my sanity because I no longer have a million questions about what's coming next.

So allow me to offer some suggestions for getting a plan in place for your family.

#1. Limit activities. This looks different for every family. It will depend on work schedules, family involvement, ages of family members, etc. No matter how large or small your family is it is too easy to become over-committed. For this stage of our lives we allow 1 sport at a time per child and Apple does choir. That's it. Because sports run in seasons our kids have the chance to participate in up to 3 sports per year.

#2. Don't commit to things you can't/ won't be able to follow up on. Our kids are watching us. If they see us constantly "quitting" activities that we've committed to then they will think that is acceptable. Don't allow your children to commit to a sport or extracurricular activity unless they can make meetings, games, etc. We all get sick, go on vacation, etc but we should always limit missing anything that we've agreed to do. (And it is PERFECTLY acceptable to say no to your child if they want just one more activity.)

#3. On the flip side of that, if you have a life change or suddenly find yourself over exerted then sit down as a family and find things that can be cut from your schedule. If you've served on a committee for 4 years and you now need a break or a change then speak up. If you just need more time as a family then let that book club go. Don't feel pressured to keep up with it all.

#4. Use a calendar. Or a GIANT dry erase board. Or a planner. WRITE IT DOWN. In your head it won't seem like too much to do in a week. On paper it will look daunting. Remember you need to "schedule" in some family meals, grocery trips, and your daily cleaning that you planned last week.


#5. If you still find it difficult to decide between activities, set down with your spouse and make a list of priorities. Seriously. You don't have to write out a family motto or a statement of intention but just jot down a list of your priorities. What do you want your family to focus on during this season of life?

For us we go by:
    A. God- we want our time and activities to reflect our service to Him
    B. Education- our second priority is educating our children. Because we home educate we have       
        to make this a priority. That means most weekdays in August- May from 8-12 are off limits 
        for other plans or activities (except scheduled field trips).
    C. Family- not only family meals daily but also time with extended family.
    D. Health- so we allow our children to participate in sports when possible for exercise and
        "socialization"
    E. Fun- we love to have fun. We enjoy laughing together and experiencing new things.

So you see we normally wouldn't pick a fun night at the bowling alley over a regular church service. We wouldn't let our kids spend the night with cousins on a "school night." Priorities. 

Don't be afraid to make a list. It's easier than ever. You can use good old pen and paper, a Smartphone app, or a GIANT dry erase board. Write it down. Write down your grocery list, your family schedule, your monthly bills, your family goals. 

Have fun with it. Let your creative child draw a happy face on the list if it makes you feel more whimsical!


Never Seen Anything Like It!

Today I want to introduce you to the newest Purex product. This is unlike any other product you have ever seen! It is totally original and all the females you know are going to be so excited! Apple SQUEALED with DELIGHT when she saw it! Drum roll please.........


Introducing new Purex.........GLITTER!


With this AMAZING Sparkle Action your clothes will go from blah to BLING!


Just think of all the occasions when your wardrobe could use a little extra sparkle- graduations, parties, New Year's Eve, weddings, birthday celebrations, and more!


Apple loves to shine and she wants to wash ALL her clothes in Purex Glitter detergent.

Like all fantastic Purex products this new Glitter detergent will remove stains and get your clothes clean and smelling great. The liquid detergent formula ensures super cleaning power.

Look for Purex Glitter on your next shopping trip!



 “Purex®
 provided me with a sample 
of Purex®
 Glitter detergent in exchange 
for a product review. However, all the 
opinions expressed here are my own.”



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Hiding

It's been a long time since I read a really engaging fiction book. It seems as if all my recent reading material has been non-fiction. I love learning through non-fiction selections but there is nothing quite like losing yourself inside a world other than your own. Invisible by Ginny L. Yttrup instantly had me hooked.


Invisible follows the intermingling lives of 4 main characters: Ellyn, Sabina, Twila, and Miles. At first it's hard to imagine how these 4 can relate to one another as they are all very different people living in a small community. Eventually the tale begins to come together weaving their stories like a well planned quilt. Each one of them is facing an internal struggle. Something they must overcome. Will each one rely on their own strength or will they turn to one another? Can they find God in the midst of the battles?

I love Ellyn. She was comfortable and easy for me to relate to. A chef with a weight problem. While I'm no French trained restaurant owner, I do love to cook and I do tend to eat away my pain. Sabina is a mystery, an enigma, a hidden gem. Twila is easy to recognize hiding behind her mask but her overuse of the word "like" was distracting. Miles is the gentle mannered doctor that we'd all love to have on speed dial.

I am certain that their stories will envelope you just as they did me. The 300+ pages flew by. Come see why each of the 4 is seeking to be invisible.

I received a free copy of this book for the purpose of review from Handlebar Central. All opinions are my own.