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

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Calling all Nature Girls

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for review. All opinions are my own. 

Apple has always been a nature lover. She's always the one that picks flowers and brings them to me or puts them in a cup in her room. When she was a baby, she would get really upset and we would walk outside with her and she would instantly quit crying. She loves all animals (she recently asked for a possum as a I knew she would enjoy the new book Nature Girl: A Guide to Caring for God's Creation by Karen Whiting and Rebecca White.

Nature Girl is a great little book for girls to learn more about our environment and going green. It includes lots of information about the best ways to care for our world and about small changes everyone can make to conserve natural resources. In the midst of all this information, there are tons of fun little activities, quizzes, recipes, and projects. These extras are sure to keep your girl interested in this book and all the facts about animals, recycling, beauty, and more!

I feel like it is important to care for all the things God has given us including our world. So many of the things we can do for the environment are easy and don't cost us much extra money. These book makes sharing those ideas with my daughter easy. All the included crafts and recipes are things she can't wait to try! She loves these types of books, and I'm so happy to share this one with her.

I received a free book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Prepping for a Road Trip

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving so we will load into the Family Truckster.....err....our SUV and take a short road trip to see my husband's family for the day. We make several trips a year to see them. They aren't far away but we will spend several hours in the car tomorrow. We have our short trip routine down pat now.

This morning the kids plugged in their devices. They usually carry the portable DVD player and a personal device like their DS or MP3 player. Those all need to be charged before we go. We have travel chargers for most of them but we can't plug in all the chargers at once! They will also grab the case that holds many of their DVDs so they have some choices.

I filled the car up with gas already and later today we will purge all the trash, junk, accumulated ridiculousness from it so we can fill it up again tomorrow. Cause that's how we roll.

We will fill some little snack bags with treats so that we don't have to stop and buy any. We do usually buy at least a drink when we stop for a potty break but taking drinks and treats with us cuts down the costs significantly.

The library was a necessary stop yesterday. The kids both got several books to read on our trip and the next few school-free days. They were both so excited to go to the library because we haven't been in a few weeks. We also picked up an audio book to entertain all of us. It will be great....if they can convince me to turn off the Christmas music....which I probably won't.

Before bed we will lay out our clothes for tomorrow and then we *should* have an easy morning getting ready and walking out the door.

Now I just need to go make the desserts I will take with us for the dinners we are attending......

How do you get ready for a quick road trip?

Black Friday Sale for Home Schoolers!

Contains affiliate links.

Bright Ideas Press is offering their big 20% off entire purchase discount!! This is valid on everything except bundles. This sale is valid from 12:01 AM November 28, 2014 to 11:59 pm December 1, 2014.

2014 Black Friday Sale BIP

Use the code "gobblegobble" at checkout to receive 20% off things like Mystery of History and Wondermaps!

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!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Being a Grown Up is Hard

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a review from Blogging for Books. All opinions are my own. 

Why didn't anyone tell us that being a grown up would be so hard? As a kid, we think grown ups have it easy- they get to make their own decisions, they can eat all the cookies they want, and they have money. Boy is that impression wrong! If we eat all the cookies that we want then we suffer physical and clothing difficulties and we only have money long enough to pay all the bills. Making all our own decisions is the hardest part of all! I think it is even harder to make decisions as a Christian adult because we know there are consequences for poor choices and because we don't want to disappoint the Lord.

Thankfully I have found Ask It by Andy Stanley. Stanley always has a great way of combining his life experiences (and experiences of some of those he pastors) with scripture to provide wisdom. Hubby and I co-lead our Sunday School class and our class always enjoys a good Andy Stanley study. I've been sharing this book with them the last couple of weeks. So far we've studied the big question Stanley says all Christians should ask themselves before making any decisions. Today we covered the 3 lenses through which we should consider the question.

I don't want to take away the intrigue by telling you the question so you'll have to read the book to find it. I will say Stanley's question seems simple at first but it is a big question especially when studied a bit deeper. He does a great job of backing up his question with scripture. This is a great book for adults who are feeling overwhelmed by making decisions. There seems to be no end to the calls we have to make as we make large purchases, raise children, choose jobs, etc. Seeking God's direction and wisdom in those times is always the key to a peaceful life.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Christmas Shopping

Got your Christmas sweater ready? It's time for shopping. EEK! I like to be done or almost done by this time of year. I'm no where close to that so I'm feeling a little like Nora Crank. I mean she only had a few hours to get ready for Christmas and I've still got a month but for me it feels like a few hours!

How do you organize your Christmas shopping? I do lots of lists. I love lists. The satisfying feeling of marking something off a list is a joy for me.

So I usually make lists of:

*places/ dates/ times of holiday gatherings

*food to take to those gatherings (this year I'm streamlining and making the same desserts for several events)

*people I need to buy gifts for and gift ideas

I find the hardest thing is thinking of actual gifts. I'm one of those people that really likes the challenge of finding a reasonably priced gift that the recipient will really like and use. It's always my goal to do that for everyone on my list but I usually panic and end up with a few gift cards.

One great place to search for gift ideas is Pinterest. I keep a board of gift ideas. Most are Christmas oriented.

I love to get the best deal on items but Black Friday is usually my last Christmas shopping day so I just get things that are really good deals.

What are your favorite Christmas shopping tips? I'm finding that the older my kids get the harder it is to really be an early Christmas shopper. Is this the case for you too?

Be sure to check out the latest giveaways!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Over Thirty Skin

I received a product free from in exchange for review. 

I told you awhile back that my skin is beginning to show my age. Sigh. I'm still trying to perfect my anti-aging/ still get pimples once a month skin routine. So far the best products I've found are from InstaNatural. I started out using their Deep Cleaning Facial Oil and Youth Express Eye Gel. Now I'm adding in InstaNatural's Age Defying Skin Serum and InstaNatural Rose Water.

Let me start with the Moroccan Rose Water. This 100% pure product is a natural facial toner. It can also be used to cleanse and moisturize. I've been using it in an upward sweep on my face and neck as a toner. First this product smells amazing! It's like a little bloom of flowers in my bathroom every evening when I use it. A dab on a cotton ball goes a really long way. I've used toners in the past that dried out my face and made it feel uncomfortably tight. Not the case with InstaNatural Rose Water! I also love that this is a natural product. Rose Water has many uses from hair to after shave. 

InstaNatural's Age Defying Skin Serum is anti-aging (hey I need that!) and helps with uneven skin tone and dull complexion (I need that too!). The small bottle comes with a dropper top to easily put a small drop in my palm. Then I simply rub it all over my face. I was so scared to try this the first time. I was worried it would burn. It didn't burn at all! I was so relieved. This is a Vitamin C serum that contains Retinol, Tea Tree Oil, and Hyaluronic Acid. A small drop goes a long way. I haven't seen huge improvements in my lines or wrinkles yet but I can see an improvement in my complexion. I had every intention to get a face picture for y'all but I haven't been sleeping well lately and I'm a bit scary. I'm sure my InstaNatural products will have me back to my shining self in no time! 

These products are available for purchase on Amazon through the links above. For great facial products they are super reasonably priced. I'm so happy to have a skincare routine in the works.

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.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Workout Saga Continues

So I completed the Riot successfully, and I'm signed up for my first 5K. I'm trying to break out of my rut of only working out once a week. It's so hard! Life is just so busy, but I really want to push aside some of those excuses and do a better job of staying active.

I'm still hitting my Zumba class once a week. We always have such a good time. Our instructor does a fantastic job of using a mix of Latin music, hit songs, and contemporary Christian tunes. I like so many different kinds of music, and I really enjoy most of the songs we have in class.

I recently received 2 CDS to review (for free!) from Family Christian. These popular female artists each have a new remix album (or disc..) available. Ready to hear who the musicians are yet? Mandisa and Amy Grant!

Mandisa's Get Up: The Remixes is her compilation of remixes of her popular songs like "Overcomer" and "Good Morning" (one of Apple's faves!). These songs are fast and perfect for working out, walking, having a dance party (Zumba!), or just jamming in the car. I remember watching Mandisa on American Idol (one of 2 season I watched) and she was a standout even then. Now she's a popular artist with an amazing voice and a love for God that shines in all of her songs. The 11 on this CD are sure to get you moving.
Apple can't help but dance to Mandisa!

In Motion: The Remixes by Amy Grant is another remix CD but totally different! Many of the 11 tracks on this disc are remixes of Grant's original hits like "Baby Baby" and "Every Heartbeat" along with some of her newer contemporary Christian songs like "Better Than a Hallelujah". All of these remixes are fun but all aren't as upbeat as the songs on Mandisa's CD so I find many of them better for a family walk around the neighborhood (we all wear our earbuds) or a cool down from a workout. Some of these songs took me straight back to high school and I found that I still know the words to the songs!

As you can see I've found several ways to incorporate these new remixes into my workout efforts. From a pick me up on the way to Zumba (to get me ready to dance) to some squats and push ups in our school room to a family walk/ jog around the neighborhood, these tunes get me moving and motivate me to keep going. Would you like a copy of each of these CDs for your work outs? One lucky winner will be selected to receive them! Enter via the easy Giveaway Tools widget.

These CDS are both available to purchase at and you can buy one of these amazing glass water bottles as well (I received one free). I love that this bottle is glass and that it has Jeremiah 29:11 on it. It's already started a few conversations when I've carried it around! These would make lovely stocking stuffers for your favorite exerciser (that's a word, right?).

You can also find Family Christian on Facebook.

I received these products free from Family Christian for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own and I was not required to write a positive review. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Cup of Chai at Home

I received a free product from Smiley360 for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own. 

Well I've officially survived more than 9 months in our new tiny town with no coffee shop. It isn't easy. I hit my favorite coffee shop when I'm in the area for another errand. Trust me when I say it is often a struggle not to jump in the car and trek the 45 minutes just for my favorite coffee drink. I'd venture to say it is much harder now that we've had some very cold weather.

One thing that has helped me to cope is Tazo Chai Latte. With it I can make tasty hot or cold Chai Lattes right at home. It comes in different flavors and was very easy to find on the coffee aisle at my regular store.

You just add milk and heat the whole thing up in the microwave or add milk and ice. It's that easy!

I was so surprised at the rich creamy texture. It is VERY similar to a Chai Latte from that coffee shop I so dearly love. It also has no powdery or fake flavor. That's a big deal to me. Chai is such a spicy, unique drink and Tazo has nailed it with this make at home concentrate.

It isn't expensive either! One carton costs less than 1 drink from the coffee shop. Tazo also makes flavored Chai tea bags. I've tried a couple of them as well. They aren't quite as tasty as the Chai Latte but are a nice addition to any tea bags you may keep on hand.

If you are looking for a warm flavorful drink to make at home then look for Tazo Chai on the coffee aisle.

Monster Bots and Bullies

I received a free book from BookLook for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own. 

How to Survive Middle School and Monster Bots by Ron Bates is the second book about Howard Boward. We have not read the first book but Apple enjoyed this book anyway. The book is told from 7th grader Howard's point of view. Howard is a smart kid who endures bullies and other middle school catastrophes. Howard is frustrated to find out his rival "G-Force" has created a robot for a science club. Now Howard has robot fever.

Of course Howard's efforts don't go as he plans. Can he outdo G-Force's robot? Will his bullies gain a new respect for him?

Apple enjoyed this book. She felt like it was geared more towards boys so maybe Speedy will like it in the future. It was a short read for her. She did say she'd like to read the first book now. Ron Bates has a good, clean comedic style of writing. The random sketches in the book add to the funny story line.

This book is recommended for ages 8-12 and would make a fun stocking stuffer or Christmas gift for your tween boy or girl.