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

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Peppy Water #FruitFusion



It's time for me to do a little confessing. Even with all the great items I've been able to review my training for the Riot has been minimal. I'm nowhere near as ready as I needed to be. It is very soon and at this point the plan it just to go and do as much as I can. I'm well aware that I will likely not be able to finish. I had hoped this would be a great motivator for me. It was to an extent but I was sick for a couple of weeks and I just never really committed myself to a training schedule. No matter how far I make it in the obstacle course I'm not giving up for good. I'm on the lookout for a 5K to sign up for next. The plan was to do a 5K first but that never happened either. So while I continue on my very long journey......

I received a free water bottle from Tomoson.com for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own. 

Let's face it, water gets boring. While it is refreshing and has a whole host of benefits it definitely gets old after awhile if you are drinking your recommended amount. I'm trying hard to fully replace my favorite soda with water. It isn't easy. To pep up my water I tried the FlavFusion Water Bottle. I love the concept of this bottle! Slice fresh fruit and vegetables and put them directly in your water to infuse it with flavor. I've seen so many awesome infused water recipes on Pinterest that I've never tried but sound so good! Think cucumber, lemon, strawberries, oranges, even limes! Yum!

This 26 oz FlavFusion bottle has 4 pieces- the thin plastic bottle, the infuser "basket", a sieve lid, and the flip top straw with handle lid. It was easy to take apart and wash. I will say it was shipped with a label directly on the bottle and I couldn't quite get all the sticky gunk off the bottle from the label. I tried alcohol which usually works but there was still some residue. 

So I washed all the pieces, cut some fresh lemon, and put it all together and filled it up. Putting the lemon into the infuser basket was a breeze. 3 good size chunks went right in. Allow your water 15-20 minutes to fully infuse the flavor. I like my water very cold so I threw in lots of ice too. Shaking your bottle will give you a more uniform flavor. You can even leave it filled in the fridge overnight for a super infused flavor!


 As you can see you end up with a very eye pleasing drink. Doesn't it just look so much more refreshing than plain water?

The handle is convenient and easy to use. The pop up straw to drink from would be a great feature. Unfortunately due to the design of the cup no straw extends into the water. So to drink from the cup you either have to suck vigorously (and still don't get much water but get lots of air), turn up the bottle (but still only get a slow dribble of water and make a lot of noise), or squeeze the think plastic bottle (and get spurts of water and very loud sounds). 


 My water tasted great. It was just the right amount of lemon flavor and it was very cold and refreshing. I got a little frustrated with the work involved to drink it though.


My only other complaint about the bottle is that it was a little messy. It never leaked around the lid for me and when my daughter accidentally knocked it off the table (with the lid popped open) it only spilled a small amount but it had condensation like crazy and left little droplets of water all over my desk. I easily overcame that issue with a paper towel underneath it though. 

The pros to the FlavFusion bottle are:

*flavorful water
*easy to fill
*fits in all cup holders
*convenient handle
*easy to wash (hand wash only)
*26 oz (I love bigger water bottles)
*versatile- you can put so many flavor combinations together

You can purchase the FlavFusion bottle on Amazon and it is eligible for FREE 2 day shipping for Prime members. 

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

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Playing Games


I have a confession to make. I'm not usually a fun parent. I know. You're shocked. How can a mom homeschool her kids and NOT be a fun parent? Well...it's difficult! I wish I was the mom that could do a craft every day (argh-mess-no!) and discover how to fit a movie and a game into every lesson but I just can't. I'm just not that mom. I can't throw caution to the wind and spend a day outside exploring and leave all of our responsibilities and book work behind. That's what I can't do. What I CAN do is occasionally work in a movie or project or book or game.

I received a free game from Tomoson.com for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own.



 How do you think your kids would like to learn logic by playing a game? Fun right? Even for a not "fun" parent! Gravity Maze from Thinkfun makes logic into a game. A cool game involving a marble and blocks! The purpose of Gravity Maze is to determine how to get a marble from point A to point B while using certain towers. You....err.....your child has to figure out the best way to position the towers so the marble lands exactly where they want it to!


As you can see the game includes 3 marbles, 10 blocks & towers, the base, and the challenge cards. The 60 challenges range from easy to expert. Each challenge includes the solution on the back. 


The towers must be arranged in exactly the right position or the marble won't land in the target. I showed the kids how it worked with 1 challenge and then they took it over.


Gravity Maze is designed for one player but it was fun to watch the kids take turns placing the towers and dropping the marble. (Yay they got along for 10 minutes!)


Apple is really digging this game y'all. She loves stuff like this and she was so excited when she got several correct in a row all on her own. 


I love that this is a learning game they were really enjoying. I think it's fantastic that they can play alone. The game pieces are durable and with 60 challenges I believe this is going to keep them interested for a long time. They were both discussing showing it to their friends because they were sure none of them have Gravity Maze. 

Logic can't be learned from a book. It must be used and practiced to be taught. I'm so glad we've got Gravity Maze for a fun, hands on lesson in logic!

Gravity Maze from ThinkFun is recommended for ages 8+.

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

Fall into Christmas


The leaves are swirling to the ground, the air is cooler (well most days....), pumpkins are everywhere, and I have a delightful new autumn candle burning. Yes fall is here!

While I savor fall and my favorite fall things, my mind is already focusing on the holidays. I'm the planner/ organizer in the family and they'll be quick to tell you that I'm already writing down dates and making plans. Christmas is such a beautiful time of year and I will be ready when it gets here! 

I received a free copy of this book from BloggingforBooks.org. All opinions are my own. 

As a little teaser for myself I read Where Treetops Glisten by Tricia Goyer, Cara Putman, and Sarah Sundin. Maybe you're wondering how a book can have 3 authors. Well let me tell you that this book is unique! It is actually a compilation of 3 stories- one by each author. I wondered how well the stories would flow with 3 authors. I shouldn't have worried. 



White Christmas by Cara Putman tells the tale of Abigail Turner during World War II. Sweet, good natured Abigail works part-time making candy for the local candy store and the rest of her time is spent in college. When her professor challenges the class to tackle their greatest fear as a graded project, Abigail feels anxiety. How can she open herself up after so many losses? Her fears come from the deaths of loved ones....what kind of project can help her overcome that? When Abigail meets Jackson he is in need of assistance. She feels drawn to help him and she gets her attorney father to work on his behalf. Can the Turners keep Jackson's family from losing their farm? Will Abigail find a way to overcome her fear of loss? Can she open herself up again? 

I'll be Home for Christmas by Sarah Sundin is about Abigail's brother Pete. He is a pilot home for a short break during the war. It's hard for Pete to return home. Growing up he was a bully and trouble maker. He's changed so much since then but can anyone in town see the new Pete? Will they forgive him for the things he did in the past? When he takes home a little girl he finds in the streets he's surprised to learn that her mother is Grace Kessler- one of the girls he taunted and teased as a child. Pete has been advised to give as a way to overcome the emotional numbness that engulfs him. Can he give of himself to Grace? Will she accept his help? 

Tricia Goyer penned Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. It is the story of Merry (the sister of Pete & Abigail). Merry is in the Netherlands, near the battle lines, serving as a nurse. Merry still can't let go of the pain caused when her boyfriend abandoned her before she was sent overseas. How could the love of her life up and leave her like that? He was of German descent. Was he a German spy all along? While Merry finds herself grieving the loss of life in the temporary medical area, the loss of her David plagues her more. When Merry has to face the pain head on can she handle it? Is it a gift from God or a horrible twist of fate? 

I loved all of these stories. They are each beautifully written and I think having a different author for each one added to the book as a whole. Each main character had a different voice, style, feel because a different author was giving life to each one. The stories are intricately woven together yet each stands on its own. The details in the book give way for a very vivid mental image as you read each story but they aren't overwhelming. At times I felt like I was in Lafayette, Indiana with the Turners watching the snow and smelling the scent of pine. It's the kind of book that you lose yourself in as you read it and that makes you feel a little disappointed when you return to reality. 

If you're ready to enjoy a little Christmas, go for a visit with the Turner family. 

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

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Kids in Church

What is "church"? How do you define it for your kids? When I was growing up I went to various churches with family members and friends but because my family did not belong or regularly attend a particular church, I didn't really understand that the church was more than a building until I was an adult. The church building is where we go but the people make the church.


Matthew 18:20 says "for where two or three people are gathered in my name, I am there with them." In my name....where we gather in the name of Jesus, He will be with us. That can be in a church building, at a game, in a car, anywhere. However for most Christians the church has become more than a place to gather in His name.

For some it has become a place to be entertained. A place to be seen. A place to make themselves feel good. Is that what it is meant to be? How are we serving the Lord if we go to benefit ourselves?


We struggle with getting our kids to see beyond hanging out with their friends on Sunday mornings. They have both been incredibly blessed with some wonderful Sunday School teachers that strive to get them in God's word every Sunday morning. Sunday service is a whole different thing. It's hard for kids to stay interested and involved in a sermon. They go through the motions of standing to sing but rarely do they participate in the singing. This is where we are focusing right now. Every Sunday.

I don't want our kids to be part of the big percentage of kids raised in the church that leave the church in young adulthood. I want to teach them now that going to church and serving God aren't always fun. Sometimes it is downright uncomfortable. Was Moses comfortable when God told him to lead the people out of Egypt? Was Noah comfortable building the ark? Was Paul (formerly Saul) enjoying himself when he had his drastic change from church persecutor to Christian? Was Jesus experiencing the feel goods as He awaited the cross? We know that the answer to all of those is "no". Every one of them experienced hesitation in their task to serve God. So we need our kids to learn about that uncomfortable feeling now. We want them to work through it starting now so it won't be so difficult when they are adults. So what are we doing specifically to show them?

~We're at church on a very consistent basis. I can count the number of Sundays we typically miss in a year on one hand. Unless someone is sick or we are out of town, we're at church on Sunday mornings. Sure we'd rather sleep in or take a Sunday off but serving God comes before our own wants.

~We're involved. We've changed church congregations before but we are very committed to being involved in once church on a consistent basis. We know it is important to be involved in the church we attend because if we aren't serving in a church then are we really serving the Lord? We make it a point to be involved in Sunday School and to have our kids involved in Sunday School. If we didn't go to Sunday School then would they really take Sunday School seriously? Lead by example.
       We also take on leadership roles when needed. The church needs leaders. It isn't always something that's comfortable for us either. We do things we don't want to do sometimes. That's how you really serve God. Step outside of yourself, your wants, your interests and do what He asks you to. Go on that missions trip, serve on that committee, lead that class, while you may start out reluctantly you're sure to be blessed if you lay yourself aside.



~Because we serve, our kids serve. They are also expected to take part. When there's an opportunity we ask them to get involved. It isn't always something they enjoy. Sometimes they complain but we ask them to do it anyway. We talk with them about how the project or class or duty is a way to serve God. They know it is important to us because they see us doing the same thing. They know we aren't half-hearted in our efforts and so they aren't either (usually....because they are still kids). Now that they are a little older they rarely even try to get out of something because they know we will say "no".

~Once we've/ they've committed to something it will be until the end. Whether the end is a semester or a year or a month or a service we show them and they know that commitments are to be honored. And for that reason we do try not to say "yes" unless we know it is something we really can do. No one should say yes to everything (unless you want to be a stressed out crazy person) and if it really isn't feasible for your family, time restraints, etc then you should say no at the start, not half way through, not when you get tired of it.

~We work on issues as they arise. They are both of an age where we want them to actively participate in Sunday morning service. I know they aren't going to listen to every single word or sing every verse of every song but I want to see some participation. I want them to tell me what the sermon was about (at least what they heard before their attention span gave out). We allow Speedy (age 7) to take a couple of very small action figures or cars into service but he knows we will ask him in the car what he heard. Apple (age 9) usually sits with a friend and draws or colors but she also knows she will be asked. We also talk with them both about their Sunday school lessons every week and if ours was relevant to theirs or to the sermon then we share with them. Having a conversation about church outside of church shows them that it's important to us and that we are interested.

VBS 2014

Obviously we love it when we are having fun with our church family and when are kids are having a good time. It's just important that they know it won't always be a party.

We are still a work in progress as a family. We are constantly learning and adapting as our kids get older and as our relationship with the Lord deepens.

What are your best tips for getting kids involved in church?

Check out our latest giveaways.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Being a Baseball Family



I never thought I'd be a baseball mom. I'm a football fan y'all. I dreamed my chubby baby boy would be defensive end. When he first became interested in baseball I thought it would tide him over until he was old enough to play football. He liked basketball and soccer well enough at the time that I deemed him my "sports kid". Well I've got to admit (that at least for now) he's just my baseball kid. And I'll admit that over time I've grown to enjoy baseball. Much more than I ever dreamed.


The dirt and the grass......the anticipation when he goes up to bat....the nerves when there are 2 outs and he has 2 strikes.....the satisfying crack of the bat hitting the ball.....the excitement when he rounds the bases......the joy when he catches a fly ball or tags an opponent for the out. Now I love it all. The field is his missions zone, the place where he makes friends, and where his passion lies.


I received a free movie from Family Christian in exchange for my honest opinion. 

So as you can see baseball is a big theme in our home. Since Apple plays softball we all enjoy books and movies about the diamond.  We are also a family that seeks movies with a faith and/ or positive theme for our movie nights. Our top ten list included movies like The Blind Side, Facing the Giants, and now we are adding Hero.






Hero



Hero is the story of John Finn who walked away from his wife and son for 7 years. When his wife faces a medical crisis Finn returns home to find that nothing is the same. His son is now ready for college and has (understandable) anger towards his father for his absence. Everyone in the town looks at him with disgust. Can he ever redeem his relationship with his son?

The father and son join forces to coach a failing baseball team (the Gappers). Finn decides to walk away from the city league of watered down baseball and begin his own league. Ultimately his challenged team is matched against the city league's best team. John Finn has worked hard to teach his team real baseball and to get their fathers involved in their practices and games again. Will his faith in the team be enough to spur them to victory?

While faith in God is present in this film it isn't overt. However the themes of forgiveness and redemption are hard to miss. The movie is recommended for ages 10+ due to some difficult themes in the movie (a death from cancer, the father leaving for an extended time, a father in jail, etc) but I allowed Apple (age 9) to watch it and she enjoyed it. I believe Speedy is mature enough for this movie as well and we will watch it as a family very soon.

If you want a movie to watch for your family night I recommend Hero. I know I'm not the only baseball mama out there!

I received a free DVD from Family Christian for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own.

Meal Plan #11



Monday- Fajitas- Either cut your own strips of chicken or steak or purchase the pre-made/ pre-sliced fajita meat and cook with a packet of fajita seasoning. Throw in slices of onion, tomato, and bell pepper for a true fajita mix. Serve on warm tortillas with sour cream, guacamole, salsa, and pico de gallo. 

Tuesday- Hamburger Steak

Wednesday- No meal planned of this night.

Thursday- Ham- Use a small ham and heat with pineapple and brown sugar or soda. Mmmmm. Serve with your favorite sides.

Friday- Italian Chicken- Lay boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a pan and douse with italian dressing. Cook thoroughly. I'm not a big fan of lemon pepper chicken so we use this method more often.

Saturday- Hot dogs and kraut on a bun. Apple cooks this for us. Sometimes we heat up some chili to go with it as well.

Sunday- Hamburger soup- There are lots of versions of this. I like to saute onion, celery, and shredded carrots with basil and oregano. Cook the ground beef and drain. Add the meat and veggies to the slow cooker or a large pot. Cover with beef broth and allow to simmer for awhile to let the flavors marry. Right before serving cube up Velveeta and put it in the soup. I also add shredded cheddar. Let the cheese melt then serve with bread or chips. So tasty when it is cold out.


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Practical Money Savings Tips

Contains affiliate links. 

Who doesn't want to save money? There are so many ways to spend money and sometimes it seems like there are very few ways to save money. I am always looking for ways to save so please share your favorite tips in the comments! Here are a few ways we try to save now:

     +Drop the cable. We pay for Netflix streaming and an Amazon Prime account. We also have an            antennae for picking up a couple of local channels. We save at least $40 a month by not having          cable. Realistically most people aren't home enough to justify the cost of cable.

      +Buy used. We've only ever purchased used vehicles (the value of a new vehicle drops                           immediately & leases are always a more expensive route). Shop consignment sales, Goodwill,             yard sales, thrift sales, etc for gently used clothing, shoes, sporting goods, household items, etc.          So many times you can find items for 50% or more off.

      +Use coupons. Now you know coupons have taken a hit in the last 5 years and values just aren't           as high. Some stores no longer double coupons. However, don't totally write them off. I still use         some coupons for groceries and household items and we often use coupons when dining out. It's         also a good idea to sign up for emails for your favorite online shopping spots. Many times you             can get free shipping and/ or a percentage off. The goal is to never pay full price. At the very               least look for items that are on sale or purchase generics. 


      +Go to the library. The library is free and you can find books, movies, and audio books. Our local         library even has cake pans available to check out. Why pay to rent a movie if you can borrow it           for free? Or why pay $15 for a book you (or your child) will only read once if you can borrow it         for 2 weeks and return it with no cost to you. If you are worried about fines many libraries host a         week a year (or more) when you can bring in canned goods to wipe away your total. Of course            the fines would likely still be less than the rental or purchase price. 

      +Trade with friends. Take turns watching kids for free babysitting or do a freezer meal exchange. 
         Take turns hosting a game night or potluck to lower costs on an evening of fun. Trade small                kitchen appliances instead of always purchasing a new one (this one is solely for me- My name          is Edie and I'm a kitchen appliance hoarder). 


      +Make it homemade. Try your hand at making laundry detergent or soap. Make dining out a treat         and plan to do it less often. Try making new meals at home instead of grabbing a bite out. 

      +Check out deal sites like Groupon for local dining and entertainment discounts. Use Ebates for           cash back on your purchases. Check out Educents for education deals.

These are my tried and true money saving methods, what are yours?

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Getting Ready for a Consignment Sale

Do you participate in local consignment sales? Generally a "consignment sale" is held by a school or organization. You sign up ahead of time and are assigned a number. You then tag your items with a price and your number and drop them off at the specified location. Then the sale happens and when it is over you get a check for a percentage of whatever your items brought. The school or organization keeps the remainder of the money as these are generally fundraisers. I encourage you to participate in consignment sales because

                   * You can get rid of unwanted or outgrown items
                   * You can make some money and give a donation all at one time
                   * Sellers & volunteers usually get first dibs at shopping the sale. We get a majority of our                        children's clothes each year at the consignment sale.

I first began participating in these sales when Apple was a toddler and I was pregnant with Speedy. I needed to unload all her pretty pink clothes that no longer fit so I could make room for blue clothes. I was so nervous the first time I sold. I had bought clothes and items at the biggest local consignment sale many times but selling was a whole new ballgame. I overcame my fear though and I've participated twice a year since then (our local sales are held in the spring and fall). Here are some tips:

1. Read the rules of the sale very carefully. The rules will tell you if there is an initial fee to participate, the percentage split, drop off/ pickup/ sale dates, what is allowed/ forbidden, and how to hang and tag your items. I have volunteered at the sale before and you would be amazed at how many people never read the rules. You should scan the rules every time because there are always changes. Many larger sales now have rules available online.

2. Get started as early as you can. There is some time involved in getting items ready (although not nearly as much time as it takes to host a yard sale yourself). I try to make a basket or bag for clothes and shoes as I notice the kids are outgrowing them. I have a pretty steady bag full in the bottom of a hall closet. As I go through the kids clothes for the upcoming season I pull out anything they won't be able to wear this year and add it to the bag. Then I try to go room by room to find other items that we may no longer need. As you do all of this just make one big pile somewhere out of the way.



3. When you've got everything you plan to sell together then go through the items to check for holes, tears, stains, excessive wear, etc. Most sales will not accept items with condition issues. Now is a good time to split the clothes into sizes and gender (if you have boys and girls). This will make your life easier later. Then you need to hang your clothes (if your sale requires it) and get ready to tag. Be sure you gather hangers, safety pins, tape, and plastic bags (for smaller items and shoes) before you get started.

4. In the past our tag were pre-printed with a bar code and we filled in prices and descriptions. The school has really upgraded and now all info is put into a website and then we print our own tags. Once printed tags must be matched to their item and then pinned (or taped) onto the item in the designated area.

{Procrastinate by writing a blog post on getting ready for a consignment sale. Then....}

5. Once all of your items are tagged, load them into your car and shuttle them to the location at the specified time. Some consignment sales require you to place your own items on racks and tables. Large sales usually have volunteers to spot check your items to make sure they meet the requirements.

6. Make sure to take advantage of your early shopping time! Even if your family doesn't need a lot of clothes many sales also have shoes, books, toys, household items, even furniture! I'm always amazed at what I find at the sales and the prices are generally very reasonable. I look forward to the purses and shoes, Speedy also heads for the sporting goods, and Apple loves the books. Both kids enjoy picking clothes and shoes too. I can assure you we always pay well below retail for items that are very gently used.

7. Don't forget to pick up your leftover items! Many sales set up a donation to a local charity if you don't want to haul the items back home. You also need to make sure to pick up your proceeds check if it won't be mailed to you.

8. Enjoy your check! Most of the time I make equal to or more than I spend at the sale. It's almost like getting new wardrobes for free!


Does Still Mitford Take Care of its Own?

A short time ago I won a copy of Jan Karon's newest book Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good from Heavenly Savings & Homemaking. This is book #10 in the Mitford series. I've actually never read a Mitford book or even a Jan Karon novel until this one. I love the title- who doesn't want to be somewhere safe with somebody good? My first impression of the book is that it is a big one! It certainly kept me busy reading for many nights in a row.

So the little town of Mitford has the usual small town variety of people. We recently moved to a small town and it has certainly been an adjustment for me. Hubby grew up in a small town and has seamlessly reacclimated to the lifestyle. Everyone here knows everyone and Mitford mirrors that. The main character is Father Tim Kavanagh. After 5 years of retirement, Father Tim is still trying to adjust to his slower lifestyle. He takes jogs, he looks for ways to help his family and neighbors, and he spends a lot of time counseling others and praying for them. In fact he's probably closer to his townspeople now than he was behind the pulpit.



In this book, Father Tim and his wife Cynthia are working on a Children's Hospital fundraiser, they are trying to find the best way to help some young men they've "adopted" into their family, and they are tending to various neighbors with needs. Father Tim wants more from his retired life but when he has a chance to return to the pulpit he ultimately decides to turn it down. When he commits to helping a local business while the owner is on bedrest, he finds his niche. The townspeople love Father Tim and he loves them. Karon does a lovely job of describing each character, each setting, and even the Orange Marmalade Cake in great detail!

This book (and I imagine the other Mitford books) is like taking a slow meandering walk. The story is interesting and keeps you moving on to the next stop but there's no need to rush. I enjoyed this long walk so much that I can't wait to read the other books in the Mitford series! Jan Karon has a very interesting style of writing and I'm so glad I won this giveaway and discovered her work. So go to Mitford as they get ready for the holidays.


Friday, September 19, 2014

How to Make Sure Your Child's Room Stays Clean

This is a question I've pondered many times over the last 9 years. How do I make sure my child keeps his/her room clean? I have tried many methods......

-I've cleaned their room/s myself. That was all fine and good when they were babies and toddlers but I'm the kind of mom that wants them to become self-sufficient so this method is not my favorite. They need to know how to put their own things away and they won't learn that if I am doing it for them. Now occasionally every mom must dive in and declutter/ throw away trash/ pry away toys in a child's room but that should be limited to twice a year or seasonally IMO.




-Take away everything. Yes I have done that. Several times in fact. While it does provide temporary relief, it is not in fact a solution because it does not get to the root of the issue. What is the root of the issue you ask? Well children must be taught to maintain their own belongings. If you take away all of their belongings then you take away the lesson. Unless the lesson is "be a minimalist" which is another good lesson BTW.

-Stand over them and point at each item and instruct them where to put it. Sigh. This is actually the most used method in our house since our children came into the world. I despise this method but I do believe it helps teach a lesson. At some point you will have to explain to your children where things belong and *how* to clean their room or they will never know how.

-Finally the method that works the best (at least in our house!) and makes me the least crazy (although it still makes me a little crazy because I want these tiny people to remember to do some things on their own) is nightly cleanup. If you want your child's room to really, really be clean and stay that way then you must set aside 10-15 minutes each night to do a quick pick-up. In our house Apple & Speedy spend a few minutes going room to room to pick up discarded toys, shoes, and books. Then they pop in the bathroom and make sure no clothes or towels have been left on the floor. The majority of the time is then spent picking up clothes, toys, shoes, and books in their room. When they tell us they have finished either Hubby or I do a quick inspection. It is time consuming and I have to remember one more thing but it is worth it. A clean room means I'm happier (I can't stand a mess), they can find things easier, and they are learning the lesson of taking care of their own stuff. Someday I hope there will be a magic click and they will realize it is easier to put things away as they use them but until that magical day (I have a feeling it will be after they leave my house) nightly clean up works for us.

How do you get your kids to keep their room clean?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

My Favorite Things About Fall

My very favorite things about fall:


8. The weather- I love to swim and I love sunshine but nothing, nothing, nothing beats a beautiful fall day in Tennessee. The swirling leaves, the cool air, the crisp feel all make for a lovely time outside. Everyday this week I've had my doors thrown open and the house airing out. Ahhhh........


7. Pumpkin Everything. Pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin scented candles. The pumpkins people! They are everywhere!



6. Hoodies. See #8.

5. New episodes of my favorite shoes. Hello Castle, Criminal Minds, and The Middle! I've missed you all! Well....I did miss Criminal Minds until the awesome people at Netflix brought it to streaming. YAY! Now Hubby and I have mini-dates binge watching Criminal Minds while the kids are sleeping. I'm excited that the new seasons all begin soon.

4. Family & Friends- it always seems like we have more time with family and friends during the fall and winter months. That is due in part to holiday gatherings but we also just seem to find more time for game night and even gathering with church friends. Spending happy time with extended family and friends is always a great stress reliever for me.


3. Football- a few year's ago this would have been #1 and it is still high on the list but there are some things above it now. The last couple of years I have enjoyed playing Fantasy Football with good friends and it brings a whole new perspective to my favorite game.




1. Yes I skipped #2 because the #1 space is a tie- watching soccer and fall ball. This year Apple is our only soccer player. She loves soccer and she's been playing every fall for a very long time. I so enjoy Saturday morning games and watching her run and play with friends.  This is Speedy's second year on a fall ball team and he is with a totally different team and coaches. It's been a good experience for him to walk onto a new team. I love watching him play ball because it is his true passion. He no longer cares about any other sports. Baseball is his game. I have a great time cheering (loudly) for my babies and spending time outside.

What do you love about fall? It officially begins September 22!

On Another Adventure with Riley Mae

I received a free book from BookLook in exchange for an honest review.


Apple is 9 and a voracious reader. It seems like a constant struggle to find books for her that are appropriate, engage her, and take her a little while to read. When the Riley Mae series by Jill Osborne came out Apple & I were both thrilled! Now there are 3 books in the Good News Shoes series and they are all so good.



Tween Riley Mae is a spokesgirl for Swiftriver Shoe company and her job takes her on many adventures. As she jets off to different locations she is often met with mystery. In book 3 Riley Mae and the Sole Fire Safari, Riley is off to Kenya, Africa! Things in Africa aren't quite what she expected (why is it cold when she gets off the plan??). She even gets to go to school in Kenya and during her stay in Africa she is able to share her faith. Apple finds it easy to relate to Riley Mae because they both love softball and find running difficult. Our family has a special place in our heart for Africa and Apple enjoyed that this book was set there. She can't wait to see where Riley Mae's next adventure will be!

One of the things Apple loves most about this series is that each book begins right where the last one ended. I'd definitely recommend reading Riley Mae and the Rock Shocker Trek and Riley Mae and the Ready Eddy Rapids first to understand the stories. This book can stand alone but will make much more sense in context with the first two.  This series is part of the faiIThGirLz! line and will not disappoint your tween.

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

Monday, September 15, 2014

Meal Plan #10








Monday- White Beans & Cornbread- There are so many ways to make this meal. I like to soak dry beans overnight then slow cook them on the stove with ham pieces, ketchup, salt, pepper, and lots of water. Just cook and cook them until they are the consistency you prefer. For cornbread I use my grandma's recipe which is corn meal, egg, and buttermilk cooked in an iron skillet with melted butter. I'd give you measurements but it's an eyeball recipe.

Tuesday-Honey Soy Chicken- We loved this the first time and are excited to have it again.

Wednesday- Baked Chimis

Thursday- Roasted Chicken

Friday- Meatball Subs

Saturday- Pork chops- Anyway you like them. Our favorite is grilled!

Sunday- Taco Soup

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Give Your Brain a Workout



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



My brain gets a pretty stellar workout every day that we do home school. As we age though we typically are learning less and we usually run a lot of days on autopilot. It's important that we keep our minds sharp and there are some exercises we can do for just that. Crosswords, Sudoku, trivia- they all work our minds and keep us sharp.

In recent years apps and video games have become popular ways to get that workout. I utilize some of those and enjoy them but Bend Your Brain is a workout for your mind in paperback form. Within these pages are more than 150 puzzles, tips, and tricks for working your noggin. The book is divided into sections and each section goes from easy to hard. Bend Your Brain is a product of Marbles: The Brain Store.

I am most impressed with the wide variety of activities in this book. I normally keep a crossword or sudoku book around but over time those can become boring. This book is full of logos, pictures, stories, number games, word games, and more. You are sure not to be bored but you are also guaranteed to get stumped at least a few times.

"I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review."

Brownie Bites #muffinpans

I received this product free from Tomoson.com in exchange for a review.


Tonight I decided to try my new Grazia Silicone 24 Cup Mini Muffin Pan. It's red. Ain't it purty? I started to make make mini cupcakes or ya know muffins but that was too ordinary. So I made brownie bites. Yum yum!


I washed my new pan with hot soapy water and then gave it a light spritz with cooking spray. 



I gathered all the necessary ingredients to use a boxed brownie mix. I decided to go with the extra egg for the cake-like brownies.  


Gave it all a quick mix with my nifty wisk. 


Rather unceremoniously poured a 1/4 cupful into each little hole. BTW this used almost exactly the whole batter. Pretty nifty.


And ta-da! My kids were thrilled that they looked like double chocolate cookies on top. Obviously my husband was so excited he didn't even let me get my picture complete before he started grabbing them. 


A little ice cream and 2 hot brownie bites. Heaven.

All 24 popped right out of the pan with no fuss or mess. I washed it in warm, soapy water again and it was ready for next time. Metal muffin pans are always such a mess to clean up. Not these. They clean easily and made perfect brownie bites. I'm so excited to have such a nifty little cooking tool! I can't wait to use it for muffins, cupcakes, granola bites, oh and more of these yummy little brownie bites. 



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

Clean With Oil #InstaNatural


I received a free product from Tomoson.com in exchange for an honest review. 

I've been cruising through my 30s with minimal issues and then BAM! my skin goes haywire. Fine lines, random hair, blackheads, BLACKHEADS people. My former facial cleanser just wasn't cutting it. Our budget is tight so I can't spend a lot on my beauty regimen.

When I first saw InstaNatural Deep Cleansing Facial Oil I was intrigued. Clean my face with oil? How does that work? Well it works very easily as a matter of fact.


I squeeze a little onto a cotton ball. Really it only takes 2-3 pumps meaning this bottle will last me a very long time (great for the budget!). Wipe the cotton ball all over your face removing oil, makeup, and cleaning pores. All the icky, nasty just wipes right off. After that you can wash off your face with warm water or use a warm, wet washcloth. In the mornings, I just jump in the shower and wash off my face. My face feels so good when I finish. My skin is clean and soft. 

Need one more reason to love it? It is made with natural ingredients like Hemp Oil, Jojoba Oil, Lavender Essential Oil, and Pink Grapefruit Essential Oil. Currently the price is only $19.95 on Amazon and this bottle will last you a very long time. (Prices are subject to change.)

I was also able to try InstaNatural's Youth Express Eye Gel. It really only takes a tiny dab to pat on the area around the eyes. I can really feel the difference and tightening in the skin. It also is improving my undereye circles. I can't believe how quick;y this product begins to make improvements and you can't beat the price- so much less than department store eye gels. You can also use this product in your forehead and cheek areas and get the same results! This bottle will last a long time too because such a small amount goes such a long way. I use it in the morning and at night and wear makeup over it regularly. So glad I've found the InstaNatural facial products!



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

Our Top 10 Favorite Children's Book Series



I wanted to share with you our favorite book series. My Apple loves to read and she prefers series so that the story goes on and on. Speedy is also becoming a great reader but he is still a bit more reluctant. I often see parents asking for good series suggestions for kids so I wanted to compile my suggestions here.

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10. Wishbone- These are short chapter books that are mysteries. The books were inspired by the Wishbone television series. They have fun names like Ivanhound.  According to Apple they are all very funny. There are Wishbone Mysteries, Wishbone Classics, and Super Adventures of Wishbone.

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9. Fly Guy- The Fly Guy books are fairly new but oh so much fun. These short books by Tedd Arnold are sure to delight. Speedy loves Fly Guy and will read them over and over. If you have new readers I highly recommend this series.

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8. Percy Jackson- Apple has just gotten started on Rick Riordan's Percy books. We haven't spent much time on mythology so she just finds the ideas of these "gods" very fascinating. This is definitely a series for older kids and ones that can make it through longer books. Apple also enjoys the movies that have been made based on this series.



7. The Adventures of Lily Lapp- Suzanne Woods Fisher and Mary Kinsinger bring Amish fiction to girls. These fun books are great for older girls. It gives them an insight into a different way of life. Apple has enjoyed these books since the first one was published and soon book 4 will be released.

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6. Nancy Drew & The Hardy Boys- These are both great series that could stand alone but I've chosen to group them together. Apple loves both series. Speedy is just beginning to get interested in the Hardy Boys but he has no desire to read Nancy Drew. Apple has even watched some of the movies (at least one is available on Netflix) about Nancy Drew and she has a couple of Nintendo DS games as well. We recently listed to the first Hardy Boys book on audio book as a family. If your children are interested in mild mysteries these books are a great place to get started. There is even a new reader series called Nancy Drew & the Clue Crew.

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5. A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket- This mystery series is a bit dark and for more mature children. While many characters come to an unfortunate end in the series the books also contain a good amount of humor and a vast amount of vocabulary. The 13 books about Sunny, Klaus, and Violet are entertaining and sure to keep your children thinking. We listened to these on audio book as a family. One movie was made based on this series but it only covers about half the stories and feels incomplete.



4. The Imagination Station- These Adventures in Odyssey books are so much fun and cover a historical time or event. Cousins Beth & Patrick use the Imagination Station at Whit's End to go on
adventures. These books are fun for girls and boys and have a Christian theme. The books are short chapter books and there are new ones being added on a regular basis.



3. Magic Tree House- I wasn't familiar with this series from Mary Pope Osborne until Apple began reading them. This is a huge series of books and it is perfect as a first series for new readers. My kids are both very interested in adventure books and the Magic Tree House books each contain a fun adventure. These books appeal to girls and boys.



2. Little House on the Prairie- Laura Ingalls Wilder has captured the attention of many children over the years. Books in the Little House series are on many reading lists for different grade levels. Apple read the entire series while in second grade. Speedy is in second grade this year and will read Little House in the Big Woods for school. I hope he will enjoy it enough to continue the other books in the series on his own time. While reading the series or after completing it, the Little House television series will help your children visualize what life was like for Wilder.



1. Chronicles of Narnia- This got the #1 spot for a couple of reasons. This beloved series from C.S. Lewis is enjoyed by boys and girls and it is a classic allegory for the story of Jesus. Both of my children have been fans of Narnia for sometime and like some of the other series I've mentioned there are movies adapted from some of the books. I remember reading the Chronicles of Narnia when I was a kid and I've really enjoyed sharing them with my children.


What are your favorite children's book series? We are always on the lookout for new reading material!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy

I did not receive any promotion or compensation for this post. All opinions are my own. 


If you have kids that are fans of the Avengers then you may be interested in my review of Guardians of the Galaxy. It is rate PG-13 just like the Avengers movie. We own Avengers and both of our kids have watched it several times. We were impressed with it when it came out because there isn't a romantic story line in it and no big language issues. Our son has already asked to watch Guardians of the Galaxy but Hubby & I decided to go and watch it ourselves before letting either of the kids see it. I'm glad we did.

We really enjoyed the movie. It has a lot of funny parts in it. However it is not a family friendly/ young kid friendly movie. There were several language issues in the movie and a scene with a character giving someone the middle finger. There is also a romantic story line in the movie and while it is kept fairly light along with the other issues this is definitely a movie for the 13 and up crowd.

However I think most adults would enjoy it as much as we did. There's lots of action and lots of laughs. The characters are well developed and aren't your typical superheroes (I mean how many movies have a talking tree as a hero?!?!). We don't see movies in the theater very often due to the outrageous cost but I'd say this one was worthy of a theater trip.


Meal Plan

I won't list a meal plan this week. This is my week to go back and cook the things I missed over the last 8 weeks. With over 50 meals posted in those 8 weeks this is also the time when I will start redoing some meals in the rotation.

You all knew my plan last week was to whip up some meals for the freezer while we took a week off school. Well I did not. Not a single one. I had allergy/sinus/ cold mess all week long and so I didn't get anything done. At least not anything extra. When I do get a day to make some freezer meals I will be sure to take pics and write up a post for you!

Have a great week!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Curbing Your Appetite #Garcinia

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


I'm not big on taking medications or supplements. It's just a personal thing. I don't even like to take an aspirin for a headache. However sometimes in life, especially as we race towards middle age, the body can use a little kickstart. As I've told you I'm working on getting ready to run an obstacle course. I'll be giving you an update on that soon. In preparation I had the opportunity to try 80% HCA Garcinia Cambogia. This high potency formula assists with weight loss, appetite suppression, and boosts metabolism. 





I've been trying it for a full 3 weeks. I'll start with the bad and then give you the good on this product. Bad: I haven't lost any weight. Bad: You're suppose to take 2 pills twice a day and I have a really hard time remembering to do it (which likely helped lead to Bad #1). Now the good. Good: It really does suppress the appetite. When I remember to take it I can definitely tell that I'm not as hungry and I get full quicker. Good: No side effects. I can barely believe it but I'm not jittery, I'm not moody, and I haven't had any weird things sprout from my body. Good: This product comes with a money back guarantee. Good: One bottle is a 45 day supply (or longer if you have trouble remembering the 2nd dose!). Good: You can buy it on Amazon and have it shipped right to your door (free shipping for Amazon Prime members!). 

In conclusion, of course I wish the scale showed a difference or that I had a dramatic before and after to show you but honestly I'm still pleased with the results. I truly believe if I'd had 45 days to take the Garcinia Cambogia and if I had done a better job of taking 2 pills twice a day everyday then I would have results to show you. I'm so glad this didn't cause any side effects and I'm excited that I've found a appetite suppressant that I'm comfortable taking. 




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