Friday, November 20, 2015

An Attitude of Gratitude: 17 Weeks of Learning to Live a Beautiful Life

It's Week 11 of my Learning to Live a Beautiful Life Series. I have planned 17 posts in this series...My goal is to end at the end of the year!

Our little blue planet has had a rough week.

As I write this post, we have been in mourning with the citizens of France. Our nation's leaders are debating compassion, prudency and privilege. We are heading into an election year and the pundits and politicians seem to be suffering from the loss of civility and common sense.

I am heartsick with the thought of so many in the world suffering. There are peoples from all walks of life who deal with such life problems that we can't even begin to understand. Not only has terror struck so viciously in France, but in smaller and poorer nations. We haven't given those souls the same kind of attention.

I can't begin to understand it all or even form an opinion about what should or shouldn't be done. I am grateful to know that I serve a God who does not require such evil acts to prove my devotion.

He just asks for my heart.

This next week will be celebrating Thanksgiving. Americans all across our land will be feasting on roasted turkey and pumpkin pie. There will be many more who will rely on the kindness of others for a warm meal or a place to lay their head. There will be children who spend their holiday with not enough to eat.

This week I am not throwing you a call to action.

What you do make a difference in our world is up to you. It is a narrow and shallow existence to think that "your mission" is the only true and just one in the world. You have to do what you feel God has called you to do.

In the meantime, let's not get caught up in the cruelness and callousness of this world. Let's live in an attitude of Grace and Thanksgiving.

This week I want us all to mindful of the blessings we have been given.

This week I am to wrap The Muffin and Josiah in extra long hugs.

I am going to stare at crisp blue skies with appreciation and drink in autumn sunsets. If it chooses to rain, I am going to snuggle up with my loved ones and enjoy a hot cup of tea from the first sip to the last gulp.

I am going to make sure to smile at everyone I pass on the street. I am going to be a polite and considerate driver and remind myself that it's not always about me.

I am going to try not to take offense...even if I feel I am justified to feel offended.

I am going to slow down and maybe make a craft or three.

When I find myself frustrated with the cares of life, I am going to thank God for His provision and Grace.

Am I setting myself for disappointment and failure?

Possibly. It's hard to walk in an attitude of gratitude and grace. But it's sure the best way to travel.

Go, my friends. Make a list of your blessings. Take deep breaths in and out. Enjoy those autumn sunsets.

It is a Beautiful Life.

You can catch with my series by clicking the banner below.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Be Someone's Blessing: 17 Weeks of Learning to Live a Beautiful Life

It is Week 10 of my Learning to Live a Beautiful Life. 

I hope you are enjoying the glorious fall season and giving Thanks every step of the way. We have had really nice weather.

I want to talk to you today about stretching out beyond yourself.

I think we can become so absorbed with the comings and goings of our own lives that we forget about those who might need a blessing.

We also think that we have to be wealthy to give...which is such a big misconception.

The Art of Giving (I'm sure there is a book by that title somewhere) is not about doling out the is about giving what is in your hands.

If you have the cash to dole out, by all means find someone to bless.

But don't deny yourself the joy of a generous heart because you have to watch your pennies.

This week I challenge you to find someone (or someones) to bless.

First, think of a few people around you who might need extra encouragement.

I will tell you that there are a few friends in my life who have been absolute God sends. There have been times that they come through for me in ways that reached down into the worn out places in my spirit and brought me such hope!

I think there are those who have the gift of giving and encouragement. But all of us can do just a little something to brighten someone else's day.

Here are a list of no cost or inexpensive things you can do to be a blessing.

1. Send a card. We've gotten out of the habit. I love getting mail other than a bill. Don't you? Another idea is to write out a card of encouragement or "thank you" and hand deliver it.

2. Prepare a baked goodie. When I go to someone's house for the first time I usually like to bring a basket of muffins. They are easy to prepare and I can use the ingredients I have in my house.

3. Give something green. A bunch of wildflowers tied with a ribbon. How sweet is that? I personally don't have wildflowers blooming near my house, but I have taken an herb plant to a friend.

4. Do you know a shut-in or a young mother? Offer to do some housework or baby watching. I have been the recipient of both of these blessings.

5. Wrap a small candle in cellophane and make a tag..."You brighten my day."

6. Prepare a pot of soup for a sick friend.

7. Straightening up your pantry? Take some of your excess to a family in need. If you have the money buy the ingredients for a full meal.

8. Words of encouragement. We all know someone who could use a good word. Don't be stingy with your smile.

Here are a few words of advice.

Get your kids involved. They can make cards or draw pictures as a Thank You or to provide encouragement someone in need. One Christmas we had a sweet bunch of kids go through their toys to pick out a couple of extra special ones for Josiah. Some of them even made their own creations.

If you are the "giver" never make the "receiver" feel like you are doing them a favor. The Muffin and I have been on the receiving end so many times. We feel so blessed that others have thought about us. There is also some shame involved. It is hard to be a "taker."

If you do bless someone do so with a merry heart. Nobody likes to feel like an obligation.

You can find more of my 17 Weeks of Learning to live a Beautiful Life by clicking on the banner below.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

A TOS Review: Grapevine Studies

“Day is done…gone the sun…from the lake…from the hills…from the sky”

Anybody else remember singing TAPS in Girl Scouts? This is my last review of 2015 for the Old Schoolhouse Review Crew. We get to take a little bit of time off until the next batch of reviews come in 2016. In the meantime, I have one more review for you.

We have been blessed to be able to review a couple of terrific downloadable ebooks from Grapevine Studies. I received Old Testament 1: Level 3 Creation to Jacob and Old Testament 1: Level 4 Creation to Jacob. I also received the Teacher’s Guide.

I had heard of Grapevine Studies before this review and knew I wanted to try it out. It is a Bible Study that is really hands on. The students learn by using stick figure drawings and timelines.  I decided that this would be a great product to use in our Bible Study at church with my teen group. I have ages 13-18 and wanted to provide not only a hands on experience, but something that really allowed us to study God’s word thoroughly.

This was a simple and fun study to implement. I had copies of the ebooks made for all my students. We have a copy place in town that has .5 copies and will punch holes in them for free! Level 3 requires just a Bible, dry erase board and markers, colored pencils or crayons. With Level 4 a topical Bible, concordance and Bible dictionary is also needed. My husband, the pastor, has a whole bookshelf filled with such books so that wasn’t a problem.

If you chose to go through this study daily with your student a schedule is provided for you.  It looks really easy to implement.  Because I used it as a study for our teen group we went through an entire unit in one session. This was easily done in our allotted time.

The Teacher’s Guide makes the whole thing easy to use. It is a scripted study and I found that my preparation time was minimal. I simply looked over the lesson the night before and made sure I had all of our supplies gathered.

This is a screen shot from the Teacher's Guide. You can see that not even the teacher needs exceptional artistic ability 

Because I was dealing with older students, everyone took turns reading the Bible verses involved. We then would go through the lesson together. I would draw out the stick figures myself and the students would copy them. I had a few very creative artists! Grapevine Studies was unlike anything any of them had ever done before. It appealed to every style of learner. 

This is a screen shot from the Teacher's Guide instructions for Level 4. Level 4 students have a Quest Page. I loved having this opportunity to show students how to use Bible reference resources. My Level 3 students weren't required to fill out the Quest Pages (they didn't have them), but they still received the benefit of hearing the lesson. 

My son, who is dyslexic and dysgraphic, is also in the class. This was a curriculum that he definitely could handle. In fact, he really enjoyed himself.

The Timeline is so easy to complete and comprehend. You can see how it would appeal to so many different ages and kinds of kids! 

This is not only a great product for a Sunday School or Bible Study group. Homeschoolers will find it to be a terrific resource for daily devotions.

Here are a few links you might be interested in. This chart helps parents and teachers choose where to start. You can find downloads of samples of the Grapevine Studies here. 

I have just a short little story to share with you before I close this review. Just this past week, Josiah's personal devotions have been in Genesis. While we have read in Genesis before, he had the extra advantage of going through the Grapevine Studies. Because the study also places such an emphasis on God's plan for the salvation of man, he understood more of the consequences of Adam and Eve actions. The study not only teaches the kiddos chronological history, but really lays out God's love for us. He made provision for Adam and Eve. He has made provision for us. 

I am anxious to continue our Grapevine Studies journey. Be sure to check it out!

You can connect with Grapevine Studies via the following social media outlets. Don't forget to click on the banner to read more reviews.

Periscope: @Grapevine Studies

Grapevine Studies Review

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A TOS Review: Surfing the Net Science

I hate to brag, but I have a superpower. I am an AWESOME researcher. In college, my favorite papers were those that required me to spend hours upon hours in the library surrounded by post-it-notes and index cards.

In our house the encyclopedias had a place of honor. I don’t even think Josiah knows what an encyclopedia is. He does, however, know how to research his favorite football player and look for youtube videos that demonstrate how to beat a level on his favorite video game. I’ve come to realize that along with teaching Josiah the three “R’s” I also need to be showing him the finer points of research. Of course, now-a-days a body can find anything and everything online. I recently had the chance to review Surfing the Net: Science from The Critical Thinking Co. This wound up being a terrific resource to accomplish my goals.

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to review World History Detective I from The Critical Thinking Co. I knew I could expect an excellent product this time around. I wasn’t disappointed.

I got the physical copy (in paperback form) of Surfing the Net: Science.  It also is available as an ebook. It is intended to be used for grades 3-6. As you might know, Josiah is in 8th grade, but he is dyslexic and I figured it would be a good fit for him.

Basically, Surfing the Net: Science is a interactive workbook. Inside its pages are challenges and activities that not only teach science, but assist in helping teach them those internet research skills. The activities vary…the student might watch a video, look for keywords, play an online game or read an article.

The subjects don’t build on each other so it can be a wonderful supplemental resource to be used with whatever science subject strikes your student’s fancy.

These subjects include:

Ecosystems and Habitats

I started my review by letting Josiah decide what he would like to learn about first. I thought he was going to choose the Atmosphere unit, but “surprise, surprise” he chose Space.

I assisted Josiah as he worked through the lessons. The “key word” activities can be specifically daunting for a kiddo with dyslexia. There are generally so many sites that pop up and we walked through each lesson together. I was able to show him what kinds of sites to look for…reputable, easy to read and navigate.

Just a little aside. I haven’t wrote a research paper in years, but when internet research was a brand new thing at the time. We weren’t allowed to use internet sites as “cited sources” because “anybody can put anything on the internet" (including 40- something hillbillies)

I still think it’s important to “consider the source” and I LOVED that Surfing the Net provided me so many teachable opportunities.

Be prepared to spend a little time with each lesson. Josiah enjoyed following a few rabbit trails along the way.

The Space Unit had Josiah do a variety of activities. He began by listing the planets and answering questions using "key words." We got to get into the whole "Pluto is not a planet" thing (I'm still bitter). He watched videos from NASA and 

 Surfing the Net: Science is really a lot of fun. We had a good time sitting around the table discovering interesting and important facts about the sun, constellations and even the Cold War Space Race. 

What more does a guy need than a good snack and something to watch?

In the mammal lesson, Josiah used his estimating skills while guessing the weights of a blue whale, camel and a raccoon. He then wanted to find out who much the "megladon shark" in comparison to the blue whale. I told you, rabbit trails.

Another fun activity gave him a web address to search for mammals and list their unique characteristics. The web address didn't quite take us there, but we managed. I'm not sure what happened. It could have been our mad web browsing skills.

I don't know if you can read it, but under Mammal 2 Josiah wrote down a Dolphin as his mammal. He wrote "Miami" above Dolphin. His other two mammals were "Buffalo" and "Lions"....Is it coincidence that these are also sports teams? I think not.

I have to tell you that I LOVE using this product. We have had so much fun! It just has so many wonderful things to like about it. Not only is Josiah learning to research and explore via the web, but he is learning more about science in a truly interactive way. 

This is one we are going to keep on using. I find it fits into our school day nicely. 

The Critical Thinking Co. has many other great products available. I hope they come out with more Surfing the Net titles. 

You can connect with The Critical Thinking Co. via the following social media outlets. Don't forget to click on the banner below to read more reviews! 

The Critical Thinking Company Review

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Chicken and Greens

The recipe I am posting today is not necessarily ooey-gooey comfort food.

In fact, it's disgustingly healthy. It was introduced to me by my Momma and is so easy to put together that my 18-year-old nephew made it for us one weekend.

I knew that this was a dish I needed to make at home.

A few weekends ago, my Dad sent me home with a huge bag of turnip greens.

And this HUGE sweet potato. It looks like a baby dinosaur is going to hatch out of that thing any minute (or at least an alien).

He had just dug up a "mess" of turnips for me and threw the whole bunch in the bag. Talk about "fast food."

Most folks have a love/hate relationship with turnips. Either you like them or you don't. I didn't like them growing up...I found maturity brought many things with it. Among them a taste for turnips and an unfortunate habit of talking to myself.

Turnip greens are extremely healthy. They help reduce inflammation, improve liver function and contain a splendid amount of antioxidants.  A particular benefit of interest to me is their effectiveness in promoting cardiovascular health. They contain fiber and folate.  Folate is a B vitamin. It helps prevent homocysteine build-up in the arteries.

Look at me! Talking all sciency...

Turnip greens can be found in abundance (at least in my neck of the woods) in the produce section of the grocery store.

My turnip greens came attached to the turnips so I first separated the turnips from the greens. I also served the turnips with this meal, but I am only going to share with you the chicken and greens dish.

After cutting the greens from the root, I put the greens back in the sink and filled it with water to rinse all of the dirt and any critters that might have come along for the ride.

Cutting the greens is easy. I kind of twist the whole stalk into a manageable rope and start chopping. I don't like big hunks of greens.

I put all my chopped greens in a big roaster.

Next, I chopped garlic. Let's face it. Life is better when there is garlic involved. I just sprinkled my chopped over the greens and tossed the whole mess together a little bit.

This chicken came from one of those big bag of leg quarters. I got bag for under $4 and managed to get 3 meals out of it. That is cheap eating! Don't be afraid of cutting up your own chicken. You can save a lot of money.

I put the chicken right on top of the greens and sprinkled the whole thing with salt and pepper. Then I drizzled lemon juice over the dish. Of course, I used fresh lemon juice....:<)

Normally, a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese would come next. I was out and used nutritional yeast instead. Nutritional yeast is not as strange as it sounds. It has a cheesy taste (but doesn't contain any dairy). We love to sprinkle it on our popcorn.

Now my Chicken and Greens were ready to pop in the oven. You bake them at 375 for about 45 minutes. Chicken thighs and legs take a little longer to cook. I found it helpful to go in every 15 minutes or so and kind of stir my greens around (the best I could). The chicken juice and lemon really make them yummy.

A perfect dish of Chicken and Greens. Almost perfect. I probably needed to broil the tops of the chicken just a little. I like my critters crispy!

Go eat those greens!

Monday, November 9, 2015

A TOS Review: Eat Your Math Homework

Math is our struggle. I am always on the lookout for tips and tricks to help Josiah conquer whatever math challenge he might be facing.  He is not only dyslexic, but has dyscalculia, as well. He has always had more success with hands on activities. This is no surprise to me. He is a busy boy and some of his best learning is done in concert with wiggling. I recently had the chance to review Eat Your Math Homework from AnnMcCallum Books.  And because I was once the proud owner of a goat…this one left me curious.

I feel like I do need to do a little explaining about my goat comment. If you know anything about the critters you will know that they will eat anything. Instead of “the dog at my homework,” I could easily have given the “my goat at my homework” excuse.

Eat Your Math Homework is not a book of proven excuses for failure to produce homework. It is filled with fun, “real” recipes that are intended to bring a variety of math concepts to life.

It is an easy to manage paperback book that is recommended for ages 7-10. Obviously, Josiah is 13, so I feel that is for anybody who wants to “Eat Your Math Homework.” Goats not invited.

The lessons include;
Fibonacci Snack Sticks
Fraction Chips
Tessellating Two-Color Brownies
Fibonacci Snack Sticks
Milk and Tangram Cookies
Variable Pizza Pi
Probability Snack Mix

The recipes are easy to follow and I didn’t find any of the ingredients to be particularly funky or hard to find. The book also contains kitchen tips, a review of the math concepts involved and more.

I love having Josiah in the kitchen. It is not always easy, but I firmly believe that our kids need to know there way around the kitchen and learn how to prepare good, healthy food.  I love that this book not only helps me along with that, but it also assists in teaching those math concepts.

I let Josiah look through the book and pick out a few recipes to try initially. Of course, one of those recipes was the Tessellating Two-Color Brownies.

The boy is a brownie fiend!

Just a little shot of things that might happen in your kitchen. I would say "when cooking with a boy." Yes. Josiah was responsible for this little disaster, but I have had plenty of my own. 

I love that the recipes in this book are easy to follow. Each step is numbered and helped keep Josiah on track.

A little cocoa powder never hurt anybody.

Chocolate. It makes for a happy guy.

Sadly, I don't have a picture of the final product. 

 For some reason, we had trouble getting the brownies out of the pan so we couldn’t perform the tessellating experiment. I think the pan was greased enough. However, they were delicious and I didn’t count the lesson as loss. He followed a recipe…which included lots of reading, following directions, measuring, etc.

The next activity we tried were the Fraction Chips.

He loved this one too! And this was a perfect lesson for him. He did it entirely by himself. I don’t know if younger children need to be trusted with frying tortillas, but Josiah can handle it. He can make pancakes unaided. His flipping skills are pretty awesome. 

So are his "taking a bite" skills.

I do have a confession. On this lesson day, I didn't have any taco seasoning (one of the ingredients). I usually make my own, but I found out I was out of chili powder. What? How can I consider myself a cool weather cook without chili powder?

We quickly regrouped and made a cinnamon sugar mixture.

The illustrations in Eat Your Math Homework are darling. They were done beautifully by Leeza Hernandez.

After Josiah was finished cooking his allotted number of tortillas, he started cutting them into fractions.

Such effort! I wish he would put that much effort in the pile of clean dishes. (That's one of his daily chores)

He cut tortillas into 1/4's, 1/8's...even 1/12's.

And snacking on a few along the way.

This was such an awesome lesson to demonstrate fractions. The book also contains a few more challenging activities for those kiddos who can be stretched. Josiah and his Dad enjoyed an afternoon snack. Josiah was quite impressed with himself....I was impressed, as well. It was such a fun lesson.

Ann McCallum is the author several other fun books. I am so pleased with this book...I can't wait to try more! I think this book is a wonderful addition to any homeschool room or family kitchen! 

P.S. I need to tell you that there is a teacher's guide and free lesson to download on the website! Just look under the Downloadables Tab. 

 Don't forget to click on the banner below to read more reviews! 

Ann McCallum Books Review
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