Saturday, October 22, 2016

Saturday morning...

It's Saturday morning and I'm by myself.

My boys went to the men's ministry breakfast and I am eyeing a piece of fried chicken that was left in the fridge. I've been puny the last few days so breakfast isn't high on my "to-do" list.

I've not done a whole lot of blogging as of late...except for reviews. Monday found us in Alabama.


My father-in-law lost a beloved sister so we packed up the car and headed to The Muffin's ancestral stomping grounds. I say ancestral because The Muffin grew up in Indiana, but his daddy is an Alabama man through and through.

It wasn't the easiest trip, but we did get to spend time with family and eat biscuits and gravy EVERY MORNING.

Anyhoo. I came home with some sort of wheez and a sore tooth. I have a molar that broke off and it needs attention in the worst way. Not fun.

Now that you know all there is to know, I do have a few things to share with you.

I am putting a ginormous pot of chili on this afternoon. Our surrounding communities have been whooping it up at the Covered Bridge Festival. One of our church fellas is cooking up barbecue so we want to go check that out.

I do have a couple of chili recipes I use. This weekend I'm making The Pioneer Woman's Frito Pie Chili. It's a little thicker and I want to have the option for chili dogs or Frito Pie.

I also want to share with you the recipe for a Loaded Baked Potato Soup I used a few weeks ago when we had family visiting. It is scrumptious. It isn't something I can have very often, but it is certainly something worth whipping up now and again.

And as a treat for myself, I am going to make a batch (or 4) of these sugar free Chocolate Chip cookies.  I'm needing a bit of chocolate in my life and these might do the trick.

Have a beautiful weekend!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Familyman's Christmas Treasury (Homeschool Review Crew)

I realize that most of us are just now putting out the pumpkins, but Christmas isn’t too far down the road. Before you roll your eyes at me and go back to sipping your pumpkin spiced latte, I need to tell you about something I’ve been reviewing. We have been blessed to receive TheFamilyman’s Christmas Treasury-Audio Collection from The Familyman. This great collection is also available as Digital Downloads.

You have to know by now how I feel about audio story products. This is just how we roll, folks! They not only can be great family experiences, but they have SAVED our homeschooling. No kidding. Just recently, we took a very LOOONNG road trip to a funeral. We listened to audio books the whole way.

Guess what. Not only were we passing the miles very enjoyably, but we were DOING SCHOOL!

I do need to tell you about this latest review. I’ve enjoyed Todd Wilson’s cartoons for a number of years. He just gets homeschoolers. Which is a possibly a good thing considering he and his wife, Debbie, are homeschoolers. He specifically ministers to homeschool dads.

Here is what I got:

Captain Chaos and the Manger Blaster- This is a great story for all your superhero fans. A little boy, tired of the same old story of the manger and baby Jesus, pretends to destroy the manger with his Captain Chaos superhero story. Things don’t work out the way he expected.

The Stranger – There is a stranger in town and everyone is in an uproar. But is he who he seems?

Cootie McKay's Nativity- Cootie McKay’s Nativity is just precious. You can guess that Cookie McKay is quite a character. He takes on reconstructing the town nativity (after an unfortunate mishap with a Buick). 

Gladys Remembers Christmas – Gladys hates Christmas. She also hates her name. She was named after her mother who died when she was just six. Something happens that changes everything.

Harold Grubbs and the Christmas Vest- Issac’s dad wears a particularly scruffy Christmas vest through the Christmas season. The story behind the vest is all about the meanest man in town and what changed him.

It's Called Christmas- This story is set in the future.  In this future, there is no Christmas. Our hero of the story sets off to find what Christmas is about.

The Bishop's Dream- A sweet story about a bishop who cares for poor children. This story has a twist. It reminds us who Christmas is all about.

The Secret of the Snow Village- What would happen if a Christmas village suddenly came to life?

Some of these stories do come in CD form, but all of them can be purchased as digital downloads. The stories aren’t long.  They range from about thirteen to thirty minutes in length. We had such a good time listening to them. Personally, I was a bit more inclined to whipping up some hot chocolate and draping some Christmas lights over something. They really put us in the Christmas spirit.

My favorite part of all the stories is that they truly represent the true meaning of Christmas.  The master storyteller himself, Jim Hodges, makes the whole experience even more enjoyable. Listening to him tell a story is such a pleasure.

My personal favorite (and my husband’s) is The Stranger. It’s one of those stories that challenges.
Josiah couldn’t name a favorite. He loved them all!  

All the stories are treasures! They need to be in every family library.

You can connect with The Familyman via the following social media outlets. Don’t forget to click on the banner for more reviews. 

The Familyman's Christmas Treasury - Audio Collection {The Familyman} Reviews
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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Educeri (Homeschool Review Crew)

I am always on the lookout for new resources that can help me as a homeschool mom and teacher. Recently we had the chance to review the Educeri Lesson Subscription Service from Educeri…Educeri a division of DataWORKS. This online resource provides ready-to-teach lessons for grades K-12.

Basically, Educeri is a whole library of  online lesson plans. The majority of the lessons are either math or language arts. There are a few for science, history, music and art. There are over 1000 plans to browse through.

You can either search for a particular lesson or browse through the lessons based on grade or subject. The lessons are in a slideshow form and some have printable handouts for extra practice.

There is also a handy option that allows you to make notes or “write” on each slide as the lesson is being taught.  More on that in just a minute.

First, I want to show you how it works.

Here is a lesson on identifying compound sentences with transitions. This was in the 8th grade Language Arts category.

I decided I wanted to work through the slides with Josiah and use it as a teaching tool rather than an independent learning activity. Josiah is dyslexic and that method just works better for us. 

You can see by this screen the title of the lesson and the grade level in the top left hand corner. You will notice that the grade level is posted on the right hand side of the screen above the subject. Under Additional resources there is a link for a PDF handout. 

After I click on "Teach the Lesson" it will move into a slideshow. All you need is an internet connection. I do have the free Adobe PDF Reader already installed on my computer for the handout, but you don't even need that if you don't want to take the time.

This slide shows me the Learning Objective and does some assessing of prior knowledge.  You can see the handy dandy marker tool in the right hand corner, but this lesson almost teaches itself.

You see that information in red? As you click on the arrow buttons at the bottom of the slide the answers will begin to reveal themselves.

 Here is a slide further down in the lesson. This is guided practice. What I really like about this slide is that it contains information to remind the student (and teacher) what he or she needs to know to complete the exercises successfully.

And look it there! With each magical click of the arrow button the answers are revealed.

This lesson has plenty of extra practice. And you guessed it!  The student or teacher is gifted with the option to see the answers with each click of the arrow button.

Okay. So I realize that some of you might not be excited about little red answers as I am. Here is how I see it. It's been a loooong time since college. I am a visual learner that needs somebody to walk me through it. It took me just seconds to bring this particular lesson up on the screen. By slide 2, I was Identifying Compound sentences with transitions like a pro. As a result, I am a better teacher.

And here is the other bonus. I didn't have to hunt all over the internet for a complete lesson. I simply poked around Educeri.

Here are a few things you need to know. 

I think Educeri is best used as a supplemental resource.  I wouldn't try and make it into a complete curriculum.

The lessons are compatible with all web browsers and operating systems. I believe that Educeri is widely used in classrooms. I didn't have any difficulty using it with my one student on our home computer.

Most of the lessons are either math or language arts. These subjects, however, are the ones I feel I need the most assistance with...especially since Josiah is in his freshman year of high school.

There is a free trial subscription available. I suggest you go check it out!

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

Twitter:   @educeri

Educeri Lesson Subscription Service
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Thursday, October 13, 2016

Online Christian Filmmakers Academy (Homeschool Review Crew)

Josiah has been making crazy videos for years. Of course, most of those videos are of nostril shots and jiggly frames of action figures. As he’s gotten older he’s taken a more measured approach and I see great videos (sans nostril shots) ahead. Recently, I was thrilled when we were given the chance to review the  Online Christian Filmmakers Academy from Family Gravity Media, a division of Families For Christ Ministries, Inc.

The Online Christian Filmmakers Academy is an instructional course intended to help the user  create quality videos without leaving the comfort of his or her home and house slippers.  It is taught by Ken and Zack Lawrence (father and son) who have years of film making experience. We got access to the lessons for 12 months. The course is intended to take a year so I plan on taking full advantage of all of it. 

The course is made up of five learning models:

 Module 1: The Camera – Students are introduced to the DSLR camera, a variety of lenses, shutter speed and more. There are even instructions for a PVC shoulder rig camera support. How fun!

 Module 2:  Cinematography - Discusses types of lighting, using the lighting equipment and framing.

 Module 3:  Sound – Introduces sound equipment such as external microphones and much more. There is also a lesson on what to do when things go wrong or you can’t capture good sound.

Module 4: Pre Production – There is a lot in this module! Screenwriting, assembling the right team…even creating a budget.

 Module 5: Production – Here you learn how to put it all together. It also teaches proper etiquette on the set.

The modules are broken down into video lessons. The lessons are a variety in length. I saw lessons that lasted just a few minutes. Then there were those that lasted just over 20 minutes. The lessons are also checked off as they are viewed. I worried that we wouldn't be able to go back and review anything we've missed, but never fear! It is super easy to go back and view any lessons you wish to review again. Or you can go forward to any lesson that strikes your fancy. I did that while looking through the lessons for the purpose of this review.

There are quizzes to take after the lessons. This is to see how much you’ve learned and how much you might need to back and review before going on to the next module.  

How We Used It

This is the deal. We don’t own a DSLR camera or any kind of camcorder, but it is my intention to purchase one soon. This review couldn’t come at a better time. There is so much information on how to make great videos using a DSLR. We have made plenty of little videos on our little point and shoot camera. I’m excited to see what more Josiah can do with a bigger dog in the game.

I used some screenshot magic to show you just a little bit of what you will find in the course. I do need to tell you that they are great at keeping all the information in the course up to date. In the introduction of the course, Zack is rocking a beard. Ken is great to explain to us that we might see them looking different through the course. 

Here you see Zack (without the  beard) showing us all kinds of lightening equipment. He is very thorough with his explanations and even shares a war story (a few "not what to do's")

Another great aspect of this course is that they really provide you with excellent resource ideas. Below you can see the lesson for writing a screenplay. Who knew there was a specific format to follow? 

 I am very interested in making videos at church and Josiah and I have decided that this will be a good project to undertake. We've talked about filming testimonies and praise reports. Doesn't that sound like fun? 

Here is a special deal just for you from the Lawrence family. I am sharing it with you word for word. 

We are also giving you a $100 off coupon you can share with your readers. This coupon code will give $100 off the regular price of $299. Please note that the coupon code is only valid through November 30th, 2016.  The code is: FALLCREW16.

 This really is a great course. I am really excited to go through it myself! And I know Josiah is excited, as well. Hopefully, we'll see fewer nostril shots! I am looking to see how to make this a High School credit for Josiah. I need to do some more research (if anybody has any thoughts let me know!). 

The beauty of the course is that you don't have to be a student, a teenager, or a homeschooler to use it. Anybody...including 40-something homeschool moms....can use it! 

Check it out! 

You can connect them on Facebook. 

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

Online Christian Filmmakers Academy {Family Gravity Media}
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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

MyFreezEasy (Homeschool Review Crew)

Getting supper on the table can be challenging! Years ago, when I was teaching school, going to college and assisting my husband (who was a youth pastor at the time), “made ahead”meals (like freezer cooking), saved my sanity. Fast forward a bunch of years and would you believe it? Life hasn’t gotten any less crazy. But it is still my goal to have healthy meals on the table. Recently I got to review a membership with MyFreezEasy. The Freezer Meal Plan Membership was about to make life a whole lot easier.

Erin Chase of $5 Dinners developed MyFreeEasy.  The promise is that you can have 10-12 meals in your freezer in about an hour. What I liked immediately about the meal plans is that they are made up of common items that I didn’t have to search high and low for.

With a membership you have access to 8 brand new meal plans each month.  These range from a traditional meal plan to even a gluten-free or clean eats meal plan. You have access to all the meal plans with your membership.

All the membership plans come with a shopping list, instructions and printable labels. There are also instructional videos, as well! Which I think is perfect for the new or curious cook.

As a reviewer, I got the Premium Annual Membership which allowed me to create my own meal plans from a ginormous selection of recipes.

How I Used It and My Thoughts

I browsed a little through the website initially. We eat pretty clean here at my house and I am a big believer of using what you have and buying what’s on sale. It was easy to do all that with MyFreezEasy.

Because of my unpredictable schedule, I also wanted to add a few Slow Cooker meals to add to the mix.

After browsing through the recipes, I simply used the drag and drop feature to create my own meal plan. I had most everything on my shopping list.

Each recipe comes with an ingredient list (as well as preparing the meal) as well as instructions for preparing two meals to go into the freezer. Isn’t that great? You get more bang for your buck.  One of the great things about MyFreezEasy is that I can use the ingredients I found on sale now and enjoy the meal in a month or so.

For example, someone from church gave us several packages of ground beef. I can go to MyFreezEasy menu building and pick out a few recipes that use ground beef. I can spend a bit of time in the kitchen and have meals in my freezer all ready to go.

For my first prep session, I picked out:

Slow-Cooker Butter Chicken
Cornbread Pork Chop Casserole
Chicken Fajita Bake
Lentil Chili
Sesame Beef Lettuce Wraps

Prepping all these dishes took me less than an hour. I am not kidding.

The instructions were clear. And by the end of that hour, I felt like I was queen of the world (or at least my kitchen). I had healthy meals in my freezer for my family.

Now I didn’t get pictures of all the meals I’ve made. My camera is still in a box somewhere and I had to make do with the camera on my phone. But, I did get a meal I pulled out the freezer just this week.

This is the cooked and ready to eat Chicken Fajita Bake. I did exchange fresh yellow bell peppers and onions for the frozen peppers and onions the recipe called for. I needed to use up the bell peppers in my fridge. It would have taken even less time if I had followed the directions!

Doesn’t this look yummy? My picture taking isn’t all that appetizing, but you can see I served it with brown rice and sprinkled some chopped cilantro on the top. My guys also had a dollop of sour cream with theirs.

Tonight I plan on sticking the Lentil Chili in the crockpot to eat after church.

If you are like me and want healthy, easy options for your family….go check MyFreezEasy out! You won’t be disappointed. 

You can connect with MyFreezEasy via the following social media outlets. Don't forget to click on the banner below for more reviews.

Pinterest: Freezer Meal Plan Membership {MyFreezEasy}
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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Prayers for Mindy

We all have those special people in our lives.

Those folks who become like family.

Years ago, when Josiah was just a baby, we took a church in Central Missouri. There I was blessed to become bosom friends with one of my most favorite people on the planet. Gee Gee (as Josiah called her) just has that special way about her. She would come to my house, bringing gifts of bananas (Josiah's favorite). She would send me off for a nap and play with Josiah. Heaven for a mom of a busy baby boy.

Me with Mindy and Jennifer (as well as a lurking teenager in the background)

Gee Gee (who also goes by Jennifer) has an equally precious family...who have also become some of my most favorite people on the planet. During the height of our moving activities, I was devastated to learn that my friend Mindy, Jennifer's daughter, had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer.

Mindy is the homeschooling mom of 4 young kiddos. She has the voice of an angel and has already faced battles in her life that would leave most of us low. She has made the decision to undergo homeopathic and natural remedies to help her body fight this cancer.

Mindy with her sweet family. 

I can tell you that I am encouraged by her every day. She has been so transparent about this battle of her life. She and her family are walking by faith and trusting that God is going to not only provide healing, but the monies necessary to fund her natural treatment.

For those of us who have faced life-threatening situations, we understand the daily battle one goes through to take every thought into captivity. We also understand the new urgency to appreciate life to its fullest despite what is going on around us. We also cherish every Intercessor and word of encouragement that crosses our path.

Mindy is very active on Facebook and I know she would love to have more friends who would be encouraged by her journey.

If you can give financially here are a few ways. This is strait from Mindy's Facebook page.

- If you prefer the entire donation to go to me, you can give (PayPal) using my email address: or
- You're welcome to give through my fundraiser page (they do keep a percentage of your donation) at

The number ONE thing you can do is to keep Mindy and her sweet family in your prayers. Pray for strength and encouragement for Mindy's husband. Pray for Mindy's precious babies...that they don't fear and will continue to grow and thrive during this time. Pray for Mindy's mom, Jennifer and her dad, Glen. They are strong in the faith. You have never met more faithful people. Pray for Mindy's sister, Missy and her husband, George. Missy is Mindy's strongest defender. Pray for Mindy's brother, Matt and his wife, Ashley. Pray for Mindy's niece and nephews. Pray that God will make Himself known in every area of this precious family's life. 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Perfect Reading, Beautiful Handwriting (Homeschool Review Crew)

Does your child have horrendous handwriting? Do you, yourself, struggle with writing beautifully?

Recently, we had the opportunity to review Perfect Reading, Beautiful Handwriting by Everyday Education, LLC. This is an easy program that not only teaches reading, but handwriting, as well.

We received a downloadable version of the book. It contains 60 lessons and is phonics based.  Now the handwriting portion of the book teaches Italic handwriting. Josiah is dysgraphic and I have been reading how Italic handwriting is actualy easier for those with dysgraphia to master.  

At the front of the book, we are given a nice set of suggested schedules, tips and hints for posture and pen hold. We are also given a brief history of italic handwriting.

The beauty of this book is that the owner of Everyday Education, Janice Campbell, used the book for her first son when he was learning how to write. When it was time for her second son to learn how to write, she was disappointed to find the book was out of print.  She was later able to bring the book back to print. Much to our benefit!

Because this book is a “learning to read” book, as well, there are several chapters of the book that teach phonics.  I fully plan on going back and using some of these chapters for review. Josiah is dyslexic and because the book uses handwriting to teach phonics, I think it will help him tremendously.

The handwriting instruction begins in Chapter 6. The students are first instructed to write straight, as you can see below.

Gradually, we start to slant. There are quite a few exercises and even a few blank pages that feature lines that help just with writing in a slant.

There is also a section that helps students write smaller. I know that with dysgraphia it is often hard for writers to write their letters uniformly.

The lessons progress and pretty soon this is what we are copying.

Isn’t that beautiful? I’ve been inspired to work on the course myself. I used to do calligraphy when I was a lot younger and I think this would be a fun mother/son project.  As for Josiah, he likes that the lessons aren't super long and that this style of handwriting doesn't seem to hurt his hand as much. 

Just a little note about Everyday Education. You can find all kinds of great resources there. I have particularly enjoyed reading through Janice's blog. Her "How to Raise a Boy" series was right on. 

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

Beautiful Handwriting, Literature and Poetry {Everyday Education, LLC}

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