Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Holiday Fudge

Holiday Fudge

Did you ever have a recipe that was so good that you were able to brag about it?! Well, this fudge recipe is THAT GOOD! I got this recipe about 19 years ago or so from the mother of a good friend. She would give my family a small tin of it every year. When I asked for the recipe, she graciously gave it to me. Since getting the recipe, I have shared it with many friends. When I give out a recipe that was shared, I try to link it to the person who gave me it…so this was Fudge from the Lord’s. A friend interpreted that as Fudge from the Lord…if that was the case, I am convinced that it would be calorie free…
One Year, I brought this to co-op to bless the moms there that enrich my life. After co-op, many of the moms reported having super powers…the ability to finish all the laundry in one day, the ability to clean the entire house, the ability to check off every box on your to-do list, etc. This might not sound like much, but it was AFTER co-op! (If you have ever participated in a homeschool co-op, you understand that this is really something.) After detecting this cool side effect, this fudge has a new name among these moms…Magic Fudge.
The absolute beauty of this recipe is the amazing creaminess in texture. Try it! I hope you will agree that it is the best!
                                            (enough for a double batch of fudge!)
Here is what you need:
• 3 cups sugar
• 12 oz. can evaporated milk
• 18 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
• 1 lb. butter, plus more to grease pot/molds
• 7 oz. jar marshmallow cream
• 2 tsp. vanilla
• Molds: Foil mini pie tins or foil muffin tins work best , but you can use a 9 x 13” pan
Now it’s time to get started:
Butter the sides of a heavy dutch oven or large pot.
Grease your container with butter. I prefer to use foil pans – it makes a good way to give it away and it is easy to get the finished fudge out. You can use a regular 9x13 pan.  I have  done that as well.  Recently, I have used those foil muffin liners and those worked beautifully without greasing them (which, with butter often near $5 a pound, is a good thing!)
                               (It helps to get all ingredients ready before you begin!)
Cut the butter into pieces and place into a large bowl with the chocolate chips and marshmallow cream. Set aside.
Put the sugar, evaporated milk, and 1/2 tsp. salt into the buttered pot. Mix and bring to a gentle boil over medium low heat. Stir constantly (this is the key to the creaminess). If you do not keep stirring, the sugar may crystallize.

Still stirring, boil gently for 8-10 minutes. I know that this will feel like 9 years, but it really is important.
Pour the hot sugar mixture into the bowl that you set aside earlier.
Stir gently to mix.
We used an immersion blender for this as I do not have a hand mixer anymore. A hand mixer would be a much better way of mixing this. The fudge will begin to thicken. Add vanilla.
Pour into buttered mold(s). Top with one pecan half if desired. It is normal for some of the butter from the molds to sit on the top of the fudge. I have not found it to affect the taste. If this bothers you, I would use the foil muffin cups without the butter.

Refrigerate overnight.
NOTE: Makes about 7-8 small pie tins or about 24 muffin cup sized portions. This can be frozen if you make it ahead. I poured my double batch into an 11x17 pan and another pan, probably about 10x10 or so.
Originally Posted at Home and School Mosaics

Sunday, November 27, 2016

NIV Holy Bible For Girls, Journal Edition

NIV Holy Bible for Girls, Journal Edition
Zondervan Publishing
Price: $29.99
Ages: 12 and up

From the Website:
The NIV Holy Bible for Girls, Journal Edition is the prefect way to apply Scripture to your everyday life.  Designed with the thoughtful writer in mind, a whimsical cover and journaling lines inspire reflection in God's Word.  This Bible contains the full text of the bestselling New International Version (NIV) translation.

Features include:
     * Lines on each page for journaling and notes
     *Thick paper perfect for any writing utensil
     * A presentation page for gift giving
     * A "How to Use This Bible" page to get started on the right foot
     * Ribbon Marker
     * The complete text of the bestselling New International Version (NIV)

What I thought...
First, I am not sure what I was expecting, but this was a surprise for me...I sort of thought there would be space to write your own notes and doodles, but I thought there might be a few things you could color.  NOPE...there are just lines on all of the margins.  The lines are grey, so they don't POP out at can definitely see them, but it is not the focus.  The margins are NICE AND WIDE!  I LOVE this feature.  From the edge of the text to the edge of the page, there is potentially 2 1/8 inches of usable space.  The lines are about 1 5/8 inches wide.  Some books have more potentially usable space because of the layout of the passage...say Psalms, for instance.  In one place, there is about 3 1/2 inches of space between the edge of the text and the page.  This is a HUGE bonus if you like writing in your Bible.  I have notes crammed in all over the place in my Bible.

The website says that the pages are thicker, perfect for any writing utensil.  I would test this before I went crazy with this.  They do feel SLIGHTLY thicker than a normal page, but not by much. I tested it with a Pilot Precise Rolling ball pen and can see some from the back...I don't think it bled through the page, but you can definitely see shadowing.

There is a page in the front, giving a few journaling prompts to help you get started, a presentation page and a table of weights and measures.  The cover is beautiful with some foil detailing...elegant, but not over the top girly!  There is an elastic band to keep all your things from falling out.  There is not a concordance in here.  I personally find a concordance so helpful, even if it is small.  That is the one thing I would change about this Bible.

Overall, I am very happy with what this Bible offers!  This one is going to my daughter...Shhh...don't tell!

* I received this product in exchange for a frank and honest review.  All opinions are my own.  Your results and/or opinions may vary.

NIV Wonders of Creation Bible

Wonders of Creation Bible
Zondervan Publishing
Price: $24.99
Ages: About 7 and up

From the back of the Bible:
With detailed black and white illustrations of amazing animals, landscapes and other wonders of creation, this Bible features over 50 ready-to-color pages alongside the full text of the New International Version (NIV) translation

Features Include:
     *Lay-flat binding made for the perfect coloring experience
     *Over 50 pages of black and white illustrations ready to be colored
     *Key verses called out of each coloring page
     * Full text of the bestselling New International Version translation
     *Presentation page for gift giving
     * Ribbon marker

So, what I thought about the Wonders of Creation Bible
First, I am much happier that this is an NIV edition.  I am not a fan of the NIrV translation...and while the NIV can be controversial, it is the translation that I have found the most helpful for my children's needs.
Then, the next thing I noticed was the colorful cover.  This Bible grabs your attention with the cover.

There are a LOT of coloring pages in this Bible.  They are sprinkled in sets of about 4 every so many pages throughout the text of the Bible.  Each picture has a verse on it, but the verses do not line up with where the picture is in relation to the text.  In one chunk, you might have one verse from Philippians and another from Genesis...and that set might be placed in 1 Samuel.  The binding of the Bible does seem to lie flat, no matter where you are in the text.  I really appreciate this feature, not just for coloring or writing in the Bible, but just in case you are juggling a Bible, sermon outline or Bible Study paper and don't have a table to lay it on.  The coloring pages, on the other hand, might stick up at first and you may need to smooth them down a little by running your hand across the inside of the spine.

The coloring pages appear to be pretty intricate, so it is difficult to attach an age to this.  I selected 7, because I think it would appeal to that age, but they might become frustrated with the detailing.  I know that I am not able to color on pages like this for long periods of time myself, and find I need to come back to a page another time.  I think that middle school students would enjoy the coloring, but might find it a little embarrassing to carry this Bible in a public setting if their friends give them grief about it...that should not be a marker for what we do, but I just thought I would mention it.  Again, it was hard to put an age on this.

The text of the Bible is a good size for younger eyes...even my older eyes could read without much trouble.  The margins are VERY NARROW it does not appear there is much room to write in it.  I am not sure how much those who would use this actually write in a Bible, so I don't think this is really much of a problem.

There is a table of weights and measures in the back, but NO CONCORDANCE or DICTIONARY.  I think these features would greatly add to this Bible.  I use the small concordance in the back of my Bible ALL THE TIME!
The text of the Bible has paper of the normal weight of regular Bible pages, the coloring pages are slightly thicker.   This does cause you to turn to passages in chunks as the coloring pages are placed.  The illustrations are on both sides of the paper, with the middle pages being a two page spread.

Overall, I think this would be a good Bible for a girl (because of the colors/design on the cover) who loves to color!

* I received this product in exchange for a frank and honest review.  All opinions are my own.  Your results and/or opinions may vary.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Garden of Eden Coloring Book

Garden of Eden
Beautiful Bible Scenes to Color and Inspire
Zondervan Publishing
Illustrated by Paulo Ney Debs
Cost: $12.99
Ages: 8 and up

Coloring has been proven to be a stress relieving activity for so many, it's no wonder that coloring books abound in the stores.  Many enthusiastic artists relish the feeling of cracking open a new box of crayons or picking up a box or tin of colored pencils.  If that describes you, you might really enjoy this book.

Garden of Eden: Beautiful Bible Scenes to Color and Inspire is a collection of  80 drawings that give one artist's idea of what this classic Bible account would look like.  Beginning at Genesis 1:1 and going through to Genesis 3, there is a wide variation of drawings to color for all ages.  Some of the drawings are simple and realistic, others are more detailed and artistic.  Most of the pages include a Scripture reference.

 Illustrations are on both sides of the page and the pages are about 10"x 10".  While 10" x !0" is not a traditional frame size, with a mat, you could make a 12x12" frame work if you wanted to frame...BUT, the pictures are on both sides AND SOME LAYOUTS are two page this might be difficult if you enjoy framing pages.

Also, the paper is a nice thickness...but because the drawings are on both sides, bleeding might occur if you are using an art medium that is more wet...say markers.  You should not have any troubles if you plan on using crayons or pencils.

Another thing that was a little bit of an issue for me was the binding...being a lefty, the binding felt a little chunky and the book didn't stay open unless I cracked the binding a little by running my hand over the inside of the spine a little.  Coloring close to the binding could be a little bit of an issue as well.

* I received this above mentioned product is exchange for a frank and honest review.  All opinions are my own.  Your results and/or opinions may vary.

Miracle in Music City

Faith Girlz: Glimmer Girls Series
 Miracle in Music City
Written by Natalie Grant
Illustrated by Cathi Mingus
ZonderKidz Publishing
Ages: about 7-12
Cost: $8.99

Miracle in Music City is Natalie Grant's third book in the Glimmer Girls series, and my favorite so far.  The Glimmer girls seem to stumble upon a mystery of some sort each time we join them on their adventures.
This time, the story takes place in Music City and centers upon the historic Grand Ole Opry.  The Glimmer family is heading up a benefit to raise money for a local homeless shelter.  Mr. and Mrs. Glimmer bring their children, Maddie, Mia and Lulu, in to show them they they are not too young to give back to their community.  Gloria Glimmer is a singer who travels around the world. The girls often get to accompany their parents and experience things other children never get the opportunity to do.  Miracle in Music City brings up the issue of homelessness in a way that makes if personal for these young girls.
The Glimmer Girls have a motto: "Glimmer girls sparkle and shine...but most of all, they are kind."  That message of kindness is really a theme in this book and I love the way that so many difficult issues are dealt with in the book.  I won't give any spoilers, but if you have a tween girl...I think they will enjoy this book. Probably my favorite message in this book has to do with having the right heart attitude for all we do in life.
The illustrations are simple and sweet, but there are not a lot, so it doesn't detract from the story line.  This could be a pro or con, depending on your preference.

* I received a copy of the above mentioned product to help facilitate the writing of a frank and honest review.  All opinions are my own.  Your results and/or opinions may vary.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Blessings & Gratitude

Blessings & Gratitude

During November in the United States, we tend to be more intentional about being thankful. We KNOW it is something we should all do more often, but in the busyness of life, what is urgent is what often gets our attention. I want to challenge you to look for ways to be grateful to God daily, rather than at one time of the year.
Here are four ways you can begin to implement gratitude into your routine.
Gratitude: the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

In Song:

Sing Praises to the Lord, thankful for His loving watch care over you. Matt Redmond’s song, “10,000 Reasons” is a great example of this as it encourages the listeners to name God’s faithfulness in praise each and every day of their lives and recall the many reasons to keep recounting His praises forever.
“You’re rich in love, and You’re slow to anger
Your name is great, and Your heart is kind
For all Your goodness I will keep on singing
Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find…”

In Word:

There is a popular book out (actually it has been out for a while now) called One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp, that challenges us to “Live Life Fully Right Where You Are.” In this book, we discover that as we “express gratitude to God for what we have, we find that we already have the life that we have always wanted.” I haven't read this book, but I know it is pretty popular with many.  A couple of years ago, I took Ann’s Joy Dare and chronicled 3 gifts for each day for one year. Some of those things were VERY EASY to jot down. Some needed more thoughtful reflection, but some came with many tears as it was a season of hard things. Through that exercise though, I found peace, I found a deeper relationship with God as I recounted His faithfulness to me, I found great joy and a stronger faith as those became memorial stones for me.

In Deed:

Do something kind for someone or fill a need just because of what God has done for you.   Prepare a meal, send a card, make a phone call, buy a gift, or help with a chore. There are so many ways this could be done…think about what you do well or pay attention for what is needed and then bless another in Jesus’ name and for His sake. Sometimes, just knowing someone cares or is thinking about us helps us in ways we might never really understand. I try to keep stocked up on Freezer Meals, just so I have something prepared if a need arises. Taco Soup is one recipe that is easy to get into the freezer and most people have really enjoyed it

In Prayer:

My prayers can get dry, repetitive and all about me. A tool I use from time to time is the acronym ACTS to help me get my eyes off of myself and focused on worshipping God. You can use this method to pray using Scripture as your starting point or you can just use it as you step through your prayer time. Another method is to use your fingers to step you through your prayer. I have seen a few of these through the years, but I liked this one from Bob Young.
  • Thumb: pray for those closest to you
  • Pointing finger: pray for those who guide us: teachers, doctors, counselors, mentors
  • Middle finger (tallest one): pray for those who lead us: government, civic, and business leaders, police and firefighters
  • Ring finger (weakest one): pray for those who are weak: the poor, sick, disabled, infants, homeless, the powerless, the persecuted
  • Pinkie (the smallest, the least): Pray for myself
This year, let us be a people of God, filled with gratitude; and when people ask why we overflow with such joy, we have the opportunity to share with them the wonder of our Glorious God!

Originally Posted at Home and School Mosaics

Monday, October 3, 2016

This Beautiful Life

This Beautiful Life

One of my dear friends is just so very lovely that I want to be her when I grow up! She makes her home so warm and inviting, is an amazing hostess, she’s creative, plays the harp, and is just plain fun! My dear friend has written a book that is just so amazing that I wanted to tell you about it! It is so lovely to look at and is so useful in helping me keep my priorities in place. Let me just walk you through it.
The book is called This Beautiful Life: A Priorities Journal for the Christian Woman. It is divided into five main sections: Vision, Nurture, Focus, Growth, and Celebrate. Chloe takes you from the big picture of what you want your life to look like, has you break that into things you want to intentionally work on, and then has you document the growth steps taken each month. I knew this was a FANTASTIC tool for me as I wanted certain things to be areas that I purposed to continually work on throughout the year. It is so easy to set goals and then never revisit them. This tool has me frequently revisiting the things that are important to me. I will give some brief glimpses into this marvelous book and hope that it is something that you might find useful as well.
So we begin with a prayer of dedication. You might be able to sit down and know exactly what you want to say or you may prayerfully consider it for a few days or even weeks. I got one of these books in February and just got around to writing mine down in early April. While this is a vital step, I felt like I hit the ground running with a bit of a late start so I dug right in to the places that were easier for me and really tried to prayerfully consider what I wanted to say here.
In the Vision section, there are many sweet tidbits, but the meat and potatoes of it for me is The Big Five page. This is where you list the five priorities that are those areas you want to focus on. Why five you ask? Chloe has an amazing post on this hereI had already chosen my five areas, but this clarity helped me solidify that these were the right five for me for this year. Who knows…this list could change or it could remain very much the same from year to year. Your list will be as unique as you are, but to give you an idea of what this could look like, my five are Faith, Family, Friends, Field (work, profession, employment related) and Fun (the creative things I often do not make time for or those things that bring joy). Once I had begun, I liked the fact that all of my five began with the same letter. There are two more topics that are on the outskirts here…Fitness and Finances. I am leaving them there, because these are the things that are MOST important to me at this time.
I am going to skip over the Nurture section (not because it is lacking, but I want you to discover some of the treasures of this book yourself) and move to the Focus section. This is the area to take each one of your five priorities and note your desire, what it looks like at its best, what it looks like right now and some steps you can take to make the reality become the desired outcome. This section is a work in progress for me as I am taking the time to think, pray, and dream about what this would look like for me.
Growth is next and this is where you can write down the successes you have had in each area each month. This is the part where talk becomes the walk. Some of the things I have written here are the smallest of baby steps, sometimes nothing has been gained, but I am being very focused day by day as I think on these things and stepping closer to what I want these things to look like.
There are so many more parts to this wonderful little book, but I do want there to be some sweet surprises for you if you choose to get one of these for yourself (by the way, I am not getting any compensation for these comments…I love this book and want to share it because I find it helpful personally). One thing that makes this book so lovely is that Chloe has done all the sweet artwork and made it so beautiful that you really want to keep working in it. I did not want to write in it in the beginning, but got over that fairly quickly. I often throw this in my purse or in my bag as I am out and just jot down a couple of things as they come to mind. I do have more to get done in this, but I am ok with that too. I just want to add one quick thing – this HAS to be a walk of grace for me, not a legalistic box of do’s and don’t’s. There are enough places for me to see where I fall short. This has to be a safe place where I am stretching for growth, but can back up if it is too much at this time.
I have really loved this little journal. A beautiful place where I can keep my First Things, FIRST! What would your BIG FIVE be?

This was originally posted at Home and School Mosaics

Monday, September 12, 2016

Seasons of Busyness

Seasons of Busyness

This past year was the YEAR OF WAY TOO BUSY! I started this school year with three part time jobs and two extra children (not to mention Orchestra, Band & Choir, Speech Club, Co-op, Bible Study and AWANA).   I woke up tired and went to bed even more tired. We were getting hardly ANY school work done; and I knew I could not keep up this pace for too long, but wasn’t sure what would have to give. It is so easy to say yes to everything before we have counted the cost. If you find yourself on this same end of crazy, I hope you are looking for ways to get out of some of your commitments or to slow down, but here are some tips to get through it.
— Organization is KEY: Developing a plan is essential to keeping your head on your shoulders during a busy season.   This will look different for different families, but calendars, meal planning, budgets, cleaning schedules and lesson plans can be included in this category. The more time I spent in this category, the better things went for me. ESPECIALLY with meal planning. If dinner is taken care of, ALL IS WELL!   Have you heard about the Bullet Journal method? This is a system that I am just beginning to implement. I am a pen and paper girl trapped in a digital world. I LOVE this system. I’ll let you know how it goes.

–Focus is VITAL: Keeping the important things in their proper place is so very important. We get trapped in putting out the fires of the urgent while the important slips by. Why answer the phone in the middle of a conversation with your teenager? That phone ringing is grabbing our attention away from a conversation that could turn into something that could never be recreated. I have a precious friend who has created a beautiful little book to help us keep these first things FIRST…I will talk more about it next month, but it is a sweet little book that I highly recommend. You can find This Beautiful Life here. This wonderful tool helps me keep focused on those things I want to intentionally keep front and center.
–Simplifying Life is ESSENTIAL: This is not the time to make things more difficult than they are. When I was at the busiest in this season, I was making things as easy as possible. Easy meals, easy cleaning schedule, easy lesson plans (If you could really call them that…school consisted of all the extra things. Co-op, Band, Choir, Speech, Home Ec). This was not the time to introduce Latin, sew everyone’s clothing and cook gourmet, multi-course meals. The crock pot was my best friend, with freezer meals a close second.This was one of my favorite meals in this season.
–Teamwork is IMPERATIVE: I cannot stress enough what a blessing my family has been to me in this season of busyness. They have, of course, ALWAYS been a blessing, but when the pressure is applied, you find out the stuff you are all made of. My family really came together and were exceedingly helpful doing chores, meal prep, holding babies, and just really taking care of all the things that needed getting done. One of our favorite methods for getting things accomplished is the Job Jar. Many hands make light work!
–Clearing the Calendar is CRUCIAL: I know I cannot keep up this pace forever, and have already taken steps to slow things down a bit. I have quit one job, and the hours on another job have cut back significantly. We are evaluating our out-of-the-house activities to see if there are any that do not make the cut for next year. Some of these decisions may be very difficult to make, but insanity is ugly and I am closer to it than I want to admit. I see the light at the end of the tunnel though as some things are coming to an end. School books have been dusted off and are being cracked open and the lesson plans are singing with completed work being checked off. Now that we have a driver in the house, I am able to have that child run errands and be the taxi a little more, so that I can be home attending to things only I can do. I know that you cannot get rid of everything and you may need to continue in a season of busyness longer than I have done so far, this too, will look different for each family. Prayerfully consider the things that remain on the calendar and see if they align with the goals you have for your family. So many things look good, are beneficial, but do not accomplish what you desire.
–Taking Care of You is REQUIRED: Seasons of busyness are sometimes unavoidable. If you find yourself in one, try to make sure you are taking care of yourself. Get plenty of sleep, eat as healthy as possible, try to exercise at least a little, do something to pour into yourself. Living off energy drinks and four hours of sleep a night will not be a sustainable lifestyle for very long. You need true energy and stamina to get through this season.
Hopefully, all these tips will help you get through your season of busyness too!

(*This was written ALMOST 2 years ago and it is not at all lost on me that I could say the very same thing past school year as this year that I was writing about!  I am planning on taking my own advice this year!  Keep me to it, OK?)

Originally Posted at Home and School Mosaics

Monday, August 1, 2016

It's That Time of Year...Already

It’s That Time of Year…Already

Even though we try to continue schooling throughout the summer, at least to some extent, Fall is the great kick-off for us for a new school year. New books, lesson plans and fresh optimism flow as the box of crayons are opened for the first time, we can actually FIND several pairs of scissors and pencils are sharpened in anticipation of the BIG DAY. As many of us are gearing up, planning, buying curriculum and trying to have a clue about what on earth we are going to do, let me share some of the things I am doing right now to get ready for the big day!

A good lesson plan book is an invaluable resource. My personal favorite right now is The Ultimate Homeschool Planner by Debra Bell. There are many good helps in the beginning of this planner that make it THE ONE for me. Yearly, Monthly, and Weekly planning sessions keep me focused and remind me of our priorities for our school and for each child. I will also try, once again, to develop that important life skill of time management with my older children using student planners.

My other favorite planning tool is My Home School Grades.This helps me keep my grades in one place that I can access at any time and will create, when I am ready, a professional transcript for my child’s academic and extracurricular achievements. Created by a homeschool Dad and a homeschool grad, this is an extremely user friendly tool. One thing I LOVE about My Home School Grades is their FANTASTIC customer service.  I really cannot say enough about this WONDERFUL resource!  It really is AWESOME!
One thing MOST homeschoolers LOVE are BOOKS! So as the summer winds down, make time to go through your bookshelves and see what you already have, before contemplating what you need. Perhaps there is a treasure awaiting you in there somewhere. If not, what can you clear away before adding more into our stores of books? Maybe there is something you can sell, consign, or give away to a friend. Not only will this be a blessing for you, either in earning you some school money or in being a blessing to someone, but this will make room for more BOOKS! Things you will actually use.
After you go through the books, go through your supplies to see what you need for the upcoming year. I LOVE to use plastic shoebox size containers to gather like things together. This helps all of us locate what we want quickly, provides a consistent place to return supplies to AND helps you to see fairly quickly what you need or will need soon. Stocking up on supplies in the summer is smart because of the rock bottom prices most stores offer at this time.
Don’t forget all those OTHER things that pop up as September approaches. Sports, Weekly commitments like AWANA , Music lessons, or Co-op, and work schedules all play a HUGE factor in both your “school” time AND your budgeting needs. Look for good deals on sports equipment and band instruments, buy a few things here and there now, set aside money you will need for fees, dues, and supplies you will need for these extras. Often, we need several hundred dollars for these activities all at once and September (or August) hits us with a whammy. You KNOW it’s coming…prepare for it now.
One Last Thing:
Take a moment and write down your hopes and dreams for this year and seal it into an envelope and slip it into the back of your planner or tape it to June’s calendar page. Really think of what you hope to accomplish…academically, relationally, spiritually, physically, etc. Try to be as detailed as you can. It is my prayer that when you open these at the end of your school year, that you will be encouraged and energized as you recount your days in view of your hopes and dreams. In the trenches, we can often lose sight of the goal and focus on the things that were not done, books not finished and all the defeats. Remember and celebrate the victories. These are usually NOT measureable in a standardized test or in the grade books, they are measured in your child’s heart.
Originally Posted at Home and School Mosaics

Monday, July 11, 2016

Just Whistle While You Work

Just Whistle While You Work

Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho…it’s off to work we go…
We do chores a little differently in our home…It has worked very well for us and I thought I would share some of the things we do with you this month. We have never paid for chores (well, I shouldn’t say NEVER, but we don’t USUALLY pay for chores). We are all part of a family, each one contributing to the mess and each one contributing to the upkeep. I know there are many different views on this, but we have treated house work with a teamwork mentality. After all, many hands make light work! We do not do all of these every day or week…we shift everything around from time to time to keep things fresh and interesting. The first two ideas I mention are our main ways of handling messes though.
Speed Cleaning – Everyday (well, it should be everyday…) we have three speed cleaning periods. We dedicate 20 minutes around breakfast time, around lunch time and close to Daddy coming home time to work together to clean up the major messes. This is ALL hands on deck time as everyone takes on a particular area and puts it back into shape. This is also time to unload/load the dishwasher and washer/dryer. We may have to do that more often than three times a day, but that keeps things moving when we get caught up in our daily duties. The timer is set and we race around tidying up. This is NOT a time for deep cleaning, this is “get things looking ship shape quickly” time.

For those heavy spring cleaning times of life where the mess is more overwhelming than you can deal with, we do a job jar. Everything gets cleared off the calendar and all the jobs go onto individual slips of paper into a container to draw from. Each of us, one at a time pulls a job out of the jar. We set the timer for 20 minutes and everyone works together on that one particular job. So if we pull out Living Room, we are all working to put that space back into order…including dusting, cleaning windows, etc. If the job is complete when the timer goes off, we throw the paper away. If not, we put it back into the jar. I have found that we can all focus and work well together this way, because the jobs change frequently and we also throw in some surprises…read for 20 minutes, watch TV for 30 minutes, snack time, 20 minute break and things like that. This has helped us IMMENSELY for the big cleaning days.
Room a day is another way we get everything done…well it is NEVER DONE, but you know what I mean. Using this technique, we schedule a particular room on a day and everyone works together cleaning that room. So, this is when bedding gets washed, rooms get vacuumed, etc. When we have worked through all of the rooms, we just start over again. When we use this technique, we schedule about 2 rooms a week (I put them into my Outlook Calendar so reminders pop up on the day of!). Some rooms, like bathrooms need to be cleaned more often, other rooms, once a month is good for me. Some spaces, like the kitchen, are cleaned up regularly, but don’t get deep cleans done often and this is a good way for those things to get done. When we use this method, we do not set the timer, but work together until the job is complete. It does not take very long when you work together like this.

You can also find household planners that schedule in duties for you and just follow their recommendations. I have used this method from time to time, but for it to be truly effective, you need to actually LOOK at the planner. I have enjoyed the planner that Susan Heid created at the Confident Mom. She breaks down weekly tasks into bite sized daily chunks and includes things I don’t think of, like wipe out microwave, wipe down all appliance doors, disinfect trash cans. I really do love this planner for keeping on task for my housework!
Ok, the last method I use does involve money…this is the MOM IS GOING TO PANIC and I don’t care how much it costs me, this house better be clean today method. This is only pulled out RARELY, but motivates because of the bribery element everyone wants to bless mom while she is freaking out. This is usually saved for the days we have Bible Study at the home or company for dinner, or something like that. I pay for these instances, because my children are giving me a gift and helping out in instances where I am caught off guard and super stressed out.
Well, that is pretty much how we handle chores around our home. While what we do really works well for us, I want to encourage you to find the groove that works for your family. Each family has different circumstances, needs and giftings that make certain methods work well for your need
Originally Posted at Home and School Mosaics

Monday, June 27, 2016

Swimming With Faith

Swimming With Faith: The Missy Franklin Story
Written by Natalie Davis Miller
Zondervan Publishing
Cost: $6.99
Ages: 10-14 ish; Swimmers of all ages

From the Zondervan Website:
Missy Franklin is one of the most talented swimmers in the world.  She is a four-time Olympic gold medalist and currently holds the world record in the 200-meter backstroke and American records in bother the 100-meter and 200- meter backstroke.  She was Swimming World's World Swimmer of the Year and the American Swimmer of the Year in 2012.  This story tells of her rise in fame and humbleness  in the sport.

Swimming with Faith takes a look into the life of Missy Franklin, mostly focusing on her high school years.  I have to say, we have not had television for about 10 years and I really did not know anything about Missy and what she had been through.  It was an interesting look into the life of a girl with a passion for swimming and goals she was reaching for and convictions to do what she felt was the right thing.  She sounds like an amazing young woman with a big faith in our great God.  I love that she is presented as someone younger people can look up to as an example...I would LOVE to my daughter to read this book.

Right now, as we speak, Missy is competing in Olympic Trials to see if she will have a spot on the 2016 U.S. Olympic Swim this is unbelievable timing!

So, I did really enjoy the information in this book.  The hard part for me was the writing style.  It read a little more like a newspaper (or something) than a book for me.  There were SO MANY citings in the book that disrupted the flow of the text for me.  This might be the way books are written these days, but I am more used to just having the citings in the back of the book.  This could be a personal thing for me...

Anyway, a cool feature in the back of the book is a swim dictionary to explain what all those swimming terms mean. 13 pages of terms help readers unfamiliar with the terminology keep on reading.

I think this is a fantastic book for young people to read!

* I received this book in exchange for a frank and honest review.  All opinions are my own.  Your results and opinions may vary.

NIrV Minecrafters Bible

NIrV Minecrafters Bible
Zondervan Publishing
Cost: $24.99
Ages: 8-12 ish

My initial thoughts...Minecraft...are you kidding me?  I cannot believe that I get the opportunity to review this item...My boy was SO EXCITED!  I am not personally a HUGE Minecraft fan, but my boy is...and it is pretty cool to combine the Word of God with something he finds fun!

So what this is:
Complete text of the NIrV...Genesis to Revelation

24 color tip-in pages featuring full color illustrations in the style of the wildly popular virtual world building game.

Featured stories such as Creation and great builds of the Bible

So, my you know...My boy LOVES IT!!!  We have some different standards to measure by though!

So, the text is NIrV, which I have said before is not at all my favorite.  I would prefer a standard NIV to this...2 pages at the very front of this Bible explain why NIrV...I have read this several times...and I get what they are saying...Not a fan though.  I will leave that there and let you decide for yourself on that.

Also, the text is just essentially a standard Bible...No commentary, no intros to the books of the Bible...Just the plain text.  The words of Christ are NOT in red...just in case you are wondering.

What makes this Bible unique are the 24 color pages.  These pages are full color in the style of that particular game (this Bible is not endorsed, sponsored, authorized or in any way, shape or form affiliated with that particular game)...and many of the pages have a building theme.  Some just have aspects you might find in that particular planting, stones, or weapons.  A few just show the picture in the style of that particular game.  It is a little weird seeing Jesus in the shape of that his name Steve?  I am really not in the know here...this the the BIG draw for fans of that particular game.

I think I am neutral towards this Bible...I don't love it, but I don't hate it either.  It is an acceptable Bible.  My boy LOVES this Bible.  I think he just looks at the pictures though...and those, no matter how much fun they might be, are not inspired.  So, there you have it!

* I received these items in exchange for a frank and honest review.  All opinions are my own.  Your result and opinions may vary.

God Bless...Land That I Love Books

God Bless America
God Bless Texas
God Bless Florida
Illustrated by Peter Francis
Published by Zonderkidz
Cost $ 9.99
Ages: All

Today, I bring to you three books from the Land That I Love series.  I will take these one at a you can get up close with these cute board books!

First stop...God Bless Texas!  Texas--Larger than life!  As we come to Texas in this book, we get to take a look at landmarks, Like Guadalupe Peak, the Alamo, and the Capitol.  I won't give every detail, just a small taste!  Children will follow the sweet bear Henry as he travels throughout the state to see the fun adventures he will have.  The text has a Rhythmic cadence that children LOVE and the books are a good length to keep attention for the youngers that these are mostly designed is a board book after all!
Children get to learn little snippets about Texas through the text of the book...For instance, on the Alamo page, children will learn that the Texans fought Mexico for thirteen straight days for freedom.
At the end of the book, we see Henry on his knees praying, thanking God for the things he saw.  Very, Very CUTE!
The illustrations in this book are colorful and sweet!

Ok, our second stop today is Florida!  In God Bless Florida, we take little peeks into Tallahassee (capitol), Daytona, and the Space Center.  This book follows the same pattern as the one above, just new sights to see.

In the last book today, we get to take the speed tour of the United States.  In God Bless America, some of the sights we get to see in this book are Mount Rushmore, the Statue of Liberty, and National Mall.  Two of the sights in this book were in the other two books...I would have liked to see something else brought in...but there you have it.  Once again, this book follows the pattern of the one above!

Speaking of that, essentially, the first four pages and the last four are pretty much the same, with the names changed to protect the innocent...oh, sorry...the names changed for this book.  It is annoying to me to see that as I look at it with a reviewers eyes, but some children really do like that!

If you are travelling to any of these places, it could be fun to add pictures, receipts, etc to the books as a memory book of sorts (I Love altered books!).  Or add postcards of other places you went to in the state or country.   This is why I gave it the ALL age range...the text is really written to younger children.

I think for the most part, your family will LOVE these books...I do have one caution each one, Henry buys souvenirs...Now, I am not sure how your family feels about souvenirs, but our family does not buy them for the most part.  They are often expensive and not worth the asking price.  Also, when you have several children, you may have to come up with a lot of extra dollars in your budget for souvenirs... And just do not even get me started on all the stuff they already have without souvenirs added in.  This may or may not impact your child.  Again, I am looking at all three books together and it gives me the impression that this is normal and what we do when we travel.

*I received these items in exchange for a frank and honest review.  All opinions are my own.  Your results and opinions may vary

Monday, June 6, 2016

Grads, Dad, Brides and Birthdays

Grads, Dad, Brides and Birthdays

Spring ushers in a season of gift giving opportunities as graduation announcements, wedding and birthday party invitations fill your mailbox.  Giving gifts is not about how much money we spend, but in celebrating someone special in our life.  Thanks to the internet, fresh ideas abound and ways to get creative on a budget  are at your fingertips.  I will warn you though…giving gifts is my love language and I am SURE I go way overboard on this…I just can’t help myself, but I am learning to cut back a little.
Graduation gifts are always a challenge for me.  You often see people suggesting books, a watch or loads of cash.  Cash is ALWAYS a gift that is appreciated!  Maybe you can give it in a creative way.  Search Pinterest for “Graduation Gift Ideas”   to see some of those creative ideas.    A gift card to Target or another store of your choice is ALWAYS helpful.   Creating theme kits might be fun too – laundry soap and quarters, or a basket full of cleaning supplies, midnight munchies or bathroom supplies are very useful at this point in a graduate’s life.
Birthday Parties are the next hurdle to get over. Figuring out which Lego set a child DOES NOT have, what THING is THE THING this year and finally giving up and getting a gift card or giving cash.  Some ideas I am kicking around are movie tickets (Thank you, Costco), zoo, aquarium or museum tickets.   I find that my children do not need more STUFF, and I am trying to think of things we can do to create memories for them instead.  I think that sometimes we get all worked up if we give cash.  My children LOVE to get cash as a gift, because they do not often get money for things. I would not write that off completely, but maybe scale back on the amount you give.  I like to give dollars equal to their age.  I think it makes the gift a little more memorable.

Weddings are made a little easier for us with registry lists.  Often, we can find a gift on a registry within our price range and call it good.  One special gift I have created a couple of times now is a homemade cookbook.  This works beautifully if you have known the bride or groom for a long time.  Recently, I created a cookbook for a dear friend from a Smash Book and scrapbooking supplies on hand.  I did this start to finish in one evening, so it is completely possible, I just don’t really recommend it!  Currently, I have been scouring Craigslist for a used Kitchen aid Mixer  at a FANTASTIC price for a precious friend who is getting married soon.  My Kitchen aid is one of the best gifts I have ever received and has lasted more than 20 years. Other ideas might be to create an evening out with dinner gift card and movie tickets, or a date night in with popcorn, movie, and treats.    There are so many ideas; have a look around Pinterest for wedding gifts or DIY wedding gifts, or even think about the best gifts you have received and I am sure you will be inspired with an idea.
Finally, Dads . . . Dads are really tough  because they often aren’t helpful with what they would like.  How about something for the barbeque?  New cookbooks, cedar planks, or seasonings get those creative juices flowing and bring blessings to the whole family.  What about a basket of different hot sauces – my hubby would LOVE that!  Gift certificates to go out to a nice dinner or Starbucks to grab some coffee on the way to work are great options too.   Coupons for a foot massage, a car wash, or some yard work ease Dad’s burden a little.  If none of these ideas apply to your guy, you can always grab him another tie!
The best advice I can give when gift giving opportunities arise is to focus on the person you are giving your gift to.  As you think about who they are and what they mean in your life, I am sure you will come up with the PERFECT gift idea!

Originally Posted at Home and School Mosaics

Friday, May 27, 2016

Vacation Bible School, Day Five

Well, this is the LAST post for Vacation Bible School theme ideas.  We will wrap up this carnival with an animal theme!  Animals are all around us---in our homes as pets, on farms providing us with meat, milk and eggs, in the forests, in the sea, and even in the sky!  Kids are often curious about the lives of animals and how God relates to them.  This fun theme helps children get in touch with nature and with animals.

Bible Stories that would fit in with this theme:
Adam Names the Animals
Noah's Ark
Daniel in the Lion's Den
Elijah and the Ravens
The Lost Sheep
Jesus Rides the Donkey on Palm Sunday

Books to Reference:
7 Days of Awesome by Shawn Byous $ 16.99 (Just my two cents here...we LOVE this book!)
Goodnight Ark by Laura Sassi $16.99
The Beginner's Bible: Daniel and the Lion' Den (An I Can Read Book) $3.99
The Beginner's Bible: Adam and Eve in the Garden (An I Can Read Book) $3.99
The Adventure Bible: Elijah, God's Mighty Prophet (An I Can Read Book) $3.99
Made by God: Animals All Around $9.99
Made by God: Curious Creatures $9.99
Adventure Bible (NIV) $24.99

Craft Ideas: Zondervan gave some craft ideas from Oriental Trading Company and for some reason, I cannot access their check OTC for some inexpensive craft ideas!  They usually have quiet a few projects to choose from.
A few ideas from Pinterest

Decoration Ideas:
Here are some ideas for this...this theme could go any number of ways depending on what you prefer to focus on....Also, check out the Under The Sea board for those ideas as well!
Animal print balloons

Snack Ideas:
Here are a few snack ideas that look fun AND yummy!

Songs you could include:
Father Abraham (I cannot even believe I am suggesting this...this song is not my favorite, but CHILDREN LOVE IT!)
I am a C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N
Hosanna in the Highest

Some other fun ideas include:
Invite a veterinarian or zookeeper to come and talk to your group...maybe they can bring a special animal visitor
Take a trip to the zoo
Volunteer for the day, a a group, at a local farm or animal shelter
Make Handprint Hens
Run a food drive for cats or dogs and donate the collected items to an animal shelter
Host a dog wash event fundraiser and donate the money collected to the church, a children's ministry or to a local animal shelter.
Have a scavenger hunt to spot signs of animal life native to that area
Take a nature walk in your local park or hiking area to spot animals and explore their habitats.
Make animal masks... Enchanted Learning is a subscription site, so there MIGHT be a limit to what they will allow you to looks like you might be able to print this for free, but I cannot guarantee that.
A Pinata is a fun idea...but only if you do NOT make it!

Generic Pinterest Boards...just because you get sucked in to the great time warp

Ok, that is it!  I hope you have enjoyed this VBS round up of ideas!  A big thank you to Zondervan for putting this together!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Vacation Bible School, Day Four

Many people are fascinated with Angels.  They are guardians and messengers, mysterious and very interesting.  Find out what Angels are all about with this exciting theme.

Bible Stories that would fit with an Angels Everywhere theme:
Creation-God created the angels
Abraham and Sarah visited by three angels
Three youths in the fiery furnace
Jacob's Ladder
The angels guide Isaiah through Heaven
The angel appears to Mary
The angel appears at the tomb of Jesus

(I would be careful with which stories I pick here...For instance, the three youths in the fiery furnace...I have believed that this was an appearance of the Christ and it could be confusing for children.  Perhaps a better choice is a passage where Daniel is praying in chapters 9 and 10 of that book.  There are also many references to angels in Revelation...maybe Revelation 22:6-9, or 19:1-10.  The Angels in the Bible Storybook might be a very helpful resource for this theme.)

Books to Reference:
Angels: A 90 Day Devotional About God's Messengers by Christa Kinde $9.99
Angels in the Bible Storybook by Allia Zobel Nolan $16.99
Adventure Bible: Facing the Blazing Furnace (An I Can Read Book) $3.99
Beginner's Bible: Baby Jesus is Born (An I Can Read Book) $3.99
Big Dreams, Big Prayers Bible (NIV) $29.99

Craft Ideas:
See my Pinterest board
Decoration Ideas:
again, Pinterest
Snack Ideas:
And, Pinterest for the Win...well, actually, It was hard to find angel theme here is a generic board for any kind of snack

Songs you could include:
Angels We Have Heard on High
Hark the Herald Angels Sing
Angels, From the Realms of Glory

Some other fun ideas include:
Make angel wings from paper plates
Be angels in your community by helping people in need with a food or clothing drive, or a needed activity.
Host an angel hair spaghetti lunch and invite the senior citizens of the church (or neighborhood) to be served by and dine with the children.
Make keepsake coffee filter photo angels
Bake Angel Cookies using cookie cutters and cookie dough
Form groups to build giant angel art figures using recyclables and make angel paintings for an Art Gallery.
Have an Angel Food Cake eating contest- eat slices of angel food cake piled high with whipped cream using only their mouths.
Sing angel themed Christmas songs in the summer...see above!

Ok, that is all for today!  I will see you for one last theme tomorrow!