Book Review: Heroes and Villains of the Bible

So many children’s Bible story books are interpretations of scripture.  The author is retelling the Bible, as s/he understands it, but not using actual Biblical text.   Heroes and Villains of the Bible stands out among Bible story books because it uses actual Bible text.   These are real stories of “adventure and betrayal, daring and cowardice, unbelievable bravery and terrible treachery.”  

From the Back Cover: Heroes and Villains of the Bible is a collection of true-life adventures of real people from the Bible-stories of good versus evil, right versus wrong, and heroes versus villains. These stories and their life-shaping lessons point children to God—the greatest hero of all!

Book Description From the Publisher:

50 true-life adventures of real people from the Bible—stories of good versus evil, right versus wrong, and heroes versus villains—and their life-shaping lessons that point children to God—the greatest hero of all!

The Bible is packed with stories of courageous people who loved and served God, and how He used them to do great things in the world. It is also filled with villainous people who disobeyed God and did horrible things. Heroes and Villains of the Bible encourages its readers to aspire to become great, courageous, and heroic servants of God, and reject all that is evil in the world.

With Heroes and Villains of the Bible, children will realize some of their favorite heroes aren’t from the movies, but are real people from the Bible.

My thoughts: Overall, my daughter and I have really enjoyed reading these stories together.  She loves this book.  Although she is not yet reading, she enjoys sitting and paging through this beautiful book. 

My favorite features include Eikon Bible Art, which are four-color, full page digital images, and the story introductions.  The introductions “establish important surrounding events and where the story comes in the Bible.” 

I used the “Thoughts and Suggestions” section following each story as a springboard for discussion.  This allows me to use it as a character training tool. 

Although the Bible translation, International Children’s Bible is not my preferred bible,  I would recommend this Bible Story book to other families.  The 50 stories are action packed and a great way to bring the Bible to life.  But I do have a caution.  Because this is actual Bible text, some of the word choice has been in appropriate for my daughter’s maturity level.  Specifically, the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife.  I was uncomfortable reading the text but I just softened it for my daughter’s ears.  I would suggest parents look through the book before handing it to an independent reader. 

This is a book that my daughter will continue to cherish.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255  “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


A Mile In His Shoes Review and DVD Giveaway!

A couple of weeks ago I received an email asking if I would be interested in reviewing A Mile in His Shoes.  I clicked on the link to watch a preview for this true baseball story and knew that I had to request it!

A mile in his shoes

About Mile in His Shoes:
From the director of Angels In the Outfield comes an inspiring story about a special boy with an amazing gift, and the coach who believed. Dean Cain and Luke Schroder star in the gmc movie based on the book The Legend of Mickey Tussler.

This movie has received the Dove Seal from the Dove foundation. I agree that this is a family movie. I am very sensitive when watching movies.  At least one scene caused some discomfort. I was on the edge of my seat wanting to shout-“no, don’t go. It’s a trap.  You’ll get hurt.” I was a little (ok more than a little) worried about how much violence we would see.  But the scene was handled so well that we saw only a hint. We knew what was going to happen but we did not have to see it.  We only knew that it took place.  I have no qualms about my sensitive children watching the movie again and again.

My daughter made it a point to tell me that she liked the fact that “they weren’t in your face about Christianity.  They lived it.  They didn’t just preach it.” She shared with me that she wasn’t sure she was going to like the movie but she enjoyed it and plans on watching it again with friends. 

I love baseball.  It is my favorite sport.  I was drawn to the movie because it was baseball.  It’s a true story and a great one, but baseball?  Yea that made it even better.

I think y’all would enjoy it, too and I get to give away a copy to one of my readers!

To enter please leave a comment telling me what your favorite sport is (This is the mandatory entry)

For additional, optional, one time entries you can do one or both of the following.

  • Watch the preview I linked above and leave a comment telling me which position Mickey plays.
  • Follow my blog using either Google Friend Connect or Networked Blogs (only one entry)

For an additionals entries that can be done once per day you can:

  • Comment on another of my blog posts (non-giveaway post). Leave me a comment here telling me you’ve done so. (One entry per day)
  • Share my giveaway on Facebook or Twitter.  Just leave a comment telling me you’ve shared today Smile

This Giveaway will end at 9pm Pacific Time (Midnight Eastern Time on Thursday February 2, 2012. One winner will be drawn using Random.org.  I will contact winner by email.  Winner will have 48 hours to respond.  Please make sure I have a way to contact you. I reserve the right to re-draw if, after making a reasonable attempt, I cannot get shipping information for the winner.  Once the winner has been confirmed, I’ll announce it here on my blog!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.


Project: The School Room aka Dining Room

Whenever someone asks me about having a dedicated school room, I laugh.  I am a home schooler.  We do “school” all over the house.  I like to do read alouds in the living room.  We listen to audio books and watch educational dvd’s in the family room.  Lately Tailorbear has been taking her stack of school work and hiding out in her bedroom.  Turtlegirl prefers to camp out on the futon in the family room whereas BooBear takes up residence on the couch next to the icon corner in the living room.

I rarely require them to sit at the table or a desk.  We gravitate to whatever area seems most logical at the time.  Science experiments in the kitchen, independent reading in the living room, Latin in the family room so we can watch the lesson on DVD and use the computer to listen to the audio pronunciation cd.

But this past weekend, I realized that educational resources have taken over my dining room.  I tend to use the dining room table for “seat work” with Supergirl.  We have bookcases, cabinets and other storages for school books, notebooks, pencils etc.  We’ve got maps and a measurement poster decorating the walls.  It looks more like a school room than a dining room.  And it is a mess!

So my first big project of 2012 is to organize the dining room  school room.   Ok confession time.  We hadn’t eaten at the dining room table in ages and ages.  And the table became a catch all so that I couldn’t even do school at the table with Supergirl. 

The cleaning out and organizing is a longer term project but I did want to share one before picture and then a picture from tonight’s nice clean table.   I hope to share more before and after pictures as I complete different parts of this project.


I had the table all cleared off before I started the organizing project.  The table quickly became the place to shove everything as I emptied cabinets.  It got worse before it got better.   Below is the table just before we served dinner.  I like using placemats at meal times. It helps to create the idea that it really is a dining room!  These are my favorite placemats for January.  Sometimes I even use them in February because there are hearts.


Have you started any projects for 2012?  Does the New Year mean new plans for you?


TOS Review: Z-Guides to the Movies

Recently, my family had the opportunity to use another Z-Guide to the Movies from Zeezok Publishing.  I was so impressed with the Z-Guide we reviewed during the last Crew voyage, that I jumped at the opportunity to review another one.
Zeezok gave us the opportunity to choose which Z-Guide to the Movies we wanted.  After some discussion with my 11th grade daughter, she chose the movie Miracle at Midnight. This movie is set during World War II and we both felt this would be an excellent choice to supplement her 20th Century World History studies.
So what is a Z-Guides to the Movies? A Z-Guide is a movie specific guide available in either e-book (download) or CD (Shipped) formats that contain 10 activities. You can read more about Z-Guides to the Movies by clicking here.  You can view a sample of a Z-Guide here.
 Z-Guides are movie specific and you will need access to a particular version.  The Z-Guide cover lists which movie and version you will need.  Zeezok Publishing has many of the movies available for purchase along with the corresponding guides.  Z-Guides to the Movies retail for $12.99 each.  Zeezok has dozens of titles available.  You can view them here.
The Z-Guide for Miracle at Midnight will not be available until February of 2012 however, there are many other great titles available if you are studying World War II.  There are Z-Guides to the Movies available for Elementary, Middle School/Jr. High and High School levels. 
Though the cover says that Miracle at Midnight is a jr high level Z-guide, I found that it was appropriate for my high school student.  I successfully used this z-guide with my 7th grader, 9th grader and 11th grader.
My Thoughts: I really appreciate the activities that cause my children to think critically and deeply and explore character issues. Our regular history curriculum suggests adding in a movie as way to explore a topic of interest. I love that with a Z-Guide I can sneak in some extra history lessons through a movie.
I liked that I could use this guide with 3 of my girls. I could adjust some of the assignments to be a little easier for my 7th grader and I could easily require more from my 11th grader to make it a little more challenging.
I didn’t like the answer key for the cross word puzzle activity. The puzzle was not numbered which made it difficult for me to find the answer when the girls were stuck.  I would have loved to have the puzzle numbered in the answer key *or* to have the word written out next to the clue.
I didn’t like the order of the activities or the recommendation to complete 2 activities per day.   The guide is a supplement and according to Zeezok is not intended to replace our core history curriculum.  Some of the activities require time, time to research the answer and then time to write the 200 word essay answer.
I appreciated the flexibility of the guide.  Though they recommend doing 2 activities per day and completing the Z-guide in one week,  I found it easy to re-arrange activities and some days we did 1 activity , some days 2 and some days 1/2 an activity.  We took a little longer than 1 week but it made the daily time commitment much more manageable for our family.
Here are some thoughts from children:
Tailorbear (age 12, grade 7):  “It’s a movie guide. Pretty cool.  I wish we had done a movie that went more with my school instead of my sister’s.   My least favorite activity was the map work.   My favorite activity was figuring out the double entendres in the movie.”
Turtlegirl (age 14, grade 9): “The movie was really interesting and the guide helped me think more about it.  I especially enjoyed doing the crossword puzzle despite the fact that it was very difficult.  It was difficult because some of the words I didn’t remember from any of my studies.  I also liked the entendres.”
BooBear (age 16, grade 11): “I really enjoyed the questions. They made me think about the movie. I like using the guide to add more depth to movie and to see more than just a good story. I found the map confusing. The way the map was displayed confused me.  I would enjoy doing more Z-Guides.”
Overall I feel confident recommending Zeezok’s Z-Guides to the Movies.  Be sure to check out what my fellow crew mates had to say about their Z-Guides to the Movies.

All information is correct and accurate as of the date of this review.

Disclaimer: As a TOS Crew member, I received this product free of charge to review. This review is my honest opinion with, hopefully, enough detail as to why I liked or did not like a product so that my readers can make an informed decision. I received no compensation.


Ding Dong: They’re Back!

I thought I'd seen the last of the Kirby vacuum cleaner salespeople. They hadn't been around for awhile.  I thought they had given up.  Nope.  Apparently, they ran out of salespeople and needed fresh blood. (I've never seen the same one twice).

I was in the middle of something important, not that I can remember now what it was but I’m sure it was important <grin> and the doorbell rang.  I answered the door and found a young, pretty, woman holding some type of leaflet.  I am losing my hearing so I only caught a word or two.  I glanced at the paper, inwardly groaned and handed the paper back to her.  “No, thank you.  I don’t do business with Kirby.”

That has become my standard response.  Why? Because the sales people are hired because they do not comprehend the word no.   But really it all started with the very first time a Kirby Vacuum Cleaner Salesperson rang my doorbell.

The girls were very little.  We were new to the neighborhood.  The doorbell rang and I was flustered.  A young man had a stack of raffle tickets and a pen.  He did NOT identify himself.  And did I mentioned I was flustered.  Four children.  One with major needs.  All of them under 6 years old.  And I homeschool.  He asked for our phone number.  Then handed me a raffle ticket. 

A few days (weeks?) later the phone rang.  Hi, you’ve won a free carpet cleaning.  This time I wasn’t flustered. (Girls must have sleeping or playing outside or something).  I said no I haven’t.  I’d see the raffle ticket sales gimmick before. The idea is that you give away a free chance for a drawing for a great prize.  You know like cash or a boat and the third prize is always something intended to sell you a product such as a gym membership or a vacuum cleaner. 

Kirby wanted to schedule a time when a representative could come out and give me my free carpet cleaning.  I refused.  To say I strongly dislike the raffle ticket method would be an understatement. 

That was only the beginning.  At first they came bearing “gifts”.  Items like a bottle of carpet shampoo.  The bottle was yours to keep if you let them enter.  I have reached the point where I just hand it back and say “no thank you.”

They’ve gotten more aggressive.  Some of them I have felt sorry for.  One even used the “can I come in and use your bathroom” in order to get inside the house.   For safety reasons I did not.  (There are fast food restaurants, a gas station and a grocery store 5 minutes up the road.  All with public restrooms.)

So today the doorbell rings.  The pretty woman smiled and I felt bad for her.  I returned her leaflet.  I forced myself to be polite and to have a pleasant tone.  “No thank you.  I won’t do business with Kirby”  She was flustered.  She asked why (not an unreasonable question but after 10 years I’m tired of trying to explain.).  I simply respond.  I don’t like the selling tactics.  She started to protest.  Maybe if she’d been number 3 or 4 or even number 5 to the door, I’d have had the energy to try to explain.  But I was becoming impatient.  I had to shoo the woman away like a small (but cute) kitten.  I really don’t like it when people fail to understand the word no.

I wonder if they’ve upped the prize for just getting inside my house?  Our family joke is that Kirby is offering a special bonus prize like an expense paid cruise to the first salesperson who actually gets inside my house.  Maybe next time I’ll ask them.  Maybe I’ll let them in if they’re willing to share the prize <grin>.


Super Easy 8 Minute Cheesecake

On an online forum that I visit daily, I mentioned that I was making “8 Minute Cheesecake” for Christmas Dinner.  I was asked for the recipe but until now haven’t got around to sharing it.  I originally got the recipe from a friend who had made some healthy changes.  I made this at Thanksgiving but was lazy and used cool whip and store bought ready made graham cracker crusts..  I was pleased with the results and since I only make this a couple times a year decided that I would stick with using cool whip.  Sorry I did NOT take any pictures. 

What You’ll Need:

2 (yes 2!) prepared graham cracker crusts.  (I used Keebler.  I think the chocolate or oreo ones would be fabulous!)
1 8oz package cream cheese (softened)
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 8oz container of cool whip (store brand should work fine!)

Putting it Together:

Start by beating the cream cheese until smooth (I use my hand mixer as my Bosch mixer is a bit too large for this job!).  Add sour cream and vanilla, continue mixing until blended.  Fold in the cool whip blending well with the cream cheese sugar mixture.  Divide between the two crusts.  Chill for at least 4 hours.   You can top it with fruit if you like.  I used a homemade apple pie filling at Thanksgiving but used canned Cherry Pie filling at Christmas.  I’m thinking it would taste really yummy with mini chocolate chips folded into the mixture and then caramel sauce drizzled over the top at serving time.  This is not a firm cheesecake but it is light, fluffy, and creamy and super easy.  I think the cool whip gives this extra volume which is why I could get two pies out this recipe.  At Thanksgiving, I only had 1 crust so I filled it as full as I could and then we just ate the rest of the filling right out of the bowl.  Now that I know that it makes two pies so I planned on two for Christmas.

Now I am craving cheesecake.  I think I will make this for Valentine’s Day.  Maybe I’ll even make it for Cheesefare Sunday potluck at Church. 

Hope you enjoy this dessert as much as my family does!


Goal Planning Monday 1/2/12


Oh hey!  Look at that! Today is 1-2-12.  I love things like that.  Well today is Monday and over at Mama Manuscripts, mama hosts a meme for Goal Planning.  Since today is the first Monday of the New Year I’m thinking it’s not such a bad idea to get something down for this week.  You know get the year started on the right foot so to speak. 

Goal #1.. take a nap  (ok ok I only put that so that I can say I actually did accomplish something.  Does it count that I fell asleep while reading aloud to Supergirl?  I just laid my head down and someone covered me with a blanket.  But I got a nap!)

Goal #2… build consistency.  Today BooBear and I talked about being focused and consistent.  I’m trying to narrow down our focus so that we can become consistent in that one area and then add another area, build consistency etc.  This week’s focus is building consistency with school specifically for BooBear it is focusing on her Sonlight Core 300 studies.  We’re still officially on Christmas Break but this week is “catch up on what was supposed to be done before Christmas Break”.  I also need to be more consistent with Supergirl.  Hence the reading aloud which admittedly didn’t go so well today since I fell asleep but I do have a plan for this week!

Goal #3… Get back into the swing of meal planning with E-mealz.  Tonight is planned as “pizza hut $10 any pizza” night and tomorrow night is beef chow mein (homemade.  Recipe calls for ground pork but I’m using ground beef cause that’s what I have)  I do need to figure out meals for the rest of the week.  Friday is a Feast Day so I want to plan something special.  I’m thinking of either making lasagna or my father’s “stuffed peppers” (really not stuffed peppers but the most awesomest pasta sauce in the whole world).  So goal #3 for this week.. make sure we have a dinner plan for each night of the week so we don’t end up spending money on things like McDonald’s)

I think I’ll leave it at 3 before the list becomes more of an impossible to do list rather than something I’m striving for.  What are your goals for this week?  Want to join us?  You can read her guidelines here.  You can link to her post this week here.


Happy New Year

Just a brief little note to wish all my bloggy friends a Happy New Year.  And to all my Orthodox readers  Happy Feast of St. Basil!  What a joy and a blessing to hear the service for the cutting of St. Basil’s bread after Divine Liturgy this morning.  Alas, no one in my family found the coin.  (Want to know more about what I am talking about?  Check out these articles Vasilopita and/or Basil the Great).  This is more of a Greek Orthodox tradition but I am glad that my Orthodox Church in America (which has Russian Orthodox roots) has this custom.

May God pour out His blessings on us in 2012!