{Crew Review} Rosie’s Doll Clothes Patterns

When I was in 7th grade I took home-ec (I had to; it was required.) One quarter was sewing and one was cooking. Let’s just say that sewing and I did not get along.  I can close my eyes and still see the very uneven stitching on my backpack.  *Sigh*   Years later when Tailorbear was about to turn 3, I decided I really wanted to learn how to sew. I am fairly proficient now at the “no-pattern-elastic-waistband” skirt and basic pillow cases.  Doll clothes are beyond my abilities.  That is, they were beyond my abilities until Tailorbear and I had the opportunity to review Learn How to Make Doll Clothes Video Course with 8 Free Doll Clothes Patterns from Rosie's Doll Clothes Patterns.

Rosies Review College Button

Rosie’s Online Video Course contains over 130 step by step instructional videos. These videos are organized into a six week course but with a purchase of the online course you have access to all videos for 12 months (roughly 8 hours of content).

You can choose to have access to the content available week by week *or* you can choose to get access to all six weeks immediately.  As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received access to all course content immediately.

Some General Topics Included Cover:

  •  Everything You Need to Know About Fabric (Week 1) which includes 4 separate videos!
  • Cool Tips When Preparing Your Fabric and Pattern (Week 2)
  • Cool Tips To Make Sewing Doll Clothes Really Easy (Week 3) this one includes 3 instructional videos!
  • How to Create More Advanced Casings (Week 4) again more than one instructional video!
  • How to Attach Intricate Pieces Together (Week 5) 5 separate instructional videos!
  • How to Attach Trimmings (Week 6) this one has 10 separate videos!

In addition to the instructional video course there are 8 patterns included.  Each pattern also includes step by step by step video instructions. The patterns are PDF files which can be downloaded to your computer to keep and use forever. Written instructions are also available as a PDF Download.

  1. Sport Shorts
  2. Crop Top
  3. Sarong
  4. Halter Top
  5. Summer Nightie
  6. Hat
  7. Pumpkin Costume
  8. Underpants

Both Tailorbear and I think the summer nightie could be used as a summer dress.  We found some fabric in our stash that looks perfect for making a nightie or even making a set of pj’s using the shorts and crop top.

Crop Top Pattern Piece Fabric pinned and cut out.

Using Learn How to Make Doll Clothes Video Course:

Neither Tailorbear nor myself are expert seamstresses. I think some people are born with a natural aptitude for sewing.  That aptitude plus creativity along with some natural talent means some people are really really good at sewing.  I am not one of them. I am not sure if Tailorbear has the right amount of aptitude but she certainly has creativity and desire on her side. She’s had some beginning sewing instruction but does not sew regularly enough to gain the experience. So what does that mean for using this video course? 

It means that I felt most comfortable having Tailorbear watch all of the video instructions for basic sewing before starting any of the projects. Some of the skills that Rosie taught were new for Tailorbear. I strongly recommend encouraging your student to practice these skills on scrap fabric as they go through the course.

Tailorbear watched the videos then picked the pattern she wanted to create. She found that she sometimes had to go back and re-watch videos. She even did some practicing of sewing around a curve before attempting to do any sewing on her first project (The Sarong).  Other students with more experience or a parent with experience might not have to spend quite so much time watching and re-watching videos and practicing sewing. 

What I loved:

  • Rosie’s Australian accent.
  • The patterns also had step by step video instruction to walk you through sewing the item.
  • Tailorbear loves that she can make doll clothes
  • The “Cool Tips”.  I learned things such as how to make ribbon not fray and to sew everything flat that you can first before doing side seams.  In other words sew the hem before the side seam! 

Some Things I Noticed:

  • In the Instruction Video for how to sew a hem with woven fabric she mentions using an overlock stick using a serger machine *or* folding over the raw edge to be inside the hem.  I was taught a 3rd way: use a zig-zag stitch on the edge of the fabric to “finish” the edge and prevent the fabric from unraveling.  This is my preferred method.  We do not have a serger but after watching these videos Tailorbear is asking for one!
  • Some steps are combined into one video. Sometimes it was frustrating when those little steps were not listed in the title of the video.  For example with the crop top, the bit about folding the back and pining the side seams comes at the end of the video labeled “cutting out your pattern.”   If you are proficient in cutting out pattern pieces you may think you can skip this video and jump to the next one but the next one starts *after* the back piece has been prepped.  For my daughter whose learning style is to jump in and learn by doing this was frustrating because she then had to go back and watch the previous video. 
  • Tailorbear would love to have had the clothes patterns match up with the week part of the course so that the skills learned that week could be perfected and applied to the “bonus pattern” of the same week number. 

Tailorbear works on sarong using Rosie's Doll Clothes Patterns

Thoughts from Tailorbear:

I really like it! I didn’t have much interest in playing with my dolls much, mostly because of lack of wardrobe. but now that I have the option of more clothes I’m dying to play with them! I really love how Rosie teaches you! She SHOWS you everything. Even if it is in another video. I’m looking forward to trying to make a real skirt (with what I learned) and maybe a shirt with sleeves. I don’t know about the sleeves though. Mom says sleeves are really difficult and with my skills… I might want to wait on that!!


The Details:

Visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog to read what others have to say about Rosie’s Doll Clothes Patterns.

You can read my other Schoolhouse Review Crew Reviews by clicking here.

This Graphic contains the FTC Regulations statement for Reviews.

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


Fall Means: Spiders!

One of the cool things about being a home school mom is getting to learn about things like spiders.  Cool spiders.  Not those ginormous black creepy things that get into my house and must be destroyed.  Nope I’m talking about the spiders that appear in the fall, graciously stay outside, but provide beautiful fall decorations.

Several years ago, we observed some of these spiders up close.  Closer than we wanted actually but still it was fascinating.  We stayed warm and dry on the inside of the house while we sat on the floor or leaned on the arm of the couch, and observed the intricate web created by a beautiful (but in a creepy way!) orb spider who made a web across our back door.  We even avoided the back door for several days so as to not disturb this creature.

This year two spiders have taken residence in our front yard.  They seem to like the bushes.  The sun was shining today and it was easy to see the spiders and their webs. The clouds began to roll in but BooBear managed to snap some pictures for me for this blog post!

Spider spinning web!

A close up a spider but can't see the web.


Diary of a Real Payne Book 1: True Story{A Crew Book Review}

Being a book loving family, and always being on the look out for another great read-aloud option for Supergirl and I, I jumped at the chance to review Diary of a Real Payne Book 1: True Story by Annie Tipton. This charming book, published by Barbour Publishing, is ideally suited for children ages 8-12 but also makes a fun family read aloud!

Real Payne Review Collage

Emma Jane Payne, who prefers to be called EJ, is a 10 year old 4th grader with a vivid imagination. Her father is a pastor, her mother a teacher and her 5 year old brother, Isaac a Kindergartener.  The book begins with an introduction through a diary entry. EJ tells the diary a bit about herself. Each chapter begins with a diary entry that foreshadows a voyage into an imagination adventure.  For example at the beginning of one chapter EJ tells her diary that tomorrow is the spelling bee and she explains why it’s called a spelling bee and then closes her entry by telling the diary she is going to go look up bees in the encyclopedia. During the chapter, her imagination ignites and she becomes a beekeeper.

I loved that, though the book is fictional, it is real in the sense that real people could identify with the characters.  Though Christian in nature, the characters are not overly good; EJ makes mistakes and wrong choices.

I also loved that I saw my own daughters. Turtlegirl often gets lost in her own world and  Tailorbear lives in her own imagination and is so impulsive. The diary entries use a font that appears more “hand written” and EJ is prone to inappropriate use of L.  Turtlegirl also used to capitalize the letter L in the middle of words. I also found myself identifying with EJ’s mom when she would say “oh EJ.”  I found myself reading those words aloud with the same heavy sigh that I have used when I would say “oh Tailorbear.”

This is a great read aloud for the whole family but I have only been reading it aloud to Supergirl.  Turtlegirl and Tailorbear read the book on their own.  Here are their thoughts!

Thoughts from Supergirl: (my special little lady!):

EJ has a brother named Isaac.  Isaac loves dinosaurs. EJ was worried that she wouldn’t get to win the Spelling Bee. My favorite part of the book was when EJ was cutting hair.  Isaac had a bald spot and they were worried about getting into trouble with their mom. I like the book. It’s fun to have mom read it to me. It’s a funny book.  It makes me laugh.

TailorBear reads Diary of a Real Payne with cat on her lap.

Thoughts from Tailorbear (age 14):

I really enjoyed reading this book. EJ is a lot younger than me, but I saw a bit of myself when I was ten. I think the only thing I found “wrong” with the book, was the ending, it seemed a little cheesy. But even then, it seemed to make sense! I think there are many good things about this book. They were Christian, but not pushy about their faith and I appreciate that!  But they prayed, and they loved their enemies. I appreciated that they weren’t overly pushy about their faith to Mr. Johnson, but instead showed him kindness. I recommend this book to people who love fun stories about imagination!

Turtlegirl lays on the couch reading Diary of a Real Payne

Thoughts from Turtlegirl (age 16):

I enjoyed reading the book. It was ‘brain-candy’ for me. I liked how each chapter (which was a self-contained story) began with a diary entry. I definitely relate to EJ’s active imagination. How many times has Mom told me to snap out of it and get back to doing chores? More often than is probably good for me. I loved how exuberant she was. I also enjoyed that although EJ is the daughter of a pastor, the book is not preachy. (Major points from me for that!) I would recommend this to anybody who is in need of some light, fun reading!








Visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog to read what others have to say about Diary of a Real Payne Book 1: True Story.

This Graphic contains the FTC Regulations statement for Reviews.

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

You can read my other Schoolhouse Review Crew Reviews by clicking here.


B is for Breakfast Ideas

Last week I wrote A is for Arranging Meals and I talked about how I was planning meals around the principles of Trim Healthy Mama.  This week for #abcblogging I’m rambling on about breakfast.

Cheesy Scrambled Eggs and Bacon, an S style breakfast

I’ve known for years that I needed to reduce my carb count.  I knew that eating whole grains was healthy but even those whole grains needed to be reduced. The problem? Breakfast.  Here’s what we would eat in a typical week:

Monday: Baked Oatmeal or “Swedish Pancake” (think dutch hats)

Tuesday:  Eggs!  But eggs with toast. Fried eggs or scrambled eggs but always with toast.

Wednesday: Muffins such as banana chocolate chip (home made) or chocolate chocolate chip (from Costco! Yum!)

Thursday: usually cold cereal.  Sometimes we’d have healthy cereal but I did sometimes buy the so-very-good-but-really-bad-for-you sugar sweetened junk.

Friday: Our favorite Friday breakfast was bagels.  Toasted and spread with cream cheese (except during Lent)

Saturday: These were are “bigger” or more involved breakfasts and often included bacon or sausage.  Eggs, hash browns, toast and bacon.  Pancakes with bacon or sausage.  Waffles with or without meat.

Do you see a trend? I love my breakfast breads.  If I cut out or cut back on starchy grain based carbs what on earth was I going to eat for breakfast!  (Oh you’ve noticed that I skipped Sunday? That’s because we don’t eat breakfast on Sundays.  As Orthodox Christians we fast in preparation for receiving communion.)

Then along comes Trim Healthy Mama.  I was very skeptical of this idea of not eating carb based foods at the same time as fat laden fare. I want my toast! With Butter! and Jam!  The last piece of toast I ate with butter and jam was exactly 3 weeks ago today.  Wow. I haven’t had toast in 3 weeks and I’m alive to tell the story!

So if I’ve been following Trim Healthy Mamas for nearly 3 weeks what have I been eating for breakfast?

  • Pancakes.  Yes, pancakes.  Trim Healthy Mama pancakes made with egg whites, cottage cheese and oat meal. They taste incredible. Yes I miss maple flavored sugar water drizzled over them and I miss butter even more but these babies are fabulous with some nonfat plain yogurt (sweetened with Truvia) and some frozen berries warmed up (also sweetened with Truvia)
  • eggs ~  I’ve decided I really really really don’t like omelets made from egg whites so if I’m using egg whites as my protein source it’s going to be in things like the pancakes.  I had scrambled eggs sprinkled with cheddar cheese and a couple of slices of bacon one morning this week.  We’ve done fried eggs (and there is a variation of the pancakes if you eat one of them with your fried eggs you *almost* don’t miss the toast!) I’ll be exploring lots of different ways to make eggs. 
  • oatmeal ~ old fashioned rolled oats cooked on the stove.  Then I sprinkle in cinnamon and stir in 1/4-1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt and some Truvia.  I could throw in some berries but I haven’t yet.

I found a biscuit recipe that I want to try.  It’s  low-carb no grain biscuit and it would go well, I think with any of the egg dishes.  I tried the Muffin-in-a-Mug recipe but my cocoa powder is bitter.  Bitter cocoa with Truvia means yucky bitter aftertaste.  And I’m not sure about the texture. I might have to keep experimenting because I would love to have my muffin back for breakfast!

I need variety and I think I can get that by having eggs two to three times a week but varying what kind of eggs and alternating egg dishes with the fabulous pancakes and oatmeal.

Do you have some high protein, low carb breakfast ideas?  Please share! 

Blogging Through the Alphabet


Random 5 on Friday ~ October 18th Edition


1. The handle on the “trunk” part of the van broke.  Now we can’t open the back part which is really really really making things difficult.  We’re not sure if it can be repaired and we’ll have to wait until we have funds to get it checked out.

Honeybear pulls handle all the way off the van trunk!

2.  Quote of the Day Week: “Mama your hair is turning white. It’s trying to get you old.”  I’m glad that it’s my hair that’s trying to get me old and not the fact that I’m actually in my mid-40’s.  Whew!  Good thing that age isn’t what gets you old; it’s your graying hair. Supergirl is just too cute!

Supergirl and Tailorbear looking super cute!


3. The Government Shutdown officially ended this week.  Somehow though I think this is really only the beginning of the nightmare and I’m planning on another shutdown/furlough happening when the government runs out of money again in January.

4. My voice hurts this week from all the reading aloud I’ve been doing for Supergirl. We’re having a blast though learning about Mexico and Matter (social studies and Science, yes reviews coming soon!)

5. My favorite pickles are the ones from Claussen.  Kosher Dill spears and halves and sandwich slices.  I’d take a picture but I’ve eaten all the pickles.  I have pickles on my grocery list because they’re on sale at Safeway this week.



The Pebble Pond

Come join us over at the Pebble Pond for this week’s Edition of Random 5 on Friday!


God’s World News ~ TRAK {Crew Review}

Several years ago we subscribed to the weekly magazine, WORLD.  WORLD also publishes magazines for students. At that time a high school version of the popular God’s World News magazine did not exist. Our social studies curriculum suggests assigning 3 current event reports each week for high school students.  Trak, the high school level of God’s World News, is perfect for finding news events for these assignments.

God's World News Logo

What is God’s World News (GWN)?

GWN is published by WORLD News Group. This organization publishes news articles, both digital and print, from a Christian perspective. You can read GWN Mission Statement and the Doctrinal Statement on the website.  The Mission Statement ends with this statement: “The goal of all our products and services is to assist in developing a biblical worldview for all aspects of life, consistent with our organization's doctrinal statement.”

More about Trak:

Cover photo image of Trak from God's World News

We received two back issues (August and September) as well as the current October Issue. The publication is 32 pages each month except  August has only 24 pages. The magazine itself is printed on lovely glossy newsprint just like other magazines, but there are two additional heavier paper covers.  These covers contain some family friendly advertising aimed more at the parents. These covers are easily removed so that the student can have the magazine.  (Save that outside cover though with your customer number!) Sections in the magazine include (but are not limited to):

  • SideTraks ~ short one paragraph news “bytes”.  Photos are numbered to match the newsy paragraph
  • BusinessTrak
  • DesignTrak
  • Behindtheheadline
  • BigIdeas
  • SportsTrak

What’s Included with a subscription?

A one year subscription includes 10 issues.  Trak is published once a month except May and December. In addition to the print subscription, you’ll receive access to the brand new, just released on September 24th, website God’s World News Teen.  It is for grades 7-12. On this website students can log in and read articles from different categories such as Beliefs, Must Know, or Art and more! Visit God’s World News Teen and click on a tab such as Art and you can get a free preview of the the article.

Teachers/parents also have access to the gwnews.com site which contains digital copies of past magazines, as well as teacher resources such as biographies.  At this site you will also find Explain It! and This Day in History resources.

 What We Like:

  • Turtlegirl really likes that on the gwn.org site there is a “this day in history”
  • I really love the SideTraks section of the magazine. Lots of interesting little tidbits
  • The girls and I both appreciated that the magazine articles cover a broad range of subjects.
  • I like that there were no inappropriate ads in the magazine. I only saw one and it was for a college which is completely appropriate.

Some Things We Noticed:

  • On the website, when you click to change the grade level, the articles do not change. The articles appear to be the same for every grade level.  [teen.gwn.org]
  • The Activities and Resources for each level were all the same.  For example, I had expected that the Explain It! articles would be different based on age. [gwnews.com]

My Thoughts:

For Turtlegirl, age 16, 11th grade, I can hand her the magazine or give her access to either website and she’ll come to me with anything she wants or needs to discuss. For Tailorbear, I need to be more involved. She’s only 14 and in 9th grade. She’s very sensitive and the world with its grown up issues is a very scary thing. Part of the reason we home school is so that we can introduce the world to our daughters at the perfect pace for their maturity. God’s World News provides me the opportunity to pick a time and an article and read it with my daughter or pre-read it, have her read it and I will be available immediately for discussion.

As part of the launch for the new website, World Publishing Group has provided us with a complimentary subscription to WORLD magazine online and I’ve received two WORLD magazines. My 18 year old college student has been devouring those. She remembers when we had our subscription years ago and is thrilled to have access to the website!

I want to provide my children with a variety of resources for understanding the world around them, God’s World News with it’s unabashedly Christian perspective provides a nice counter to other sources for current events.


The Details:

  • Vendor: God’s World News
  • Product: Trak
  • Price: $28 for full year (10 issues) subscription
  • Age Recommendation: High School (grades 9-12)
  • FAQs

Visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog to read what others have to say about the different subscriptions from God’s World News.

This Graphic contains the FTC Regulations statement for Reviews.

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

You can read my other Schoolhouse Review Crew Reviews by clicking here.


Why Should I Make my Bed?

For some people, it won’t make a difference.  A made bed or an unmade bed doesn’t affect them.  But for some of us, well, crawling into a made bed may be the key to a more relaxing and better night of sleep.

It sounds weird doesn’t it.  It very well could be all in our head. I admit I’m weird. I admit that sometimes I feel like I walk to the beat to the beat of a different instrument played on a different planet in a galaxy far far away.

Are you familiar with Flylady?  She’s become quite the sensation over the last 14 years.  I stopped reading her emails long before she had her own website but if you’re familiar with her than you might know these two things:

1) Shine your sink!


2) Wear your shoes!

I’m sitting here typing and I am only wearing socks. I did wear shoes for a long time.  She was right about the attitude changes it brings.  Sometimes I wear slippers but I stopped wearing shoes.  Turtlegirl has started wearing shoes and more put together outfits for school hours. She says they help her get into a more focused frame of mind. Tailorbear has started as well. 

Oh and my sink?  I really love the idea of a shiny sink.  I think Tailorbear would love it too but it seems the sink is never shiny and there are always things in the sink. When the girls were much younger and I was the primary kitchen cleaner upper person the sink did get cleaned every day.  But since the girls have taken over kitchen duties I’m just happy if the dishwasher gets loaded and run, the floor gets swept a couple times a week and the counters get wiped down. Many days it feels like I am asking too much.

But my bed? I still make my bed most days. I didn’t make my bed today and it bugs me every time I walk into my room. (So why haven’t I just given in and made the bed?  I don’t know, I think I kept thinking I would just crawl in and take a nap.)

Back when I was participating in Flylady’s onelist and egroup (those predate the Yahoo Groups!) I heard it said that the bed can be the “sink” of the bedroom. When I am trying to clean my room I have to start with a well made bed. I can put items on the bed to put away if the bed is made but I have mental breakdowns if someone puts something on the bed when the bed is all messed up and unmade. Weird? Yes I know I am!

I find that if the bed is made, I can put up with a whole lot more “messy” with the rest of the bedroom. I think Tailorbear and Turtlegirl are starting to get that idea. They’ve started spending time on the bunk bed and I would guess that they find it easier (and more comfortable) to use the computer to watch a movie or to read a book when the covers are not all balled up.  Even the cat prefers to hang out in their room when the bed is made. (Good kitty!)

So why should I make my bed?  Because it brings a sense of peace and calm to my bedroom. Because it can be the one thing of order in my room full of chaos.  Because, when my bed is made, I am going to enjoy using the bed to curl up with a book and daughter and snuggle and read.

Photo of a nice neat made bed


Image courtesy of Arvind Balaraman at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Crockpot Chicken and Stuffing Casserole {Recipe}

I haven’t done a recipe for a long time.   A few weeks ago, I mentioned on my FB Blog Page that I was making this and I commented that I better post the recipe.  If you are looking for a healthy, “from scratch” recipe, you’ll want to skip this.  If you’re looking for “really easy, very tasty comfort food” then keep reading!

I was so diligent to take pictures while putting it together but I completely forgot to take pictures *after* it was done and we gobbled it all up! NO leftovers.  None. Here’s what it looked like assembled but not cooked:

Chicken Stuffing Casserole unbaked

This is so super easy to assemble!  You’ll only need 5 ingredients (6 if you want to add optional cheese!):

Only 5 Ingredients! Crockpot Chicken Stuffing Casserole

I only included one box of stuffing mix in the photo but I did use two boxes and I only used about 1 cup of soup cream not that whole big container!  The chicken is about 1 1/2 to  2 lbs.  I cut 3 chicken breasts in half (butterfly style) so that I had two thinner but still full sized fillets for each breast. This gives me 6 pieces, one for each member of the family, (though Daddy usually gets 1/2 of Supergirl’s in addition to his own). I do this to all my chicken before it goes into the freezer then I just grab a meal sized portion and I can do *anything* and know it will be enough to feed my family.

First you’ll layer your chicken on the bottom of the crockpot.  I took a picture but the raw chicken is just, well, gross looking so we’ll skip the picture.  It’s ok if it isn’t a single layer. Sometimes I’ve used cubed chicken but I didn’t want to take the time to cube it.

Next you’ll mix up two cans of cream of mushroom soup.  You could use cream of celery or cream of chicken but I like cream of mushroom. This is so not healthy and for other recipes I will make my own cream sauce but the canned kind just works best for this dish. And it’s convenient too.

Mixing cream soup with sour cream for Crockpot Stuffing Casserole

Turtlegirl mixed up the sauce part for me.  I told her to keep mixing until it was blended and you could not see the sour cream. She is becoming quite the wonderful cook! When it is blended together you’ll want to dump this over the chicken in the crockpot. I use the spatula to spread out evenly and completely cover the chicken.  *IF* you are wanting a cheesy version of this dish *now* is when you add the cheese.  Swiss is particularly yummy but I usually just used mozzarella but cheddar would work too.  How much? Well, depends on how cheesy. I never measure I just grab 4-6 slices of Swiss or a couple handfuls of shredded of the other kind.

Cream Soup and Sour cream mix covering chicken in crockpot

Now you’ll want to melt some butter.  I use a whole stick.  You could of course just use a half cup of Better Butter.  I have a beautiful picture of melted butter in the measuring cup but I’m going to skip it. If you really need to see what melted butter looks like to make sure that you got it right you can email me and I’ll send the picture to you <grin>.  Set the melted butter aside and open up those boxes of stuffing mix.  I did use name brand but store brand does work just as well. I just happened to get these on sale.  I dump one box on each half of the crockpot.  Then drizzle the melted butter over the stuffing mix.


Cover the crockpot, turn it to low and cook for 6-8 hours or if you’re like me and always get started later in the day turn it to high and cook for 3-4 hours or until the chicken is done. I really wish I had remembered to get a picture of it all scooped out on plate but we were so hungry and we just started eating and then it was all gone!  So here’s the recipe:

Crockpot Chicken Stuffing Casserole:

  • 2 boxes stuffing mix such as Stove Top
  • 1 1/2 to 2 lbs. of boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2  cup (one stick) butter or 1/2 cup Better Butter, melted 
  • 2 cans condensed cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 cup sour cream

1. Layer chicken in crockpot (thin fillets, strips, or cubed)

2. mix sour cream and soup and dump evenly over chicken

3. if you wish to add cheese layer cheese over soup mix

4. layer stuffing mix over soup/sour cream mix

5. Drizzle melted butter over stuffing mix

6. cover cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours or until chicken is cooked through.

This is so not good for you and it is so NOT Trim Healthy Mama friendly but every now and again a girl just needs some comfort food. Fortunately for my hips but unfortunately for all of our taste buds I rarely make this (maybe once or twice a year) but a few years ago this was a regular on my rotating crockpot menu!

What have you been cooking in your kitchen lately?

This post is linked up to Home to 4 Kiddos for the October 15th Edition of Try a New Recipe!


{Crew Review} Chess House ~ Starter Chess Learning Kit

When I was a little girl my father had this beautiful Chess game that sat on his chest of drawers in my parents bedroom. I remember a wooden box that held the different pieces. My father taught me to play chess but I was never very good at it and as an adult I realized that my father seemed to have his own rules for playing. I jumped at the chance to review The Starter Chess Learning Kit from Chess House because I wanted to share the game with my daughters the way my father had shared it with me, but with the right rules <grin>.

Chess House Review Collage

This product is recommended for all ages.  It is ideally suited for children ages 6-12. I thought “hmm ideally suited for 6-12?  Will that be too babyish for Turtlegirl or Tailorbear? Will I or Honeybear find it too condescending?” Nope! Supergirl loved it, though she was almost too young developmentally for the program, and loves showing off how she can set up the chess board all by herself!

Setting up the chess board all by herself

So what is the Starter Chess Learning Kit? It includes the DVD from Elliot’s Chess School: Pawn Level (Level 1).  With this DVD, students learn how to properly set up the chess pieces, the proper names, point value, and how a piece operates.  In addition the student gains knowledge of some basic strategy.

In addition to the DVD, the starter kit includes a vinyl chess board that can be rolled up for storage and beautiful, solid, easy to grip chess pieces. Chess House also includes an extra queen in both white and black for those occasions when your pawn crosses the board and gets an upgrade. A carrying case with spots for pieces and rolled chess board completes the ensemble.

Thoughts from Supergirl (developmentally around age 6):

I like how I can set up the chess board. Chess is fun. I like the DVD. Mr. Elliot teach me how to set up the chess board. He taught me about the pawns and the knights and the rooks. The queen is worth 9 points! I play the game with my sisters and Turtlegirl always beats me. I played with daddy, too and with Tailorbear.

Thoughts from Turtlegirl (age 16):

Although I did not find it babyish, the concepts covered were below my level. (I knew about pieces and how they move and I knew about points.) One of the things I was glad they covered were the pawn shields and development. I would very much like Mom to get me the next level up. Chess is one of the things I really enjoy doing, and I’d love to be better at it. I love the pieces and I love the fact that with the carrying case I can take the game everywhere.

Playing Chess

Thoughts from Tailorbear (age 14)

I really enjoyed it. I might have liked it better if I was younger. I now know what ranks and files are, and how to say “knight to h8” I didn’t know quite what that was before. I know what a pawn shield is, I know how to move the queen. I knew of 3 ways but I thought there were 4. I hope I can do more chess, because I would like very much to become better! The carrying case is really cool and the chess pieces are solid. I feel like I’m playing with a real chess set and not a kid’s toy.

Thoughts from Honeybear (the Dad Man!):

This is a very informative program.  Although I had learned to play chess at an early age, and even participated in a chess club in elementary school, I was not aware of the ranks, files, and even some of the rules of chess (like each pawn can move two squares on its first move.  The sessions explain the moves of each of the different pieces, and even some strategy.  I know feel I have a much better grasp of the techniques and strategies of chess having gone through the lessons.

My Thoughts: 

Christmas is just around the corner.  I think this would make a  fabulous Christmas (or St.  Nicholas Day) gift for children who want to learn to play Chess or for those like me who thought they knew how to play chess. I had not heard of castling, never knew what rank and file meant and didn’t know about pawn shields, so even I learned a bit more about Chess. I am considering picking up the next level or two for my family to enjoy. I love how the information is divided into “bite-sized” chunks so that younger students can digest the concept. There is a also a small activity booklet included inside the dvd.  With these activities students can practice different strategies or master how a particular piece moves. Supergirl and I enjoyed playing things like “Pawn Game” or “Rooks vs. Pawns.”  Since they had more knowledge and experience, Tailorbear and Turtlegirl jumped into complete games after watching the DVD. Our family will be enjoying this chess set for many years to come!

The Details:

  • Vendor Name: Chess House
  • Product: Starter Chess Learning Kit
  • Product Includes: Chess Game, DVD and Carrying Case
  • Age Recommendation: “For All Ages but ideally suited for children ages 6-12”
  • Price: $39.95



Visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog to read what others have to say about the Starter Chess Learning Kit from Chess House.

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

You can read my other Schoolhouse Review Crew Reviews by clicking here.


A is for Arranging Meals

Yes, I’m using a fancy, forced method of describing meal planning so that I can begin writing ABC Blogging (Blogging Through the Alphabet) with Marcy over at Ben and Me again. Though I’m writing about meal planning it is about arranging (and rearranging certain kinds of foods.)

A is for Arranging Meals #abcblogging

Recently, I broke down, jumped on the bandwagon and purchased the much-raved-about-on-Facebook-book Trim Healthy Mama. With the government shutdown interfering with family cash flow, the book being temporarily out of stock, and being generally impatient I purchased the epub version for NOOK.  (Note: I am not displeased with my choice but I *will* be ordering the physical book as soon as I am able.  Having the real book will make searching for information and following recipes so much easier!)

If you regularly read my blog, you’ll remember that my husband (only 41 at the time!) had a very mild heart attack in early June.  Since then we’ve been on a mission to to improve our health by taking baby steps to better eating.  (I wrote one blog post about Better Butter! and I do plan on writing more!) It’s been a struggle. Eating healthy isn’t monetarily cheap but spending less money on food is far too expensive for our health.

I hate the word diet. Yes, hate is a strong word.  I know that one meaning of diet is simply what you normally eat as in the sentence: Lions survive on a steady diet of zebra.  But for humans diet usually means restriction of great tasting food and being forced to eat fewer calories comprised of cardboard like substances.  And for the most part those diets exist for the sole purpose of losing weight.  So you lose your desired amount of weight, assuming of course that you don’t give up, and then you go back to your old way of eating. Oh sure there are some diets that purport to be a way of life so that you can stick with them forever.  Weight Watchers and The South Beach Diet come to mind.  They are eating plans that you follow *forever*.  (And I should note that for some people they work. They work well and I even *know* some people for whom they have worked well.  *I* am not one of them.)

I was very resistant to the idea of Trim Healthy Mama. Isn’t it just another low-carb fad diet that tells me I can’t eat the yummy foods I want to eat?  No, it’s not. At least that’s not how I’m viewing it. THM is a low-glycemic index way of eating.  Much of the science and nutrition included in the book just confirmed all the information I had researched on my own. A diet low in fat but high in carbs even if those carbs are whole grain and full of fiber is not healthy.

You’ll have to visit the Trim Healthy Mama website or check out the Facebook Group to get more information on the plan. I want to share how I am arranging meals to be healthier and to fit, as close to possible, in the THM plan.  Foods or meals are either S (Satisfying, use fat as the main fuel), E (Energizing, use carbs as the main fuel source) or FP (Fuel Pull, which is designed to use your own body as a fuel source.) The book does a great job of explaining how our body uses fuel and insulin. The science based premise utilizes one fuel type at a time or, in the case of Fuel Pull, no fuel.  This has changed the way I think about meals and meal planning! I am now arranging my meals based on fuel source.

I used to base my meals around the main carb source: pasta, rice or potatoes. Every meal. Every day. And I never thought about the fats. I just made sure that I ate less of the starchy carb, didn’t serve corn or peas and rice, pasta or potatoes at the same time and I made sure that we were using the good healthy fats and oils. We did lots of stir-fries.  Those are healthy, right? I mean they are full of good for you vegetables and I would only use healthy oil and we used to use brown rice but hey even white rice couldn’t be that bad with the good oil and the fiber from the great veggies! Well, I’ll be rearranging those stir-fries as well.

Now I’m arranging meals based on what type of fuel.  Do I feel like something rich and satisfying? Then I plan an S based meal which might look like this: Chicken breasts seasoned with different herbs and sautéed in butter (or in the summer marinated and grilled), roasted veggies such as asparagus, broccoli or cauliflower. I roast the veggies with butter and garlic (better butter actually).  Then serve with a salad made from lots of greens and maybe some cucumbers and radishes with a creamy salad. I swear I did not miss the pasta, rice, or potatoes!

Maybe, I’m wanting something less rich.   Carrots are slightly higher in carbs so a full serving pushes into the E category.  The other night we had chicken breasts seasoned with Cajun spices and grilled (no fat). I served it with diced carrots and salad.  This time the dressing was a vinegar based dressing with a small amount of oil which made it an E style meal.

Right now I’m arranging meals and snacks on a day to day basis. As I get more of a handle on this way of eating, I’ll start arranging meal types into weekly plans and maybe . . . just maybe . . . I’ll get back to some rotating menus but with S, E and FP style meals.

My goal is to improve the health of my family, specifically I want to use Trim Healthy Mama style of eating to improve my husband’s cholesterol level and get my blood sugar under control so that I don’t develop full blown diabetes.  The weight loss that this program promotes is just a lovely side effect.  (Another truly wonderful side effect? Losing fat. The scale says I’ve lost 4 lbs. in the two weeks that we’ve been eating like this but my clothes tell me that I must be losing inches as well.)

Blogging Through the Alphabet


Random 5 on Friday {October 11 Edition}

I can’t believe we are 1/3 of the way through October already!  The weather certainly has changed and I can believe it’s October. I seemed to have blinked though and missed the first  third of the month!

Here’s my random thoughts for this week:

1. Have you been missing me? I just haven’t been posting much. I’m finding it incredibly difficult to post since the Government Shut Down on October 1st. I think I’m now in a better place emotionally and will get back to blogging. I’ve had lots of ideas but it’s hard to write when you are worried, stressed, and processing it all.

2. Speaking of furlough: My husband is one of the 800,000 Federal Employees who were sent home on October 1st.  He’s also one of the 400,000 that the pentagon ordered back to work since his specific job provides “welfare, morale, or support for the military members.”

3. I am really glad that he is back to work; never mind the financial implications, as much as we love having Daddy around, he disrupts our schedule. And having him home for reasons other than “vacation” puts a damper on the family mood.

4. I jumped on the Trim Healthy Mama bandwagon and purchased the NOOK version of the book. I’ve read through Parts 1 and 2 and am eating working my way through the recipe sections. I’ve discovered that I *love* the Trim Healthy Pancakes.  The Trim Healthy Pan Bread isn’t bad but I didn’t really care for the famous Muffin In A Mug.  Oh it smelled wonderful. But I’m not a fan of Truvia.  To me stevia has just as much of a strong bitter aftertaste as artificial sweeteners like Splenda or Nutrasweet.  I’m going to try the bread in mug version which has no sweetener.  Maybe I can adjust the Muffin in Mug to just have no sweet.  Supergirl though LOVED the muffin and gladly finished mine for me.  Look for upcoming posts where I babble on and on about Trim Healthy Mama.

5. And instead of a random thought here’s a random photo:

Photo of Radish with natural heart shape in side

My daughter was getting radishes ready for our salad. This one had an oddly shaped end. When she cut it it came out like this.

The Pebble Pond

Come join us over at the Pebble Pond for this week’s Edition of Random 5 on Friday!


My daughter is so silly . . .

I don’t know where on Earth she gets it? I mean it can’t be from her theatrical mother or her joke telling father, right? It has to be some throw back to some distant relative from generations ago!

So Turtlegirl put a box on her head:

Turtle girl thinking Inside the Box

She then says to me:

“Mom, today I will be thinking inside the box!”

*sigh*  and to think I spent all that time and effort trying to teach them how to think outside the box.


{Crew Review} VideoText Interactive: Algebra: A Complete Course

When I was in 9th grade, Algebra was my favorite subject! I had a great teacher and I fell in love with math. I actually looked forward to teaching Algebra to my children. I discovered though that I didn’t have the same ability to teach as I did learning.  I had heard of VideoText Interactive and VideoText Algebra: A Complete Course when Boobear was younger but I was put off by the price tag. I’m going to state this upfront. This is a program with a higher price tag than other math curricula I’ve seen on the market. I rarely comment on value in my reviews because value is subjective. *THIS* program is worth the cost. I regret not paying more attention to my friends talking about VT Algebra. So now that you know my bottom line from the get go, go grab a cup of coffee and let me tell you about this incredible teaching resource!

 VideoText Interactive Review Collage

What is VideoText Interactive?

A better title would be “who is VideoText Interactive?”  Tom Clark, President of VideoText Interactive, developed his program using his notes from explaining mathematical concepts to his children. Mr. Clark has a strong background in teaching math and science and understanding the needs of both teachers and students. I think his educational background combined with his teaching experience, knowledge of, as well as love of math has given him an exceptional gift for explaining how to think mathematically.

So what exactly is VideoText Interactive? It’s a comprehensive, mastery based, program that uses videos as the textbook! The student receives instruction through interacting with the material presented in video format. The student is encouraged to pause the video to answer a question or to discuss the concept with her parent/teacher.

What’s Included?

VideoText Interactive’s Algebra: A Complete Course Online version provides up to two students with 3 years of access to all of the course content: video lessons, course notes, student worktext, and  student solution manual. The included Instructor account includes access to all that the student sees plus quizzes, unit tests, cumulative unit reviews, and teacher resources such as course outline.

VideoText Interactive Online Views

How does it Work?

Algebra: A Complete Course covers Pre-Algebra, Algebra I and Algebra II concepts in 10 Units. The website (and physical materials) refer to Modules A-F. You’ll want to spend some time at the VideoText Interactive website looking at the FAQ and Course information. You can even view a sample video lesson or log in as a guest and try a lesson using the online format.


VideoText Interactive provides many resources and support for the parent/teacher.  One of my favorites is the description of the different plans: One-Year Plan for older students who need Algebra credits but may not have a lot of time left in high school. A Two-Year plan for students like Tailorbear who have time to complete both the Algebra and Geometry courses if she takes two years to complete each.  And a Three-Year Plan for younger students who are ready for Algebra but are in middle school or junior high. Tailorbear is following the One-Year Plan. We’ve modified the One-Year Plan for Turtlegirl so that she  can move a bit quicker.  She’s completed an Algebra I course and part of an Algebra II course but she had hit a wall with Algebra II.  Since she is a junior and we need her to get to Geometry quickly, working at a slightly faster pace will allow her more time to do Geometry (which also covers Trig and Pre-Calc).

Let me start by explaining the One-Year Plan.  With the One-Year Plan a student completes one lesson per day. VT encourages students to do the lesson on day one and take the lesson quiz on day two.  On the One-Year plan the student then watches the next video lesson and completes the exercises. This has been the perfect pace for Tailorbear. Fast enough that she isn’t bored but slow enough that I know she is really truly getting it.

To modify this for Turtlegirl, I used the quizzes as a guide. If the quiz material covered more than one lesson, then Turtlegirl would do all the lesson work.  For example, if Lesson 1 and 2 were combined for the quiz, she would be assigned to complete lesson 1 and 2 and the next day she would take the quiz and if the next quiz was lesson 3 and lesson 4 she would do those lessons.  This pace works for her right now because this is review of material she’s already been exposed to. She is currently in Unit 2 and I know that we’ll eventually slow down to a regular One-Year pace.


Tailorbear likes that some of the lesson material is combined for the quizzes because that means she doesn’t have a quiz every day.

Thoughts from Tailorbear (age 14; 9th grade):

I really, really like this program. I’m understanding math concepts that I never quite got before. Dividing fractions, Multiplying decimals, and others. He teaches you WHAT you’re actually doing before just giving you the trick. Which is nice. Just saying, ‘cause then if I forget the trick I can do the “Math”. I really love the bite sized steps in each video. He gives it to you, piece by piece. Even though you’re watching it all in one video, you’re getting it in small, understandable bits. The work sheets are AMAZING I am practicing the steps for mastery and I’m understanding so much more!! I really love this program, and really hope it works well for other people, like it did for me!

Thoughts from Turtlegirl (age 16; 11th grade):

 I love this program. I like how they SHOW the math concepts instead of just telling you how to solve them. I like that they explain the why behind the how. I have finally had the reason behind ‘To divide fractions, don’t ask why: just invert and multiply’. One of my favorite parts of the lesson is when they illustrate how to solve that type of problem. I also like how with the ‘work sheet’ part of the lesson, they give several examples (with illustration!) on what sort of problems we’re working on and how. They also list the ‘important concepts or terms’ that were introduced in the video. The very visual approach of this program really worked well for me. I am looking forward to continuing my study of mathematics. I have always liked math but now thanks to VideoText Algebra, I’m liking it even more!


My Thoughts:

I was worried that VT Algebra would have nothing to offer Turtlegirl because she had already completed Algebra 1 and was part way through Algebra 2. I was wrong. She is grasping foundational skills that we didn’t realize were a bit shaky. I know that she’ll be rock solid with her Algebra skills when she finishes this course.

I knew Tailorbear was weak with her Algebra skills. Though we had tried a different Algebra I course I knew she wasn’t grasping the concepts. VideoText Interactive has helped her to understand mathematical thinking. My math hating daughter no longer complains about doing math.

Though I highly recommend this course, I do have to say that I wish that the interactive part of the online course was more interactive.  Each of the girls have a separate log in but the program does not track the girls progress at all. We (meaning I) have to keep track where each one is. I don’t mind the PDFs.  Since we are not always using Form B for the quizzes or tests I am grateful that I am not wasting paper.

I do love this program and I think this quote from my daughter nicely sums up why we all love it here.

Quote from Turtlegirl age 16:

“He doesn’t teach you how to do it; he teaches you how to think through it. At the beginning of every lesson they say ‘let’s find a logical way to solve this.’ He teaches you how to think mathematically.”


The Details:

  • Vendor:  VideoText Interactive
  • Product: Algebra: A Complete Course
  • Author: Tom Clark
  • Algebra FAQs
  • Formats Available: Online or Physical DVDs with Physical books
  • Price for Complete Online Program: $299
  • Recommended Age Range: This program is suitable for students who completed arithmetic and are ready for Algebra.  So as early as Grade 7 all the way through high school age.

Visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog to read what others have to say about VideoText Interactive.

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

You can read my other Schoolhouse Review Crew Reviews by clicking here.

This Graphic contains the FTC Regulations statement for Reviews.