Random Five on Friday: December 11th Edition

I know I’ve been super quiet on my blog for December and then wham I post on Thursday and Friday!  I have posts planned for Saturday and Sunday too.  I plan to post the Letter E and the Letter F so I will be caught up with the Blogging through the Alphabet link.

Wow I haven’t done a Random Five on Friday since November 20th!
Random 5 on Friday at Circling Through This Life

1. We had a wonderful Thanksgiving. It was just the six of us. Tailorbear baked a pumpkin pie and an apple pie.  I made a Trim Healthy Mama S style No Bake Pumpkin Cheesecake. I need to tweak the recipe I created a bit and maybe I can share it in time for Christmas baking. Tailorbear also took care of cooking the turkey. It was wonderful to have someone else do so much of the cooking!

2. We played games on Thanksgiving Day.  That is our tradition and we played more games on Friday and on Saturday! We were really into Scattergories and Trivial Pursuit. We also played several games of Apples to Apples which is always fun with Supergirl as she just randomly chooses a card. Sometimes, they actually fit!

3. We attended the Sounds of Christmas Choral presentation at BooBear’s University. It was her last choral concert for this year as she has to drop Choir for Spring Term. Required course time conflicted with Choir practice times. I’m a little sad. No wait. I’m a lot sad that she has to drop it but we’re both hopeful she’ll be able to join again in the fall.

4. The Sounds of Christmas program was based on the Lessons and Carols from King’s College Chapel in Cambridge. It is a Christian Worship service celebrating the Nativity of Christ and is comprised of Bible readings interspersed with Christmas carols, hymns and choir music. The service was beautiful and audience interactive! Different choir members took turns reading the Bible (I don’t know what version but personally I didn’t care for it). For the more traditional hymns such as the First Noel or Joy to the World some verses were song by “ALL” which meant both the Men’s Chorus and the University Singers and the audience.

5. Supergirl loves celebrating St. Nicholas Day. The big girls wanted to do shoes but Supergirl wanted to use her stocking. I compromised. I told her to put out a slipper. Her shoes are too small and she got her traditional “gold” chocolate coins in her stocking and her Frozen themed mug for hot cocoa in her slipper. Then it was off to church to where St. Nicholas came to visit and passed out little packages with a little orange (cutie?), some chocolate coins, and a candy cane. 

Supergirl gets a gift from St. Nicholas


D is for Daughters: My Daughters

I missed the letter D (and E and F but those will post!) in the Blogging Through the Alphabet link up hosted by Cristi and Meg. Daughters.  That starts with D and I have four of them.

I am biased because I am their mother but I have four amazing, wonderful, and beautiful daughters. Each one different from the other but all special to me. Talented in different ways but each possessing something that sets them apart.

Each one is so different in personality from her sisters that it can be so hard to believe that they are all related. I see so much of me and at the same time so much of my husband in each of them. Sometimes, I joke that each of them inherited all of my traits and all of her father’s bad traits.

Each of my daughters have the ability to make me smile, to make me laugh and to make my heart swell to bursting with pride.

Sometimes I look at them and I see the little girls they were and then I blink and I realized that they aren’t little anymore. I still hurt when they hurt. I imagine I always will. I still want to fix everything and make everything alright and sometimes it is harder than I ever thought it would be to sit back and let them make their own choices and watch them fall down. But the joy that comes from watching them get back up again? No words to describe that.

I don’t know if daughters are more difficult to raise than sons. I have no little boys to raise but I do know that this parenting gig is the hardest thing I’ve ever done but oh the rewards of seeing these young women growing up makes it all worthwhile!

My Four Daughters on St. Nicholas Day: D is for Daughters

Though I am not linking this post up, I do encourage you to go check out this awesome linkup!

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My Love Affair with Coconut Oil

This week’s letter is C.  Join me as I join Cristi and Meg and I blog about My Love Affair with Coconut Oil.

Many years ago a friend of mine introduced me to coconut oil. I confess I was not keen on it. I am not fond of coconut flavored anything so why on earth would I want to use coconut oil!!!???  Now of course coconut oil is all the rage.  And for good reason. I’m not going to extol the virtues of coconut oil but instead I am going to share a few of the ways we use coconut oil and how I’ve gone from a “seriously? coconut oil?”  to a “Yes, seriously, coconut oil. Try it!” perspective.

I love Coconut Oi. It has so many uses!

  • Coconut Oil is a great substitute for butter. Yes, for me it took some getting used to but coconut oil as a butter substitute is a hit here. Cinnamon Raisin Bagels are quite yummy during Orthodox Christian fasting seasons such as Advent and Great Lent and my girls love them spread with coconut oil. No, I confess coconut oil as a spread is not as yummy as cream cheese on a bagel but it works. Turtle says she loves toast with coconut oil and peanut butter.  It is her go-to breakfast during the fasting seasons.
  • Coconut Oil is solid at room temperature. This makes it an ideal substitute for that nasty hydrogenated shortening.  Tailorbear uses a 1/2 coconut oil and 1/2 butter with her cookies to achieve a great texture with a buttery taste. BooBear makes these awesome chocolate chocolate chip cookies with just coconut oil and they have a great texture like you would get from using shortening and they have just a hint of coconut flavor. I am NOT a fan of coconut.  Coconut anything makes me want to run but these cookies? The coconut oil adds something that I can’t describe but makes them extra yummy and doesn’t make me want to run away. Cookies do not taste right anymore if they are not made with coconut oil!
  • Coconut is a wonderful moisturizer for your hair! When I was young, I would get those Vo5 hot oil packets to do a hot oil treatment on my hair.  Tailorbear has been using coconut oil as a conditioner/oil treatment for her hair for a couple of years.  I’ve recently started using coconut oil as treatment oil for my hair.  Boobear slathered up my hair and her own and we sat around in our grubby clothes and let that oil rich oil soak into our hair.  We’ve decided we should do this once a month.  The only problem?  I kept thinking I smelled like a cookie and I started craving those chocolate chocolate chip cookies. 
  • Coconut Oil is naturally anti-fungal, anti-viral, and anti-bacteria. It’s a boost your immune system. I combine extra virgin olive oil, fresh chopped garlic, and unrefined organic coconut oil and we use this when we have a cold. It makes an excellent spread for French bread or you can spread it like vapor rub.  Sounds gross but try rubbing it on your feet and putting on socks. I don’t know how it works but it sure helps Supergirl when she is fighting a cold virus.

What are some of the ways that you love to use coconut oil?  Share your favorite way to use coconut oil in the comments!


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Random 5 on Friday ~ November 20th Edition

It’s been a busy couple of weeks around here!

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1. A weekend or to ago Boobear and I had girly time again. On Saturday, we deep conditioned our hair with coconut oil and then later on Saturday she did henna on our roots. My hair seemed to really love the extra attention!

2.  It is concert and recital time for Boobear again! Last week we attended her choral concert on Tuesday night and her keyboarding student recital on Thursday night. I’m looing forward to attending the “Sounds of Christmas” choral concert in December.

3.  Turtlegirl took the SAT and has started hearing from universities in response to her SAT scores. She finds that very encouraging. I’m proud of how hard she is working and studying.  Honeybear, Turtlegirl, and I attended an informational/recruiting dinner for Turtlegirl’s first choice college.  She was able to speak with someone from the Honor’s College and with someone from the Arts and Sciences college and discussed Earth Science/ Geology major options. 

4. Yesterday was my 21st Wedding Anniversary. To celebrate we attended a small gallery reception of Byzantine Icons and Celtic manuscript illustrations. I really enjoyed the chance to see several different styles of icons and I loved the Illuminations. After that Honeybear and I just stopped for pizza. Not the most romantic dinner but I think we’ll have something fancier and cozier tonight. Supergirl likes to play restaurant and Tailorbear likes to cook. I didn’t get roses this year but here’s a picture of my anniversary roses from last year.

Roses for profile pictures

5. I can’t believe that Thanksgiving is next week. I am so unprepared. I don’t have a menu planned. Not that it will be much different from any other year but still no plan, no list, and no food shopping. 


2015 Schoolhouse Review Crew Blue Ribbon Winners!

It is that time of year again! The time the Schoolhouse Review Crew team members get to vote on their favorite products, resources, and curriculum from the 2015 Crew Year.  We had some amazing vendors this year! I’ll be sharing both the official winner and if I had a different choice, I’ll share that too! I’m only including some of the winners in my post. You can visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew to see the full list of winners!

2015 Schoolhouse Review Crew Blue Ribbon Awards

Favorite Reading Curriculum: Reading Kingdom. ~ This was Supergirl’s choice! She loves Reading Kingdom!

Favorite Writing Curriculum: Institute for Excellence in Writing.  This is my favorite!  I love IEW.

Favorite Spelling Program: Institute for Excellence in Writing: Phonetic ZooWe did not review a spelling program this year but I have heard such excellent things about Phonetic Zoo!

Favorite Grammar Program: Institute for Excellence in Writing: Fix-It! GrammarThis was part of the Deluxe Combo that some reviewers received.  I reviewed Fix-It! Grammar last year.

Favorite Literature Curriculum: Progeny Press. This was the first year that the Crew reviewed Progeny Press and I didn’t!  I have reviewed Screwtape Letters along with Bow of Bronze and then I reviewed the Hobbit. Most recently I reviewed The Hunger Games along with The Courage of Sarah Noble.  Since I didn’t review it, I couldn’t vote for it.  I voted for Sharon Watson’s  Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide.

Favorite History Curriculum: Home School in the Woods. We did not review Amy Pak’s products in 2015 but we did in 2013. I reviewed Great Empires. For this crew year I voted for Homeschool Legacy.

Favorite Science Curriculum: Visual Learning Systems. This was Supergirl’s Favorite! She loves Digital Online Science!

Favorite Math Curriculum: CTC Math.

Favorite Math Supplement: SimplyFunWe did not review either game from SimplyFun. We voted for Super Teacher Worksheets as I had been using it as a supplement for Supergirl’s math studies.

Favorite Christian Education Curriculum: Grapevine Studies. This is a wonderful study!  Did you catch my review? It’s perfect for the advent season!

Favorite Foreign Language Curriculum: Middlebury Interactive Language. Turtlegirl loves High School French!

Favorite Fine Arts Product: Maestro ClassicsSupergirl continues to listen to The Nutcracker nearly every day.

Favorite Video: FishFlix.comWe did not review any of the videos from FishFlix.com. Supergirl’s favorite are the videos from SmartKidz Media.

Favorite Preschool Product: La La Logic. *Sh* don’t tell Supergirl that it won Preschool Product. Seriously though, this is great for early elementary as well. Did you read my review?

Favorite High School Product: Writing with Sharon WatsonWhen Worlds Collide was a product I didn’t know I needed! Definitely a favorite here in multiple categories!

Favorite College or College-Prep Product: Freedom Project Education.  I did not review this one.  For our family it was a tie between When Worlds Collide from Sharon Watson and The Critical Thinking Co.’s Practical Critical Thinking.

Favorite Parent Product: Koru Naturals. I am so glad that we got to review the Emu Oil along with the Shampoo and Conditioner and then to review Koru again with three more great products including my now favorite honey soap and Turtlegirl’s favorite Skin Clear Cream!

Best Online Resource: Super Teacher WorksheetsSupergirl agrees!

Just for Fun: USAopolyWonky Cube was our favorite of the two!

All Around Crew Favorite: Institute for Excellence in WritingI was so blessed to review the brand new edition of the Teaching Writing Structure and Style and Three Resources this year!

For a full list of the awards and winners visit the Schoolhouse Review crew blog. You’ll also be able to read what other 2015 Crew Members had to say about the products they nominated for the 2015 Blue Ribbon Awards!  Just click on the banner below!

Review Crew


The Perfect Study for Advent~ Birth of Jesus Bible Study

This is my final review for the 2015 Schoolhouse Review Crew year! For this last review I’m sharing the perfect study for preparing for Christmas: The Birth of Jesus: Multi-Level from GrapeVine Studies.

I have heard of different “draw through the Bible” programs and honestly, none of them really appealed to me because I can’t draw.  Rather than focus on the content I should I be learning or teaching, I am worried about if I am going to get the picture right. GrapeVine Studies different. Their tagline is Stick Figure Through the Bible. Stick Figures! Hey I can do that!

The Perfect Study for Advent Birth of Jesus review at Circling Through This LIfe #hsreviews

Let me tell you why I am excited about this study!

  • Not Denomination Specific! ~ This is huge for me as an Eastern Orthodox Christian. GrapeVine Studies provides a platform for a teacher directed approach to doctrine. This allows the teacher to address specific doctrines when they come up in the lessons.
  • A list of Goals for Teachers ~ My favorite of their goals for teachers?  To learn alongside the students. As a home schooling parent I am so often learning right along side my children and I love that GrapeVine has that as a specific goal!
  • A list of Goals for Students ~ I love how they list “learn from those who have lived before them” as a goal for the students. I think that goes well with the “learn along with your students” goal for teachers! Students can learn from the people who lived before them in the Bible lessons and from the teacher and teachers benefit from learning about those Bible people who lived before them.
  • Memory Verses ~ Each lesson, except for the first Timeline Overview Lesson, includes a memory verse.  Supergirl is loving the idea of memory work!

Let’s take a look at the Teacher Guide!

The Teacher Guide lays out everything for you. It includes the statement of faith, teacher goals, student goals, supply list, goal for each lesson, key points for each lesson, and memory verse.  Teachers can put the lesson into their own words based on the information in green printing or read that information to the student. The guide tells you exactly what to draw and includes a completed student page.

It also has a schedule for the lessons, vocabulary to look up in a Bible Dictionary, review, and some mapping. The Teacher Guide, plus a few things like a whiteboard, markers, Bible, Bible dictionary and some time in prayer before beginning, and the teacher is fairly well set to begin. With all the of help in the Teacher Guide this is mostly an open and go type of program. I need that with my busy schedule!

Let’s take a look at the Student Guide

The Student books, both of them, are exactly the same except the Traceable Version has stick figures in gray so that students can trace them. Both contain pages that look like scrolls for the timeline overview and the timeline review. Both include boxes for drawing the events in the scripture reading. You’ll find drawing review and lines for writing out the memory verse. I do wish that the Traceable version had the scripture in dotted font so that Supergirl could just trace it. Her fine motor skills plus her writing ability means that we have to adapt this part. She loves doing copy work.

This is  wonderful study to complete during Advent to prepare for the Birth of our Savior.

GrapeVine Studies Review

The Details:

  • The Vendor:  GrapeVine Studies
  • The Product: Birth of Jesus: Multi-Level
  • The Author:  Dianna Wiebe
  • Format: I received the Teacher book, the Student book and the Traceable book in digital PDF format. printed copies are also available
  • Age Range:  The Multi-Level Student book is listed for ages 7+. The Traceable version is listed as for ages 3-6 but I think older students who are ready for the content but struggle with fine motor skills, like Supergirl, would benefit form using the Traceable version.
  • Also Available: GrapeVine Studies has Topical Studies like the Birth of Jesus, I reviewed and more topics as well as Old Testament and New Testament Overviews. Some of my fellow crew members reviewed Old Testament Part 1 Creation to Jacob.
  • NOTE: You can find sample lessons and more information about the different levels on the website. There is even a PDF guide for How to Choose a Level.
Grapevine Studies Review

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B is for Books ~ of Course

This week it is the Letter B. My friends Cristi and Meg are co-hosting Blogging Through The Alphabet. Of course with the letter B, I have to blog about books! I have not been reading nearly as much these past couple of months as I was earlier this year. Advent is starting for New Calendar Orthodox and I plan to read more during the Nativity Fast.

B is for Books ~ Blogging Through the Alphabet at Circling Through This Life

So what am I reading?

I have about 9 books on my Goodreads currently reading shelf but I am only going to list the ones that I am more actively reading. By that I mean that I have actually picked up and read at least a few pages in the last couple of weeks.

I did borrow Immortal Reign from the Kindle Owner’s Library and I started it. I think I am on Chapter 2. If you didn’t catch my blog post from earlier in the week you can read my thoughts about Immortal Plague which is the first book of the series.

I also am still working through The Sorcerer's Stone, the first book in the Harry Potter series. My goal in 2016 is to re-read the whole series. I just got started in 2015.  Ok. Ok.  I got started in 2015 and then decided I wanted to make it a goal. I am in the middle of Chapter 14. For those of you familiar with the book it’s the chapter about Norbert, the baby dragon that Hagrid hatches from an egg.

One day while I was out and about but didn’t have a book with me or my Kindle so no reading the borrowed book, I opened the Kindle app on my phone and started reading another Jeeves and Wooster novel by P. G. Wodehouse. This time it’s Right Ho, Jeeves. According to Kindle/Goodreads I am a whopping 4% complete. Haha.

My Plan for reading during Nativity Fast:

Maybe just maybe I’ll finally finish the last bit of Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. I’ll also dust off the Orthodox Veneration of the Mother of God. This is a book I started last spring as part of my Great Lent reading but never really got it started. I also plan to get back to reading War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells.  Tailorbear read it for school but we haven’t finished our discussions because I haven’t finished it yet.

What are you reading?


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Practical Critical Thinking for High School {Crew Review}

The Critical Thinking Co. has been a part of my homeschool since Boobear, now a college junior, was a preschooler. Having loved every single product that I have ever purchased or reviewed, I knew I wanted to try Practical Critical Thinking for grades 9-12+ with Tailorbear. We also received the Teacher’s Manual.

The Critical Thinking Co.

The Critical Thinking Co.

Just as their company name implies this is publisher focuses on materials that builds and develops critical thinking skills. What is Critical Thinking? Critical Thinking is the ability to identify and evaluate evidence in order to make a decision. If you would like to know more about critical thinking you can read these articles and advice from The Critical Thinking Co.

This family run business began with John Baker in 1958 as a math and textbook company. Today, under the guidance of his son, Michael Baker, the company offers over 200 titles! They are dedicated to helping children and families. Did you know that they donate two or more products to a child in need for every order they receive?

Practical Thinking

This is a thick book! It is 378 pages! And it is full color. These pages are beautiful, colorful, and eye catching. There is an illustration, image, or photo on nearly every page.

Cover Image Practical Critical Thinking for Grades 9-12+

This consumable work text is written directly to the student and is ideal for group situations such as a classroom or co-op but my daughter and I found that she could use it on her own and then meet once a week or so with me for discussion. I do think the group activities enhance the material but certainly do not prevent a single student from gaining critical thinking skills. Having an adult to discuss the materials is vital and so I do not recommend this as a completely independent self-study course.

Did I mention how loaded this book is?  The information is divided into four units:

  • Becoming a Critical Thinker
  • Adding to My Critical Thinking Toolbox
  • Critical Thinking and Arguments
  • Applying my Critical Thinking

Each unit is divided into 2 chapters and each chapter is broken down into bite size pieces or lessons. Each chapter includes from 7 to 10 Lessons. No matter how many lessons are included, every chapter ends with these as the final three lessons:

  • Chapter Summary & Important Takeaways
  • Individual Activities
  • Group Activities and Discussion

Teacher’s Manual

Teacher's Manual: Practical Critical Thinking

The Teacher’s Manual for Practical Critical Thinking is divided into two parts.  Part One is Answers. This part alone makes the Teacher’s Manual worthwhile and necessary for me. I found myself reaching for the Answers on more than one occasion when helping Tailorbear with an activity or when discussing the activity. I don’t think we would be able to successfully use Practical Critical Thinking without this guide! Granted many many of the “answers” were “Answers will vary.”  But that is not the part I found so important. What I relied on were the explanations that started out with “It is important that students . . . “ because those statements helped me to understand what my daughter was supposed to get out of the activity.

Part Two is Reproducible Activities. These are the exact same pages as the full color work text but they are black and white and do not have the photos. It has some illustrations but not nearly as many as the full color book.

Like many of their other products, The Critical Thinking Co. has granted a license for purchasers to reproduce or copy Practical Critical Thinking. Because it is full color and there are so many pages, if you would like to reproduce the activities, I would recommend copying the Reproducible Activities from the Teacher’s Manual.

This is a wonderful course for high school students and I recommend that all college bound high schoolers complete this workbook. Not only will it improve high school studies, it will prepare students to be able to think critically when in college! 

The Details:


The Critical Thinking Company Review

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My Thoughts about Immortal Plague by Aiden James

Since taking on more responsibilities with the Crew, my reading has slowed down. Oh I've still been reading just more blogs and less books but I've been reading at least a few pages every day from at least one book on my currently reading list. Since I just finished reading this book this morning, I decided I needed to blog about it while it was fresh in my mind.

So what book did I just finish?  Well, I'm glad you asked.  It's the first book in a series.  There are seven books listed for this series. What is the series? Oh that would help wouldn't it? It's by Aiden James: The Judas Chronicles.  Yes, it's about that Judas. The one from the Bible who betrayed the Lord for 30 pieces of silver.  I just finished reading Immortal Plague and I was relieved to discover that book two Immortal Reign (formally called Reign of Coins) is available as part of the Kindle Owner's Library.

Tess shares her thoughts about Immotal Plague by Aiden James ~ Circling Though This Life

This is not a Christian Fiction novel.  The theology is wrong and yet there are kernels of truth hidden here and there. What if Judas was condemned not to die but to walk the world for eternity? It reminds me of Captain Jack Harkness.  Feels pain, dies, but comes back to life and when sick or injured his body regenerates like new? Not regenerates like the Doctor but like Captain Jack. I do like how it acknowledges the Bible and I like the premise that Judas must gather up the 30 coins and that he is doing so to seek reconciliation with the Lord.  It's entertaining and yet I also found it thought provoking.  One sentence caused me to stop and examine beliefs.  "I won't forget the look of terror on his face." Judas, aka William Barrows, remembers the crucifixion of Christ. The look of terror on Christ's face?  Is that possible? But he's God!  He knew He was going to die. It was part of the plan. So how could the God incarnate be terrified?  And that my friends is what caused me to ponder my beliefs.  Do I not believe that Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully human?  Does not incarnation mean God as human?  Not in human form but truly human in every sense?  If I truly believe what I profess to believe as an Orthodox Christian that means I believe that Jesus Christ is fully human and fully divine.  That means he could have felt terror because terror is a human emotion. 

I like reading books that cause me to pause and think. I like books that make me take apart my beliefs and examine them. So I'll read book 2.  Maybe I'll decide to not bother with the rest of the books but I'll give book 2 a try.


Random Five on Friday ~ November 6th Edition

Yes, yes I know it is Saturday. I’m back to my old habits of posting Friday’s post on Saturday but I have good excuse.  No really.  I wanted to include a picture so I had to wait until I could get Boobear to email me the pictures I wanted! See, it’s her fault.

So here’s this week’s Random Five thoughts!

1.  A "conversation" I overheard between George, the cat, and Supergirl, the human.  She was getting ready to feed him and he was pestering her. "Meow. Meow." "You have to wait Georgie.  Waiting is hard. I know."   She is a little parrot mimicking what she hears. I just hope that it starting to sink in. She hates waiting. Waiting is very hard for her but I think knowing she isn't the only one who has wait sometimes really helps. Even if it is just the cat.

2. Supergirl had a special Halloween treat. She got to with BooBear up to Boo's campus and participate in "Countdown to Candy" and then go trick or treating at the residence halls!  Supergirl got to color Halloween themed pictures and decorate a cupcake.  Can you guess who Supergirl is? Well, one of her favorite shows to watch is Once Upon a Time. Supergirl decided she would be Zelena, the Wicked Witch of the West.

Supergirl as Zelena from Once Upon A Time ~ Random Five on Friday

3. It was horrible weather for Halloween this year so I'm thankful that Supergirl had a place to go trick-or-treating indoors. Because the weather was so unpleasant Turtlegirl and Tailorbear dressed up (sorry no pics!). Turtlegirl was a mad scientist with a lab coat, safety goggles and crazy hair!  I really wish I had a picture of Tailorbear. She donned a blue haired wig and we purchased make up crayons for her to do the design on her face.  She added a black cape and became a character from one of her anime shows. No. I do not know which one. I'm a cool mom but I'm not that cool.

4.  So we finally broke down and bought a new TV.  It's a Smart TV.  We do not have cable, or an antenna. We don't have a DISH or any kind of satellite.  We watch DVDs or stream.  We had had been streaming Amazon Prime and Netflix through the Wii to watch on our old analog TV.   We had a Blue Ray DVD player but our TV was not High Def so we didn't invest in Blue Rays.  We had a couple of movie sets (Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings) that happen to be Blue Ray but only because they came that way and were not available in standard format. Our DVD player died.  So we bought a new one.  New TV.  New DVD Player.  We decided to go ahead and purposely buy a couple of movies in Blue Ray format.  So on Halloween we watched the original Stargate movie with Kurt Russell and James Spader.  I think we might invest in more Blue Rays.

5. So I just have to finish this with another overheard conversation.  Supergirl was watching a NEST Video. We have several of the NEST Entertainment history/biography DVDs.  This one was about Joan of Arc. She was emphatically telling the TV "She is not a witch.  Joan is not a witch.  How many times to do I have to tell you people she is not a witch!"  I am enjoying hearing her little conversations. She's quite a little chatter bug.  It is a good reminder to me to be ever so much more careful about what I say and how I say it.  She is a little sponge and she is listening.


A is for Adventure

A is for Adventure. It’s also for Alphabet Blogging. This week my friends Cristi and Meg have started a fresh new round of blogging through the alphabet. So without further ado (see another A word!) here’s my A is for Adventure or Let the Adventure Begin! post!

Alphabet Blogging ~ A is for Adventure!

It’s completely and totally official.  The Adventure has begun!  What adventure? I’ve actually mentioned it a couple of times when I talked about How Much I Love the Crew and hinted here and there.

I should say a new adventure has begun! This reviewing gig with the Schoolhouse Review Crew actually began sometime in 2009 when Debra started reviewing for the crew and would tell me all about the products she was using. And in the spring of 2010 she convinced me that I needed to be a part of this amazing group of ladies.

In June of 2010 I came on board and wow! I have lost count of the different vendors and products I have been blessed to review over the years. I think I’ve written over over 200 reviews for the Crew. I really do not believe I would have been able to provide such an amazing high school education for BooBear. Turtlegirl is studying Russian and French.  Never would have happened without the crew. Tailorbear? She’s been discovering that studying literature isn’t such a bad thing.  And Supergirl? No way would I have been able to try all these different Language Arts and Math programs and learned so much about how she learns and what her strengths and weaknesses are.  Because of the Crew I can take a bit from this program and put it with a bit from that program and create something that works for her.

But as the 2015 Crew Year winds down, I begin a new chapter. I embark on a new adventure! I am part of the brand new five person leadership team. This Crew Leadership gig is a new adventure for me. It’s thrilling and exciting and a tiny bit scary too. I’m a little bit sad about not regularly reviewing products anymore but super excited to be part of the Crew Leadership. We’ve already been talking and planning and praying and 2016 is going to be an amazing year!

Blogging Through the Alphabet with Cristi and Meg

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The Nutcracker ~ Stories in Music {Crew Review}

Until a few years ago, whenever I heard the word Nutcracker or heard the music, especially the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, I would think of a certain department store Christmas commercial. I had never seen the ballet performed or truly listened to the music. That changed when we were gifted tickets to a professional performance of the Nutcracker Ballet. It was beautiful and it the story and the music have become a favorite of Supergirl. Because she loves the Nutcracker I knew we would want to add The Nutcracker from the Stories in Music collection to our small collection of CDs from Maestro Classics.

Maestro Classics Review ~ The Nutcracker

About the Story and the Music

The Nutcracker ballet is based on a fairytale by E.T.A Hoffman. He was a German writer, composer, and painter. He was born in 1776 in a city in Prussia which is now a city a in Russia!  He died in 1822 in Berlin, Germany.

The composer, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, wrote many famous ballets such as Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty in addition to the Christmas favorite, The Nutcracker.

Although this only about an hour long it does contain music from every section of section of the ballet.  Yes, it does have the dance of the sugar plum fairy!

Jim Weiss wrote the script. I liked how he explained not only ballet terms but the German words as well so he doesn’t just call it the Grandfather’s dance but uses the German word for Grandfather. 

Listening and Enjoying this Story in Music

Maestro Classics ~ Stories in Music a review of the Nutcracker by Tess

On the back cover it it says ages 5+ families. I whole heartedly agree! My whole family enjoyed listening to this CD which is subtitled on the cover as "A Classic with Orchestra & Narration."  When my husband heard it for the first time, he had to walk over to the cover to check it out. "I thought I recognized his voice," he exclaimed when he saw Jim Weiss's name as the narrator. 

There were two reasons I wanted to review The Nutcracker: we loved the ballet and we love the storytelling of Jim Weiss. Turtlegirl is not as fond of classical music and really doesn’t care for the music of the ballet, but she loves the story and she enjoys Jim Weiss so even she found listening to Jim Weiss telling the story fun and enjoyable.

Boobear, my music loving, music major, college girl was of course thrilled to add to our collection as she loves Tchaikovsky. Jim Weiss telling the story is just icing on the cake.

Supergirl fell in love with the Nutcracker as a ballet when we saw it a few years ago so she was super excited when I told her we were going to review this CD. She’s been listening to it nearly every day. If we’re not listening to it as a family, she’s begging to listen to it alone.

A fairytale set to music and narratored by great storyteller ~ what's not to love~ #hsreviews at Circling Through This Life

I asked her to share her thoughts about this beloved story and this what she had to say:

I like the beginning. The girl has the nutcracker toy and then it broke and then the guy fixed it and the mice came in and they grew and the nutcracker grew.  The Mouse King fights the Nutcracker with a sword. The Mouse King died the other mice bury him. I like the birdcage.

I like the music because the Nutcracker is fun.

I like the end.  She fell asleep and then she woke up and she was like 'Was that just a dream?'

Taking it to a Deeper Level

We choose to simply enjoy listening to the story, but for those who want to dig deeper and turn this into a more educational experience will be thrilled to know that there are curriculum guides available for the Maestro Classic “Stories in Music” series including the Nutcracker. For the Nutcracker, subjects include Ballet, History & Geography, Science, Language Arts, Art, Music, and Math.  

The Details:

  • The Vendor:   Maestro Classics
  • The Product: The Nutcracker
  • The Narrator: Jim Weiss, who also wrote the script
  • The Producer: Allen Wonneberger
  • The Conductor: Stephen Simon, who also did the adaptation
  • The Orchestra: London Philharmonic Orchestra
  • The Composer: Tchaikovsky
  • Format: We received the Physical CD; a digital mp3 download is also available.
  • Age Range: 5+ Families
  • Price:  $16.98 for the CD, $9.98 for the MP3 Digital Download
Maestro Classics Review ~ The Nutcracker    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 to find more great products.


Four Reasons Why I Love the Crew

I love the Homeschool Review Crew and since I am now a Crew Leader and we’re accepting applications I decided I wanted to share with you some of the reasons I love the crew.
I love the Crew!

1.  Curriculum!  Being a reviewer for the review crew means I get curriculum in exchange for my honest review. I've had the opportunity to review some amazing products such as Teaching Writing Structure and Style from IEW or the First Grade program with all the manipulatives from Touch Math. I love that I have been able to provide such a rich and varied course of study for my daughters. I’ve found treasures that I never would have thought I needed. 
2.  Improving my writing ~ being a part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew gave me the opportunity to improve my writing and my blogging.  I've learning about Keywords and Evergreen posts and developing my own style.
3.  Making friends! ~ One of the requirements of the crew is belonging to the private forum. While we are not required to participate in any of the conversations, participating has enriched my experience with the crew and allowed me to get to know other homeschoolers from a wide range of backgrounds and styles. Many of those crew mates have become friends.
4. SUPPORT.  Yes I shouted that one. Not just an online community of home schoolers for support with homeschooling but with life. We pray for one another. We ask and answer all kinds of questions from “What should I make for dinner” to “which is the best learn to read program you’ve tried.” The Review Crew Forum is more than just a place to get the information we need to write our reviews but a place to give and receive support as fellow home schoolers on this journey of life.
Why I love the Crew!

You know I can’t just leave this without making sure you have a link to the Homeschool Review Crew Blog with the crew requirements and application information.  Want to join me on this adventure? Click on the banner below to fill out the application.



Three Incredible IEW Resources for your Homeschool {Crew Review}

It’s no secret that I love Institute for Excellence in Writing. Through IEW I have gained confidence in my own ability to write and in my ability to teach writing to my daughters. IEW put together a set of resources for members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew. They included Teaching with Games Set, Timeline of Classics, and A Word Write Now.  These items are not sold together but IEW gave me all three resources to use and review. 

A Treasture Trove of Resources from Instittute for Excellence in Writing

Teaching with Games Set

Let’s talk about the DVD first. One of the things I love about IEW DVDs is the classical music that plays in the background when you view the menu. Is it wrong to confess that I left the DVD on menu mode for a while when I was home alone just to listen to the music? The DVD contains three discs: 2 DVDs and 1 CD_ROM.  Disc One covers Matching Card Games and “No-Prep” Games.  Disc Two includes Question Games, Math Facts Games, and “Make As You Teach” Games. The appendix is also available on Disc 2.  On Disc three you’ll find the Teaching with Games PDF e-book and bonus material.

Although there is a copy of the e-book version on the CD_Rom, IEW generously included the physical spiral bound book which is sold separately. The DVD references the Teaching with Games book. The e-book and printed book are identical so the page numbers mentioned in the DVD sessions will match either version.

Supergirl plays TIME Bingo just one of the many games in Teaching With Games

All of the games would be appropriate for use in a small classroom or home school co-op. Most of these games would work very well for home school families with 2 or more children in small age ranges, like mine. Several of the games have variations listed. For example, the Number Line Tug of War lists a variation for younger students.  Sum Fun has a list of variations that include choosing different sums and a suggestion for adapting for older children. I adapted Sum Fun for Supergirl and we worked on matching addends of 6. There is a large variety of types of games including trivia, cards and yes, even board games. 

Our variation of SUM Fun ~ Learning how to make 6.

A Word Write Now

I was drooling over this one earlier this year when some of the crew members had the opportunity to review the deluxe set for Teaching Writing Structure and Style with Student Writing Intensive. Turtlegirl found A Word Write Now and began to thumb through it. She asked “Can I use this for my writing?” Um, yes.  Yes you can.  She cam back a little bit later and told me that she found it inspirational. Turtlegirl and I both describe A Word Write Now as being like a thesaurus but better and easier to use.

Unlike a thesaurus this book is not arranged in alphabetical order. No, this soft cover spiral bound treasure is arranged by theme.  On the cover just below the title is a subtitle: A Thematic Thesaurus for Stylized Writing. This tool is divided into four sections:

  • Section A: Character Traits
  • Section B: Descriptive Words
  • Section C: Words for Movement and the Senses
  • Section D: Appendix

Before the sections begin there is an introduction, an overview an d a “Simple Definition of Parts of Speech”  throughout the book are spaces where writers can add more words. One of the things Turtlegirl especially loved about A Word Write Now are the excerpts from Classical Literature and quotes. These quotes and excerpts are indeed inspirational.

This book resides next to my computer when it hasn’t been stolen to be used by one of the girls!

Timeline of Classics

Subtitled Historical Context for the Good and Great books, this teacher and student resource is a must have for any home schooling family that uses a literature based approach to education. In addition to books, and audio books, you'll find movie suggestions as well. As the name implies this is a timeline but it's a timeline of great classic literature arranged in chronological order by historical events and it includes suggestions for all ages from elementary school to high school.

The pages of this spiral bound resource are in landscape format with for columns. The first column on the far left is Description or Time Period. Next you have the title of the book. The third column is the author or in the case of an audio book the narrator. Finally in the last column you have Level. This column will list the recommended ages for the literature selection. E for Elementary, M for Middle School and H for High School.

The literary works are arranged by the time period of the story which may or may not be the same time period they were written.  For example you’ll find Julius Caesar by Shakespeare as a suggestion for the time period 44 BC but Shakespeare wrote at the end of the 16th century.

Supergirl wants to study Egypt and she wants to study the Vikings. I’ve been using this resource to pick out books, especially audio books as well as some movies at the E level that Supergirl will enjoy. I’ve also been going through and marking some of the books my high school students have read so that I can include them in a book list for their academic resumes for college applications.

Planning Supergirl's study of Egypt

Final Thoughts

These three resources for teachers and students are not sold together as a set. I do recommend all three and wish I had these resources years ago when my high schoolers were still in elementary school, but even at the high school level we have already found A Word Write Now to be a treasure. Supergirl is enjoying having games to play for math and as she matures we’ll add some games for science and history from Teaching with Games as well. She’ll benefit more than her sisters from the Timeline of Classics. These are three more incredible resources from IEW that I think every home school family should own. 


IEW Review

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 to find more great products.


Random Five on Friday ~ October 23rd

I feel like I haven’t done one of these in a really long time! I’ve been so crazy busy with the Crew and home schooling and well life really.

1. I’ve really been enjoying getting one book a month from the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library but I’ve been so crazy that I still haven’t finished the book I checked out in September. According to my Kindle Fire I am about 50% of the way through the book. I’m reading Immortal Plague by Aiden James.  It’s very interesting but even though I am half way through it I still haven’t decided how I feel about it. I think I might have to blog about it when I finish it.

Random 5 October 23rd  at circling Through This Life

2. Speaking of books I also started re-reading the Harry Potter series. Having read through them all once and seen the movies several times it is really different reading them again knowing how the whole thing turns out. I’m still on book one, The Sorcerer's Stone. I’m enjoying all the little things in the book that never made it into the movie. I think my reading goal for 2016 will be to finish the series. Maybe I’ll start the New Year with book three but the way things are looking I’ll be finishing up book one in November and still working through book two when the new year begins.

3. I have only three reviews left to post for the 2015 Crew. You will want to be watching for them because we are loving our stuff from IEW, Maestro Classics, and Critical Thinking, Co.  Supergirl has listened been listening to the Nutcracker almost everyday and begging to play games from the Teaching with Games resource. Tailorbear and I have been having some fun conversations inspired by her work with Practical Critical Thinking.

4. I love fall colors. I also love the crispness in the air when fall arrives. I don’t like the rain. I don’t like the gray but the cooler days that make me think of warm drinks and apples and cinnamon and the pretty colors of the trees interspersed with the evergreens just makes me all happy inside.

5. You know how sometimes you get a song stuck in your head? Well being an Eastern Orthodox Christian I often get prayers stuck in my head. Many of our prayers are chanted or sung. Sometimes I get parts of the Divine Liturgy running through my head. Those are beautiful moments. But yesterday I had The Great Doxology running through my head when I woke up in the night.  That was fine. It was beautiful. I ended up finding in the prayer book and praying it.  I went back to bed fell asleep and work up with “Smelly Cat” , Phoebe’s song from Friends. Um that was just a bit disconcerting to go from Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world to  It’s not your fault!  Hmm, those really don’t go together.


Three More All Natural Products from Koru Naturals {Crew Review}

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to review Koru Naturals. We loved the Emu Oil and the shampoo and conditioner so the girls and I were excited to try Skin Clear Cream, Manuka Honey Propolis Soap, and Argan Oil and Sandalwood Hair Tonic. Everyone assigned to this review received the cream and the soap. We had a variety to choose from for a third product. It was so hard to decide!!

About Koru Naturals

Koru Naturals ~ natural health and beauty products

The name, Koru, comes from the Maori word for loop. It is the shape of the new unfurling fern frond and symbolizes new life, growth, strength, and peace. Koru Naturals imports products from New Zealand. Koru asks that all of their suppliers to certify that the products are never tested on animals. For more information about the history of Koru Naturals or for more information on the brands they carry visit Koru Naturals.

Argan Oil and Sandalwood Hair Tonic

Argan Oil and Sandalwood Hair Tonic:  A Review

This hair tonic will nurture your dry hair, tame frizzy hair and add luster so hair isn’t so dull looking. It’s a blend of oils including Argan Oil which comes from a tree in Northern Africa and the Sandalwood tree from Australia. I’m sharing the ingredient list here so you can see the different oils, including essentials.  Some of the oils are organic.

Ingredients: Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Oil, Argania Spinosa (Argan) Oil*, Santalum Spicatum (Australian Sandalwood) Oil,* Helichrysum (Helichrysum) Essential Oil*, Citrus Bergamia (Bergamot) Essential Oil, Citrus Paradisi (Pink Grapefruit) Essential Oil.*organic ingredient

It was really hard to decide which product I wanted to try but I chose the hair tonic because Tailorbear has fairly dry frizzy hair. I thought she would be the one that would use it most. I discovered though that it works really well for Supergirl too! Her hair is not so dry and frizzy as her sister’s but it is dry and can be difficult to manage. I found that using 2 drops of this hair tonic on her hair helps to comb out the snarls that seem to develop every night. I used it like a detangler but it had the added benefit of taming her frizzies! She really likes how it smells too which is awesome because it also has aromatic properties too!

See all the dry flyaways Argan Oil and Sandalwood Hair Tonic can fix that!Argan Oil & Sandalwood Hair Tonic tames the frizzies!

It doesn’t specifically state to use it on dry hair so I tried experimenting with my own hair trying it both on wet hair and dry hair. It definitely works best on dry hair. 2-3 drops works for Supergirl and for me but but Tailorbear needs more like 3-4 drops or even 5 as she has enough thick hair for three humans. This oil really does take dry hair and make it shine.

Manuka Honey Propolis Soap

This is a product that comes from a beehive. I confess I didn’t know what propolis was so I looked it up.  Basically it is bee glue. Bees collect this resinous mixture from botanical sources such as tree buds or sap flows. They use it as a sealant. Manuka honey is produced in Australia and New Zealand from the nectar of the the Manuka tree.

This soap lathers up so well. I was amazed how at much it lathered. I think the lathering is my most favorite thing about this soap. It smells so good. Yes it smells like honey, which I like, but it’s not an overwhelming honey smell. It’s like a fresh summer day with a kiss of honey. This isn’t just a nice smelling, lathering soap that you leave out for guests. This is soap to be used regularly. I really feel clean after I use it. It rinses clean too so that I don’t have that soapy film feeling. My skin feels softer and less dry. I’ve loved this soap so much that it lives in my shower and I don’t share it with my daughters!

I wouldn’t share it with the girls but my husband? Well it’s his shower too and he had to give it a try. He was a little worried because in his experience soaps that smell as good this one? They don’t tend to do a very good job of cleaning.  He was very pleasantly surprised to discover that he did get very clean.  Not only did he get clean but he didn’t smell girly.  He just smelled clean. His favorite part about the soap? He used it on his beard and his beard felt soft. This soap gets thumbs up from him, too!

Skin Clear Cream

We also got to review the Skin Clear Cream. On the 20th anniversary of this skin care product, the brand, NZ Fusions Botanicals, who also product the hair tonic we are using, released an advanced formula. This advanced formula is what Koru Naturals offers. The basic ingredients are the still the same: Manuka Honey and Manuka Oil. This new formula adds Kawakawa and Harakeke, two Maori remedies for skin conditions, Burdock Root, a Chinese root used traditionally to skin remedies, thyme, which is more than just a spice. Apparently it also has anti-inflammatory properties and lastly as a natural preservative they added Canadian Aspen Bark.

Skin Clear Creme:  a review!

Turtlegirl used the Skin Clear Cream with the most consistency in our house so I asked her to share her experience:

As the name suggests, this is a cream that you put on your skin. It can help clear up acne. This isn't just a cream for your face. In the morning and evening, I would wash my face and take a pea-sized amount to apply to my face, neck, and chest. Then I would have to ask my sister or my mother to apply another pea-sized amount to my back.  It comes with a little spatula that you use to scoop out the cream. This keeps the cream fresh because you don’t introduce skin oils and bacteria or other stuff into the cream by scooping it out with your fingers. After using the cream, I would rinse off the tiny spatula, so that it would be clean for the next time I used it.

One of the things I love about the cream is how nice it smells. It's also made a huge difference on my back, which is a problem area for me. It took awhile for a difference to appear though, so consistent use every day for a week may be required before you see a change or improvement. I really enjoy using this cream, and the longer I use it, the better my acne problem gets. I also love how this isn't just a cream for your face, like so many acne products out there. So, I recommend this to those with a mild to moderate acne condition who want to try a more natural acne product to help. 

This Skin Clear Cream is not limited to acne although it is ideal for acne-prone skin. I have not used this as consistently as my daughter but I did use this for several days on a rash on Supergirl’s leg. Supergirl says that it was cooling and after a few days the area was much improved.


The Details:

Koru Naturals Review  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 to find more great products.