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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