Sunday, March 26, 2017

Upcoming Freebie

Image result for ben & jerry's free cone day 2017

Next week, get ready for an awesome freebie…FREE Cone Day @ Ben & Jerry’s on Tuesday,  April 4th from Noon to 8 PM!

Stop by and enjoy a yummy treat!  It’s worth the wait. Winking smile 

Monday, March 20, 2017

REVIEW: Monthly Plan by Creating a Masterpiece

We were absolutely overjoyed to get to review the Monthly Plan from Creating a Masterpiece!


Creating a Masterpiece offers many options for access to their unique online art instruction program, including monthly or annual subscriptions, as well as annual access to individual levels.  There are also discounts for group access. 

We received access to the Monthly Plan, which gives unlimited family access to all levels of projects on a month-to-month basis without an ongoing commitment for just $39.99/month.  This provides your entire household with access to over 144 lessons, plus additional videos and tips!

Creating a Masterpiece has been used successfully by students as young as 4-5 years old, and yet it’s appropriate for adults, as well.  The goal of the program is to teach students in such a way that they can produce a masterpiece rather than simple refrigerator art, as is the case with so many art programs used by children.  The aim is to have them complete something they can truly take pride in!



I was really, really excited when we were selected to review Creating a Masterpiece!  The reason for my excitement was that many years ago, a good friend’s children used it when it was just available as individual lessons on DVD, and even her preschool student produced the most amazing results!  I was truly impressed.  I had watched some testimonial videos online that showed even very young students being called from the audience at various homeschool conventions and completing beautiful works of art right before your eyes.  It was really something to behold!  That led me to believe that anyone could use this program with success.

Years later, I was at a homeschool convention myself and saw a booth set up by this vendor.  I stopped by and looked at the materials and was informed that they were transitioning to online access to all of the projects at once.  That really got me intrigued!  There would be no need, then, to keep buying individDSCF4801ual DVD’s to learn new projects.  That was a great idea.

So fast forward to now…I just knew my daughter would love this program, and she absolutely did!  She normally jumps at the chance to do any kind of art review, but I can honestly say that this program quickly took the forefront as her most favorite art program EVER!  And those are her words, not mine.  She had a favorite art program before for many years, but she made it clear to me that there’s no longer any competition.  She is in love with Creating a Masterpiece!

She said it’s so easy to use and follow.  Once you log in to the site, you see all of the projects laid out before you.  They are visually categorized by level in the order from simple to most difficult.  There is a sample project, then the beginner level, then all of the projects for levels 1-5 broken down, and then finally, a section for art in history. 

Once you click on a project, it describes the project and breaks dowDSCF4802n how many lessons it will take to complete it.  When you select the first lesson, you will get an embedded instructional video, color swatches to help you match your supplies to the right shades for the project, a list of required supplies, some tips, highlights, downloads for the project (including a .pdf of the supply list as well as a link to purchase the right supplies from the Dick Blick website), and samples of advanced applications of the techniques learned in the project.  Even the instructional videos are broken down into individual stages. 

My 12-year old daughter, Haylee, said it was so easy to follow.  I was just able to log in and set her loose to choose a project and work on it without any help from me.  I just made sure I had an assortment of supplies for various mediums available to her, and she was able to work on it from start to finish on her own.  When she would let me know she would like to do a particular project next, I would pull it up on my phone at the art supply store and easily access the supply list to make sure I got just what she needed.  The color swatches shown for each project made it easy for me to use my phone to match up paint colors and such to ensure the project would turn out the way it was intended.  I loved the convenience of that!

During the review period,DSCF4803 Haylee was able to complete two watercolor projects and two soft pastel projects.  Watercolors were always her favorite medium, but she really fell in love with the soft pastels, which were totally new to her.  She knew nothing about how to use them properly, but she learned all she needed to know in the project videos!  She really liked how forgiving they were.  She explained to me how easy it was to fix a mistake with them.  We both loved the soft finish of those projects.  I told her I’d have to get some frames with glass to display them and protect the surfaces.  They were so pretty!

I think Haylee plans to move on to trying out the watercolor pencil projects next.  She just got a new set to use for that purpose.  I love that she is feeling so enthusiastic about this program!  Sometimes, she’ll pick a project that is broken down into multiple lessons, but she’ll just keep at it until it’s finished, only stopping to let something dry between stages.  I’m really proud of how hard she worked on it, and the results were so beautiful!

Haylee’s cousin made her a wood-framed cork DSCF4804display board for her bedroom a few months ago for her birthday, and she likes to display her art work on it above her bed.  I can only imagine it being filled up with lovely masterpieces created with this program before long!

We would definitely recommend this program to anyone who doesn’t want to waste time feeling discouraged or inept in their artwork.  This program has a unique way of making masterpieces an achievable goal for everyone!

Take a look at what other Crew members had to say about this awesome art program by clicking the banner below.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Freebies Tomorrow for the 1st Day of Spring!

Tomorrow is officially the first day of spring!  Of course, you wouldn’t know it since I actually saw snowflakes on the way to church services this morning, but hey…who am I to make judgments about the weather?!?

But seriously…to celebrate the first day of spring, there are two great freebies lined up for you tomorrow only:

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FREE small vanilla cone at Dairy Queen, available all day, one per person.




FREE Italian ice at Rita’s Italian Ice from noon to 9 PM!




Monday, March 13, 2017

REVIEW: Creative Freewriting Adventure Coloring Book Edition by Home School Adventure Co.

I was really anxious to review the Creative Freewriting Adventure Coloring Book Edition by Home School Adventure Co. with my 7th grader.



The Creative Freewriting Adventure product comes in the regular edition and the coloring book edition.  We tried out the coloring edition, which is identical to the regular version with the addition of one coloring page for each of the 10 story-writing adventures.

This is a short freewriting program that uses story starters and probing questions to encourage students to let their creative ideas flow from their fingertips and onto the paper, not worrying about grammar, punctuation, or style.  Students are encouraged to set a timer for just 15 minutes and let their imaginations take over from there!

The regular edition is available in both print and digital formats.  The coloring book edition, which we used, comes only in digital format for just $21.95



Haylee is in 7th grade, and I’ve never really pressured her to do a formal writing program.  She was always resistant to the idea, and I didn’t want her to develop an early distaste for writing by being forced to do it when she wasn’t ready and/or interested.  I figured in time, she’d start to take an interest naturally, and then we’d work on structure when she was older.  So instead, we focused on basic grammar and punctuation and read lots of solid literature over the years.

We dabbled in a couple of things over time.  In elementary school, I juDSCF4797st had her free-write in a story journal where she’d draw a picture and write about anything on her mind…usually just a couple of sentences.  It wasn’t until this year that I got her doing some informal writing, and she started taking an interest in it and not complaining.  So when the opportunity came up to try out this freewriting program, I thought it would be the perfect time to add this in so she could get even more comfortable with getting her thoughts from her head to the paper.  She’s a creative kid anyway, and she loves to color, so we chose the coloring book edition so that she’d have those extra coloring pages available when she wanted them.

Each assignment in this program gives an introduction to a topic DSCF4798or tale (whether based on an existing book or pure fantasy), and it sets up the beginning of an adventurous writing prompt, encouraging the student to finish this scene in the story by describing to the reader what happens next.  A series of questions are given to help guide the student to think through the next events.  The questions are broken down into categories like background, dialogue, and incorporating your senses.  This really got her creative juices flowing! 

The printable workbook gives a full blank page where the student can write openly for 15 minutes without worrying about perfect grammar and punctuation.  That way, the “rules” of writing don’t hamper the student’s creativity.  I have to say that this proved true, because HDSCF4799aylee truly surprised me with this program!  She never complained about the writing assignments, and I didn’t even need to set the timer, because she just scribbled down her story until she literally ran out of room on the paper!  Then she would read the story prompt aloud to me, along with the rest of the story she’d created.  She got so wrapped up in some of them, and they turned out to be pretty exciting!  She incorporated plenty of dialogue, which I’d never seen her do before (thanks to the provided questions), and most of the time, she didn’t even bother to color the coloring pages, which blew my mind!  But it was nice to have them available for when she did want to color one.

She completed the program in no time, doing at least 3 of the writing assignments each week.  I really like how the freewriting program got her into wriDSCF4800ting down her stories so quickly.  It wasn’t a long, involved process that bogged her down and discouraged her from completing assignments.  It was just the opposite!  I’m very impressed.  Now don’t get me wrong.  I can see from reading her stories that she paid even less attention than usual to avoiding run-on sentences and properly using punctuation marks in dialogue, probably because she knew I wouldn’t be critiquing her on that.  But for this project, grammar and punctuation were not the primary goal…it was getting her thoughts on paper, which she did earnestly.  Bravo!

Now, I think she will be less afraid to tackle writing assignments in the future, and next school year, we’ll be ready to learn about more formal writing.  I’m thankful that she had this opportunity to see firsthand how writing doesn’t have to be dull and really can be a fun adventure!

Check out what other Crew members thought of this and other great products from Home School Adventure Co. by clicking the banner below.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Potential Move

My husband works at a relatively small company, and his career just isn’t growing there, and it’s not likely to do so in the future.  And financially, we were better off at his last employer eight years ago!  So after talking about it, we decided maybe it was time for a change.  It’s tough to go to work every day and know you’re just dead in the water.  So when several employment recruiters starting contacting him regularly, we decided it was time to talk to them.

That was two weeks ago.  A lot of the opportunities seemed to stem from Florida, so we did our homework and scoped out the real estate, homeschool laws, and cost of living there.  But nothing panned out there after all.  Then a surprising turn happened.  A Tampa-based company who interviewed him by phone revealed in a second interview that the job they were trying to fill was actually located right in our home state!  That was good news, because moving out-of-state would put the kids’ prepaid college funds at risk, and our oldest son will be graduating high school in June, making that of the utmost importance for him.

He also spoke to a company in TX, but the possibility of staying in Virginia was a real draw.  And to boot, the job sounds like a really unique and promising Image resultopportunity, and it would definitely advance his career.  The position is in Reston, VA, and what that means to us is that we could possibly move to the Shenandoah Valley and commute!  We had planned to retire in the mountains in about 10 years anyway when all the kids have graduated and we’ve paid off our mortgages.  But this opportunity would mean we could put down roots where we want to retire now and start enjoying a slower pace out in the countryside a bit.  Aaaaah…the fresh, clean mountain air just can’t be beat!

So this week, he has a 3rd phone interview with a VP at the company, and then on Friday, he’ll have an in-person interview when the representative happens to be coming to town here locally.  Now they told him at the very beginning that if he got to that 4th interview, it would basically be a formality at that point, which we took to mean that an offer would be imminent, and the details would just have to be ironed out at that point.  So we feel pretty confident that an offer may be coming at the end of the week!  I just hope they can work out the details so that everyone is happy.  The position sounds great, though.  We definitely couldn’t afford to live in Reston, but living where we want to retire would be very affordable, and it would entail just over an hour’s commute.  That seems like an entirely reasonable sacrifice to be living on some land out in the woods with a mountain view!

As it so happens, we’ll be on vacation up there next month at a cabin we go to every year with our family, so if he has secured a position by then, we’ll be able to take a look at some houses up there while we’re in town.  I’ve spent this weekend daydreaming at all the possible homes for sale in the area and making a list of ones we might like to see.

I know getting through this week will seem like an eternity for all of us.  The kids are getting excited at the prospect of a new family adventure, and patience is not our forte!  LOL

The downside is that I’d have to empty out and pack up a house we’ve lived in for the last 20 years with 3 kids who have all grown up in this house.  That’s a lot of memories and a lot of stuff.  That part will be hard.  And Steve would probably go on ahead and start the new job next month, right after our vacation.  That means I’ll have tons to do here, and I’ve got to get Hayden through his graduation in June before getting this house ready to rent out.  It would definitely be a lot to take on, mostly by myself.  But I’m ready!  On to the next adventure…

And in the meantime, I’ll be dreaming about this little cabin in the woods…

103 Chestnut Trail Rd, Front Royal, VA 22630

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Great Homeschooling Freebies


I’ve been searching for some handwriting worksheets for my left-handed son to use for 4th grade.  He gets frustrated when the sample is printed on the left, because then his hand covers up what he’s trying to copy.  Not to mention that the binding of the book can get in the way. 

So after some hunting around on Pinterest, I found a great resource, and it’s FREE!  Each set of 10 practice pages gives factual information (bonus learning opportunity) on a specific topic of interest.  There are lots of topics to choose from!  In fact, there’s plenty to fill up a whole school year.  You can choose from two popular printing styles and two popular cursive styles. 

I’m printing these, laminating the cover, and binding them at the top for him to use next school year.  Great find! 



I remember when my two older kids did their elementary standardized testing that Simple Machines Game is a free printable science game for Kindergarten, 1st grade, 2nd grade, 3rd grade, 4th grade, and 5th grade students to learn about the six simple machines:Wedge, Wheel & Axel, Screw, Inclined Plane, Lever, and Pulley. Great for hands on science activities, review or summer learning!the science test one year included questions about simple machines.  It wasn’t a topic we’d covered in our Sonlight science studies at that time, so it was a challenge. 

My older son reasoned it out pretty well on his own, but my daughter really struggled with those questions.  So when I stumbled upon this freebie this week to help teach and practice these concepts, I jumped on the chance to get it for my youngest son, who will probably see these questions on his test this year or next year.  This is a nice, colorful activity, and it should make learning this topic fun!

I had also picked up a great hands-on science kit a while back on simple machines, so I’ll break that out for demonstration, as well.  You might want to take a look at it for yourself!  It only cost me about $7.50 a couple of years ago, so watch for a good deal if this is what you’re looking for.


Just click the headers in this post for links to the freebies. 


Sunday, February 26, 2017

Spring Organizational Projects

We had a bout of warmer weather over the last few days, and I took advantage of time off from our homeschooling to embrace some spring organizational projects around the house. 

First I used a portion of each day to catch up on household chores.  Things had really gotten away from me recently with all our outside appointments, and it was really wearing on my comfort level!  So I did a lot of general tidying, putting things where they go, gave everything a good vacuum, emptied trash cans, and mopped.

Then I took one look at the inside of my fridge and realized it irked me every time I opened the door.  Ugh!  Such a mess.  Ever since we got this new fridge, I’ve been annoyed by the lack of adjustable shelving.  It makes it so hard to see what’s in the back of the fridge, and because of that, a lot of things get overlooked.  I don’t like to waste food, and I don’t have the space to have two opened jars of the same thing in different spots in the fridge, so I decided that was going to be my first big reorganization project.  I took a look inside and decided that shallow baskets were just the thing it needed.  I didn’t want to pay big bucks for proper clear refrigerator baskets, because it’s downright ridiculous to spend $10-$15 on a plastic fridge basket…I mean, come on…it’s still plastic!  So I went over to Dollar Tree and looked around at all of the wonderful selection of baskets they had on hand.  There were lots of styles, shapes, and sizes to choose from.  I picked a variety of different ones that I thought might work and was pleased to have only spent a few dollars on the lot of them.

I came home and emptied a shelf at a time and gave it a good cleaning.  Then I started organizing the jars and containers in baskets and sizing up how they fit together on the shelves.  It actually worked out quite well!  Then came the deli drawer and the fruit and veggie drawers.  I even had baskets that worked inside of the drawers!  And oh, my!  It was so wonderful to be able to open a produce drawer and actually be able to visually see what goodies were in there instead of staring at green-tinted product bags with unknown contents from the grocery store!  And in the deli drawer, I sorted deli meats and cheeses in separate baskets so it’s easy to locate what you’re after.  It was a total transformation!  I found myself opening the fridge door even when I didn’t need anything, just so I could admire how it all turned out!  LOL.  I haven’t tackled the contents of the door shelves yet, but I’ll come back to that later this week.

My next project was to figure out what to do with my abundance of spices for the kitchen.  I cook a lot…three meals a day, almost entirely from scratch…for 5 people.  I try new recipes almost daily.  That calls for a large variety of spices!  I had them stashed in baskets in my pantry cabinets, the cabinet beside the stove, as well as a full McCormick spice rack on my kitchen wall.  I prefer to store my spices alphabetically so I can locate them quickly, but as my collection grew, I had only the most common ones in the actual spice rack, and they rest were in disarray in the cabinets.  I really wanted to fix that!  So after hunting around, I found a cheap little metal 6-tier spice rack that holds 48 spice jars on ebay for around $25.  I ordered that and waited for it to arrive.

Next up, I spent the majority of my Saturday dragging every single thing in our shed out into the yard.  I mowed it first, of course!  LOL.  This was quite a feat for little old me…I’m a petite person, and some of my husband’s tools and building materials were quite large and heavy, like sections of countertop and the like!  I managed to get the shed completely emptied, and then I swept the shelves and the floor completely.  Then I went and got my hubby to come and make a “keep” pile of anything that was his so I would know what I could throw out and assess what needed to go back into the shed at some point.  I went through my homeschool curriculum, as well, and threw out anything that had gotten water damaged or that I knew I’d never use.  All of the important books were already sorted into storage tubs by grade level, but they’d been stacked in no particular order, and the sheer weight of them on top of each other was damaging the bins and lids.  While the shed was empty, we slid it back onto its foundation, realizing it had shifted forward a few inches over time.  Then once I figured out what all needed to go back in the shed, I grabbed my teenage son for his brawn power and had him go to Lowe’s with me to pick out some heavy duty shelving that could support the weight of all of those storage bins of books.  We brought those home, and he and my husband assembled them for me.  Then I began the work of dragging all the good stuff back into the shed and getting it sorted on the shelving.  Wow!  It turned out so well!  The shed went from “hey, I can’t take two steps into this room without falling over something” and “hey, I have no idea what the heck is piled in here!” to “hey, this shed is so tidy and almost empty compared to before!”  That was quite significant progress, and a little effort at proper organization of what we needed to keep really went a long way to turning an unusable pile of “stuff” into an awesome storage facility.  All of my curriculum is stack on the shelving in grade level order so it’s easy to find what I need when I need it.  The last thing to roll into the shed was the mower.  All done!  And it looks fabulous.  Honestly, I can hardly believe it’s the same shed.

While the fellas were doing their part of the deal, I took the opportunity to weed out one of my three square food gardens, and I got that all prepped and ready for spring planting.  I covered it with a tarp to keep the weeds out until April, and I’ll get back to the other two gardens as I have time…probably next weekend.  I also picked up a new set of gardening hand tools while I was at Lowe’s.  Now I’m all set!

And while they were assembling the shelving for the shed, the mail came and delivered my new spice rack that I’d ordered earlier in the week.  I went inside and assembled it and pulled out all of my spices.  I alphabetized them on the floor, and when my husband came back inside, he got it mounted on the wall for me in the kitchen, and then I set to work lining all the shelves with my spice collection.  I still have plenty of oversized bottles and refills in the cabinets, but all of my regular spices are represented on the spice racks now.  It’s so awesome to have them all right there where I need them and in alphabetical order so I can spot them quickly.  Yay!

So all in all, I’m very pleased with all the progress I made this week!  I also took care of household things like paying bills and getting an oil change and state inspection done on my van.  It was definitely a productive week off!  We also managed to get out one morning with our friends and enjoy some sunshine and fresh air at the zoo.  That was so nice!  And we enjoyed some ice cream before heading home, so that was a nice treat for me and the kids.  It’s always nice spending time with our good friends!

Tomorrow is back to homeschooling for us.  Unfortunately, the pump on my 2-year old dishwasher quit working yesterday, so I had to wash everything by hand today.  Considering how many dishes I make in a day with all that cooking, that’s going to add considerable time to my already busy schedule, so I hope either Steve can fix it, or I can get a repairman out for a reasonable rate to work on it.  Ugh.  It’s always something!

Here’s to another great week ahead! Smile