Wednesday, September 20, 2017

REVIEW: Homeschool Geography Curriculum by Let’s Go Geography

My 4th grader and I had a wonderful time reviewing this wonderful homeschool geography curriculum by Let’s Go Geography.


WHAT IS IT?:

Let’s Go Geography is an engaging new geography program that allows your children in grades K-4 to explore the globe one country and one continent at a time!

This program provides a gentle introduction to places and cultures using a combination of map work, fascinating video links, full-color photos, simple summary writing, coloring pages, and hands-on crafts.  It also provides book lists for optional reading and additional links for more in-depth facts and information for older students who want to learn more.

Year 1 is currently available, and Years 2 and 3 are still under development.  Take a look at the 3-Year Schedule to see what countries are studied and when.  And also watch this video to understand what’s included and what a typical lesson looks like.

This first year is available for just $21.99.  You also have the option to purchase just one semester or to purchase both semesters in 2 payments, receiving access to only one semester at a time.  They are also in the process of offering single lessons for sale.  Take a look at all the options and see what’s right for your family!


OUR EXPERIENCE:

Let me just say that I was really excited to see this unique product offered for elementary students!  I’ve never really taken my kids through specific geography studies where we got out maps and looked at countries as we studied them.  I’m teaching my third and final homeschool student now, and he’s in 4th grade, so this product came along just in time for us!

I really love this program with its gentle introduction to geography lessons.  It’s just right for elementary students, and perfect for Holden, who is 9, almost 10, and has ADHD.  His attention span for anything school-related is pretty short, and he loses focus after more than a few minutes.  But the setup of this program was perfect for him.  It is pretty flexible.  It’s designed to take about an hour of study per lesson, with one lesson per week.  The assignments are broken up into smaller chunks, as well, so you can either plow right through a lesson in one sitting if your student is up for it (we did that sometimes on Fridays, which are days off from school for us), or you can do it in smaller, more manageable chunks each day that are easy to work into your school schedule.  We do a 4-day homeschool week, and it fit very well with that schedule, as well.

When I first gained online access to the program, I realized I could either access the lessons right from my subscription page, or I had the option to download them onto my computer.  The lesson page times out after a while of inactivity, like when we were busy watching the video links in another window, so we found it flowed better for us if we downloaded the lessons onto our computer and clicked the links from there.  That kept us from having to log back in repeatedly during one lesson if we were planning to do the whole thing at once.

So after downloading the lessons, I also printed the student Passport, which was free for doing one social media share.  It turned out really cute.  I printed the cover on colored cardstock, inserted the pages, and stapled it in the binding so it would work just like a real passport.  There was a place to put his picture and personal data on the first page, too.  The subsequent pages named each continent we’d be studying and gave us space to glue in each country’s flag as we studied each new location. 

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The next step was to print “My Travel Journal.”  This was basically a binder with an insertable cover and printable tabs to create dividers inside by continent.  Then there were picture collages of the countries we’d study on each continent that we pasted on the front of each divider.  Now we were ready to begin!

Before each week began, I’d receive an email reminding me which country to study that week.  Then I’d go ahead and print all the materials from the lesson that we’d be using and insert them in the binder.  DSCF4898

Each lesson began with a map of the continent where we’d color in the country of the week.  Then there would be an additional map we’d label and color that showed the specific country or region in more detail.  With both maps, we were provided with some questions and answers we’d go over together that got Holden looking more closely at the maps to observe bordering countries and oceans and other bodies of water.

On the next day, we’d color 2 copies of the flag for that country…we’d cut them out and paste one into the passport and one onto a map of the continent, where we’d draw a line from the flag to the location of the country on the map.  Then we’d listen to the country’s national anthem using an online link in the lesson. 

On the tDSCF4899hird day, we’d start off with exploring the country.  We’d learn some quick and interesting facts about the region, and then we’d go sightseeing by clicking the online links to a series of fascinating videos.  Usually, it would show us an aerial view of the country’s terrain and land features, and we might see an example of how people live from day to day in the marketplaces and such.  Then there were additional videos that might tell more about their history or unique features of the area.  We’d often learn about animals in the region, as well.  The videos were very entertaining, and we both enjoyed them very much!  This was my personal favorite day of the week, and I think it was Holden’s favorite, too!  He loves to watch videos, and none of them were too long…just a few minutes each.

On the fourth day, we’d look at photos of major landmarks and unique features of the country, and then we’d use the included journal page to write down things we both remembered learning about the region…the things that stood out in our minds.  Then I gave Holden the printable coloring page for thaDSCF4900t country, and we’d end the day with that.  There was an additional craft activity for each country, as well, which would be great for day 5.  But Holden’s not big on doing crafts, so we just looked at them and left the option open if there was something he decided he wanted to do.  They were simple projects like constructing a lighthouse out of plastic cups, painting with watercolors over a maple leaf impression, or making a sea turtle paper bag puppet.  They were all things you could make with simple printables and household materials, and all of the instructions and color photos of finished projects were included.

During the review period, we were able to complete 5 lessons over the course of 5 weeks, covering the U.S. Northeast region, Hawaii, Canada, Haiti, and Nicaragua.  As we completed each lesson, we checked the little box on our subscription page to show we’d completed it, and the next time we logged in, there were check marks next to our completed lessons to make it easy to know where to pick up with the next lesson.

The program is designed to have 32 weekly lessons with 4 weeks of breaks built into the sDSCF4901uggested schedule, but of course, it’s easy to follow the pace that best suits your own interest and availability.  Every 12th week is a review week. 

The review week begins with a map review.  Here, your student finds and colors/labels the countries that were studied so far.  Then they learn some additional map skills like latitude and longitude, compass rose, etc.  Then there’s an activity page where the student can answer questions about the new map skills they learned.

The next portion is a flag review.  Here, the student is given printable pages of the continents with full-color flags printed on them, and the student has to match the flags with the countries on the maps from memory.DSCF4903

The third portion is a review of what they explored.  Major facts are summarized for each continent learned so far.  Then the student is given a printable activity where they match photos of key places, attractions, or animals in each country with the name of the country where it can be found.  This is challenging!

Lastly, there are links for additional online exploration, a printable journal page to summarize what they’ve learned, and printable collage coloring pages for each continent they’ve studied during the period.

As you can see, there’s a lot to see and do here!  I love that the review is built-in, making it easy to assess what your child has retained from his or her weekly lessons as they progress through the year.

The bottom line for us is that the lessons are fun, there’s a lot of variety in the daily activities,DSCF4904 it’s entertaining, and we’re both learning interesting things!  I think Holden’s favorite part so far was the videos of the erupting volcanoes in Hawaii!  And he was also fascinated with the videos of Niagara Falls when we were studying the Northeast region of the U.S.  I’ve actually been there, but he hasn’t, so it sparked a fun conversation of sharing what it’s like to actually be there and feel the water spray on your skin and see the frozen wonderland that surrounds it in the dead of January!

The photographs are so vivid, and the videos keep it interesting and entertaining, while the map work, questions, and journal pages ensure he’s learning tangible skills in geography.  In summary, I feel like this is the most interesting elementary geography program I’ve ever seen!  It fits with our schedule, and it keeps his attention well enough that we can actually keep up with it and get it done!  That makes it a keeper in my book. Smile

Check out what other Crew members have to say about Let’s Go Geography by clicking the banner below.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

International Talk Like a Pirate Day 2017…It’s a Bust!

Today is officially International Talk Like a Pirate Day.  However, the freebies are disappointing this year, to say the least. 

Remember the FREE dozen doughnuts for wearing a full pirate cosKrispy Kreme Doughnut Logotume at Krispy Kreme from past years?  Well, not so this year.  The company has decided not to participate.  Sad smile  They were quoted as saying that you’re still welcome to come in dressed up and enjoy a fun time with your family…they just won’t be giving away any free doughnuts this year, citing that they’ve added other events to their calendar instead.

And rHostess Deep Fried Twinkiesemember getting a free piece of fish or chicken from Long John Silvers in past years?  Well, that freebie is gone, too.  Sad smile  Instead, they’ve replaced it with a FREE deep-fried Twinkie for your best pirate phrase. 

ARGH!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

FREE Queso Day @ Moe’s Southwest Grill

Moe's Southwest Grill Celebrates Free Queso Day (PRNewsfoto/Moe's Southwest Grill)

If you’re a big fan of Moe’s delicious queso, then you will be very excited to know that Moe’s famous annual FREE Queso Day is coming up this next week on Thursday, September 21st, from 11 AM to 9 PM at participating locations.

Enjoy this yummy 6oz. cup of creamy goodness with Moe’s wonderful handmade tortilla chips and free salsa bar.  No purchase required!

It’s a treat worth waiting for, so get in line as soon as you can!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

REVIEW: If You Were Me and Lived in…Mexico and If You Were Me and Lived in…Colonial America by Carole P. Roman

We really enjoyed our selections last year, so we looked forward to reviewing If You Were Me and Lived in…Mexico and If You Were Me and Lived in…Colonial America by Carole P. Roman.


WHAT IS IT?:


If You Were Me and Lived in…Mexico is part of the Introduction to Cultures Around the World series, which is written with children ages 4-8 and even slightly older in mind.  It’s available for just $11.99.  This is a very light introduction to places, things, and terminology related to living in Mexico.



If You Were Me and Lived in…Colonial America is part of the Introduction to Civilizations Throughout Time series, which is written with children ages 8-15 in mind.  It’s available for just $10.10.  It makes excellent supplemental reading for your history studies, as it gives a lot of detail about what it was actually like for a child growing up in that time period in history.


In addition, I received two other books for much younger children.  Although they were too young for my kids, I enjoyed looking through them. 

I Want to Do Yoga Too is $8.99 and is a delightful story about a little girl wants so badly to go to yoga classes with her mom instead of playing inDSCF4893 the children’s room at the studio.  She soon learns that she didn’t need to be in the class to learn some yoga, too, and it doesn’t even feel like learning! 

Pepper Parrot’s Problem with Patience is $9.99 and is a funny little story of a boy’s imagination that takes him on a pirate adventure.  In the story, he gets to help a friend learn the difference between right and left with a clever little trick, and the friend learns patience in the process.  This story is a great way to help your little pirate learn the same valuable lessons.


OUR EXPERIENCE:

Although my son will be 10 later this year, we were interested in reading If You Were Me and Lived in…Mexico because we just recently made a big cross-country move from Virginia to northern Texas.  There is a high concentration of Mexican residents in this area, and everywhere we go, we hear people speaking Spanish!  So I thought Holden would really enjoy learning a little bit about life in Mexico and the culture of its people.

This book gives a very light introduction to some of places in Mexico such as its capital city, its attractions, its food, and special holidays.  It also uses some Spanish DSCF4894words that children there might use, such as how they would address their parents, what their money is called, and what some typical Mexican names for boys and girls might be.

It has beautiful, full-color illustrations that fill an entire page opposite some simple sentences printed in a large font to create an attractive 2-page spread every time you turn the page.  The illustrations are cute and keep a child’s interest.  Even the unfamiliar foreign words have a simple pronunciation guide in parentheses next to each term so that a child can even read the story for themselves.  It also makes a great read-aloud, which is how we used it. 

Holden got to see that although their culture may be different from ours, life there is also similar in that they have special celebrations, eat their fDSCF4895avorite foods, and go to school just like us.  He is currently studying the Spanish language for school, and when the little map of Mexico showed up indicating the Mexican capital of Mexico City, he blurted out that he recognized it from his current Spanish lesson, where he is learning to map some key locations!  So this book really was a great tie-in for his studies.  I think it would be particularly well-suited to a child in the recommended age range, but we also enjoyed it very much.

I also received If You Were Me and Lived in…Colonial America, which we got to review last year.  We’ve finished our colonial studies and are now studying the expansion into the great American west, so we enjoyed revisiting this book again.  Take a look at my previous review to see just how much we loved this story!  This book lets your child have a glimpse into colonial life.  This historical series is chock full of information and details of what it was actually like for a child to live and grow up in the given time period.  These are truly great resources for your history studies! 

And if you have much younger children, do check out the other two stories I mentioned…they are just so cute!

Take a look at what other Crew members had to say about these and other book selections from Carole P. Roman by clicking the banner below.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Sonic Drink Deal Tomorrow!!!

All day tomorrow, September 6th, you can get any LARGE DRINK for just 99 CENTS at Sonic!!!

Come by SONIC and enjoy a large drink for only 99¢

99¢ Large Drink ALL DAY 9/6

Come by SONIC and enjoy a large drink for only 99¢

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Kwik Stix Thin Stix Now at BJ’s Wholesale Club!!!

I’m sure you’ve seen a number of reviews I’ve posed for Kwik Stix and their new Thin Stix products by The Pencil Grip, because my daughter absolutely loves them! 

REVIEW: Kwik Stix 12 pk by The Pencil Grip, Inc.
REVIEW: Thin Stix 6pk of Neon Colors by The Pencil Grip, Inc.
REVIEW: Kwik Stix Thin Stix 12-Pk by The Pencil Grip
Kwik Stix Review and Holiday Gift Recommendation

If you’re not familiar, they are silky, solid tempera paint sticks that glide onto surfaces like a soft crayon, only with the most brilliant colors you’ve ever seen! 

The original Kwik Stix are great for younger children with their wide tips that work well for filling in large spaces.  The Thin Stix are my 13-year old daughter’s favorite, because their thinner tips allow for more precise control and coloring/drawing in finer detail.

Up until now, you had to order them from online retailers like Amazon or the vendor’s website.  But now, the 24-pack of Thin Stix is available for the value price of just $19.99 at your local BJ’s Wholesale Club or the BJs.com website!

The package includes 12 Classic colors, 6 Neon colors, and 6 Metalix colors.  That’s an awesome variety for the artist in your family, so check it out!  The holidays will be here before you know it.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Another Animal Added to the Clan?!?

A couple of weeks ago, I talked about all the wonderful pets we have…we have quite a jungle going around here!

Well, as if that weren’t quite enough, we found out the city of Fort Worth animal shelters were participating in the national Clear the Shelters adoption campaign!  So for one day (Saturday, August 19th), all animal adoptions were FREE OF CHARGE! 

The kids really wanted to go and look at the animals, and they were convinced they wanted to bring home a 3rd dog.  I really just wanted to go see the animals but not necessarily adopt another one, mainly because I was concerned about an additional dog in our “pack” not being accepted by our alpha female, Lilly.  But my husband was sure to tell me the night before that he was not against another dog and that if I brought one home, he would not be opposed. 

So off we went to see the animals!  They brought them from all the area shelters to several adoption sites…the main animal care and shelter facility as well as two area Pet Smart stores.  We decided to go directly to the shelter, which has been overcrowded all summer.

I was totally overwhelmed by the sheer number of dogs without forever homes.  Stray animals are a serious problem in this city.  The lady at the shelter told me that they get more puppies than anything, because people make feeble attempts at breeding and then turn the animals loose when the puppies don’t come out like they wanted.  Very sad!

There was an enormous amount of large dogs, mostly pit bulls mixes, and so many of them had red marks on their charts indicating that they were highly aggressive, had bitten, or had even killed the owner’s other dog!  Crazy stuff.  I steered clear of the big dogs, though I did find one that was really sweet.

And of course, there were plenty of senior dogs that no one wanted.  That was heartbreaking, too.  At one point, I just sat on the floor and cried into a pile of tissues!  It made me truly sad.  My soft heart just couldn’t leave without rescuing one of these sweet, precious pets!

So in the end, we narrowed it down to two whose cages were side by side.  One was a shepherd mix (supposedly, but we think sh20170819_130141e is a border collie), and the other was a blue heeler mix.  Both were really friendly and pitiful and were starving for attention.  They had such sweet personalities.  But the black and white one really caught the eye of the kids, so we settled on her and named her Pepper.  The kids were so excited after we stood in line for ages and filled out all of the paperwork and then went back to tell her goodbye, only to find an “I’m Adopted…I’m Going Home” sign on her cage!  Yes!  She really was going home with us!  We had to wait a day, though.  They scheduled her for spay surgery first thing Sunday morning.  We couldn’t pick her up until late Sunday afternoon.

She was barely awake when we took her home.  She was still very groggy and sedated, and she was on a heavy dose of pain medication that would last about 12 hours.  We introduced 20170820_171921the dogs together outside.  We were hoping to take them for a walk, but poor Pepper was literally falling sleep standing up!  So we let her sleep away the anesthesia on her new bed.  The poor thing is rail thing!  When we brought her home, you could see every rib, and even her hip bones were sticking out!  She must have been loose for a while before they picked her up.  I’ve made it my mission to fatten her up.  She’s eating a mixture of Purina Puppy Chow and some canned Purina Alpo high protein wet dog food.

Pepper is super sweet.  It’s a good thing we were off school last week, because it took all my time and attention to babysit the dogs’ interactions those first few days.  Lilly did a lot of growling and following her around barking at her.  It was really disruptive, because loud sounds echo through my house with all the hard floors!  By the weekend, though, they were even laying on the same couch together!

Lilly is still pretty guarded when I’m cooking in the kitchen.  She had a spat with Pepper just a couple of nights ago, so we find it’s best to keep Pepper out of the kitchen when I’m cooking.  There was another spat today when Pepper put her paws up on Lilly’s back when we were outside and they were looking out the door.  Lilly wasn’t standing for that!

The bad thing is that it seems Pepper must have gotten exposed to canine flu at the shelter!  She was a stray until 5 days before we brought her home.  We brought her home on Sunday night, and by Friday, Teenie was suddenly not interested in eating.  She had a runny nose and was sneezing.  Teenie was super sick on Saturday, and she had a fever all day.  She’s been very lethargic and sleeping most of the time.  I’ve been hand feeding her whatever kind of dog food or treats I can get her to eat, but it’s getting tougher each day.  Today, she’s only had a few bites.  I read that the canine flu is contagious for 4 days before any symptoms show and for up to 10 days after.  So it’s possible that Pepper was exposed at the kennel and then spread it to the other dogs.  It just affected Teenie more because she is small.

By the time Sunday rolled around, it was clear that ALL of the dogs were sick, though not nearly as bad as poor Teenie.  They are coughing, sneezing, dripping from the nose, and any time Pepper has an empty stomach, she is yacking up mucous.  I went online over the weekend and ordered some homeopathic drops for nasal symptoms from Amazon.  They arrived this morning.  I dosed all of them in their mouths, and it wasn’t long before the sneezing and blowing out of the nose had mostly subsided!  I was so glad to be able to bring them all some much needed relief.  Poor Teenie, though…if only I could get her to eat today.  She has to keep her strength up.  She’s the smallest of the dogs and is 5.5 years old.  She is the one I’m most worried about.  She seems so congested, and I know canine flu can cause secondary infections like pneumonia, which can be life-threatening.  If she isn’t better tomorrow, I’ll have to find a vet here and take her in.  In the meantime, I’m going to follow the protocol for a severe case and dose her with the drops 4 times today and see if that helps her.

Pepper already has her first vet exam next week, so hopefully, the vet can help if she is still coughing by then.  The shelter’s free adoption included free spaying, free microchip, and a free first vet visit.  I can tell that she has already put on some weight, so that’s good.  She was only 30 pounds when we got her.  I’ll be she should be closer to 40.

I will you posted on how they’re all doing!  We’re now at the local limit of 3 dogs per household, so there’s no chance of adding any more.  Three is plenty!

Monday, August 28, 2017

REVIEW: An Overview of the 20th Century by A Journey Through Learning Lapbooks

We very much enjoyed our opportunity to review An Overview of the 20th Century by A Journey Through Learning Lapbooks.


WHAT IS IT?:

An Overview of the 20th Century is a very easy-to-use printable (or pre-printed) lapbook pack from A Journey Through Learning Lapbooks that is intended for grades 2-7.  I used it with my 4th and 8th graders.

The topics covered include the Wright brothers, Henry Ford, the Panama Canal, World Wars I & II, women’s suffrage, the roaring twenties, Charles Lindbergh, the Great Depression, the Hoover Dam, propaganda posters, the Cold War, the 1950’s, the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement, John F. Kennedy, the lunar landing, the boom of technology, the Persian Gulf War, and the Y2K scare.  That’s 20 different topics that give an excellent synopsis of the 20th century!

It’s available for download for just $8, or if you prefer a printed version, it’s $18.00.


OUR EXPERIENCE:

Right away, I was impressed with how easy this project was to set up.  My kids don’t particularly enjoy the assembly part of lapbooks…the cutting out and gluing are not their favorite things to do.  So I decided to try a different approach and pre-assemble the entire lapbook before we began.  It actually worked for us quite well and probably led to a greater level of enjoyment for them!  It certainly made using it easier for me, as well, since it was always ready-to-go whenever we wanted to work on it.  And it really didn’t take me that long to print it out and get the whole thing assembled.  I sat down one evening and got the whole thing ready by myself.  The whole project gets printed on regular paper, so that makes it easy to print up and prepare, too.  No colored paper or cardstock is required.

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The kit contains full instructions for the layout and assembly of your lapbook, so even if you have never made a lapbook before, you could easily follow the instructions and be successful if this were your first attempt.  Personally, I have never liked traditional lapbooks made from file folders, so I made mine from sheets of colored cardstock taped together into a book.  It makes it less awkward and unwieldy for me, and it’s easier to store.  So after I made my lapbook, I stored it in the clear cover of a binder so that it acted as a label for the binder.  Then I put all of the study guide pages and instructions for completing each lapbook piece inside the binder all whole-punched and in order.  So whenever we wanted to work on it, all I had to do was grab the binder, and everything we needed was right there.  Doing it this way made this the easiest lapbook we’ve ever completed, so I would definitely take this approach again!

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One of the things I like most about these lapbooks from A Journey Through Learning Lapbooks is that all the materials are very straight-forward and easy to follow.  Each topic had a one-page summary that I read aloud to the kids.  The summaries were very concise yet informative.  Even I learned a few things!  There were lots of interesting and fascinating facts included to peak everyone’s interest.  I found myself sharing tidbits with even my husband and adult son!  Needless to say, we enjoyed this very much.  And once we read the study guide topic, I just turned the page to the instructions for completing that particular lapbook element, and one of the kids would complete it.  It included activities like labeling the parts of a plane, completing a crossword puzzle or a word search, defining related terms, coloring flags or pictures, recording an interesting fact, or noting why someone was a significant historic figure.  Maps were also used to show routes or boundaries, we listed countries on each side of a war.  For the Great Depression, there were even a few recipes that we could try! 

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And even though my daughter just started 8th grade, this was still a great review activity for her, and I’m pretty sure she learned a thing or two, as well!  She did most of the writing, and I plan to go through these with my 4th grader once the lapbook is finished so I can use the completed project as a teaching tool for him as we study the various topics going forward.  It makes a lovely keepsake, and the interactive elements will make it a fun way for my younger son to learn!  I plan to keep the binder in tact with the study guides and the completed lapbook inside the clear cover where it will be protected. 

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We were able to complete 16 of the 20 topics during the review period.  I really liked the way we went about it, because it made it easy to do as much or as little at a sitting as we wanted.  The study guides also included a few extra activities, like finding a picture of the first Ford Delivery Truck or pictures of toys from the 50’s and pasting them onto the study guide pages.  That was fun!  The only critique I came up with was a couple of editing errors that were missed, but that was only in the study guides and not in the lapbook itself, so the teacher would be the only one to notice them.

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I thought this was a great little study, and I would definitely feel comfortable using other lapbooks from this company.  Some lapbooks we’ve used are far more involved and require a greater investment of time, and I’ve found we tend not to finish them once we’ve started.  But this was a great supplement to our studies, very easy to use and implement into our school days, and I would recommend that you give this a try!

Take a look at what other Crew members have to say about this and other lapbooks from A Journey Through Learning Lapbooks by clicking the banner below.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

My Firstborn is 18!!!

In my mind, I tried to put off this moment for the last several years.  Su2rely my baby boy, the treasure of my heart, my firstborn, was NOT becoming an ADULT!  How could this possibly be happening?!?  Where did the years go?!?  Wasn’t it just yesterday that we were on the floor playing with dinosaurs and Rescue Heroes?  Weren’t we snuggling in the overstuffed chair every night reading piles and piles of his favorite bedtime stories?!?

I just can’t fathom that 18 years have flown by in what seems like an instant.  How I treasure this child!  He’s my son, yes…but he’s also my friend, my companion, and my partner in crime.  We’re alike in so many ways, yet so different in many others.  He has the best parts of me and Steve.  He has Steve’s sense of humor and desire to make others laugh, and he has my sense of adventure and spontaneity.  I love him for his heart of compassion for others, his willingness to try new things, and his fun but caring personality. 

I love that we can talk about anything.  And even when we fight or disagree, we eventually make up and end it with a hug and an “I love you.”  He is near and dear to my heart, and it has been both a challenge and an immeasurable joy to be his mother…a privilege given to20170812_225321 me by God and immensely appreciated.  I am so unworthy in so many ways, yet he shows me the unconditional love that children inevitably have for their parents. 

I’m so thankful that we have a special bond that can never be broken.  We’ll always look out for each other.  Watching the years go by and knowing he needed me less and less was a painful process, but we have such a good relationship that I was able to accept it as part of God’s plan to watch him evolve into this gradually more independent young man.  I got to watch him blossom and grow into a good person who has had a positive impression on those around him in the world.  He has let his light shine so that others might see.  What more could I ask for?

We celebrated his 18th birthday with his requested birthday lunch of shrimp cocktail and dinner of ribs and mashed potatoes, and we ended the day with his favorite pineapple upside down cupcakes, which are a real labor of love.  He got an Xbox One game he was really looking forward to getting for his birthday, and he received a couple of cards in the mail.  And on the next business day, we headed to the public safety office to get him a real, full-fledged TX driver’s license!  He was so happy when it finally came in the mail this week.  And he also received his selective service notice, so even the government knows he’s Growing Heart on Messenger 1.0now an adult!  He also headed out to turn in his very first job application this week. 

Times are changing in the Burgess household! 

I hope you had the happiest of birthdays, my dear boy!  I love you dearly.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

REVIEW: Everyday Cooking by Everyday Homemaking

I was delighted to find out I was going to get to review the brand new, updated edition of Everyday Cooking by Everyday Homemaking!


WHAT IS IT?:

Everyday Cooking is a practical cookbook and guide to cooking that meets your everyday household needs.  The recipes take a “from scratch” approach to cooking but without a lot of unusual ingredients.  It gives a more natural ingredient list but still suggests ways to complete the recipes with more common healthy ingredients (like honey vs. sucanat). 

It also gives you basic recipes for items that are typically prepared food ingredients, like “cream of” soups or seasoning blends, so you have the option to go a step further with preparing things from scratch, or sub in the prepared item if you’re in a pinch.  Either way, this cookbook makes it easy!

I previously reviewed the first edition of this cookbook back in 2012, but to my pleasure, many more recipes have been added in this latest edition that’s now available in a printed, bound cookbook for just $19.99, or you can opt for the downloadable e-book version for just $15.99!  I had the e-book before, and I must say that I really enjoyed the hard copy this time around, which is nicely printed with a full-color cover and is spiral-bound…my favorite style of cookbook so it can easily lay open on my stand!


OUR EXPERIENCE:

I have fond memories of the recipes I made out of the first edition of this cookbook, and I wanted to start off by making one of my favorites.  It was really hard to choose, because I really loved Mom’s Roast, as well as Becky’s Mystery Cake.  But I decided to make Mom’s Roast for dinner one night.  I hadn’t made it for a while, but it popped into my head when I found out I was getting the updated version of this cookbook for review, and my family “ooh-ed” and “aah-ed” over the results, just as they did several years ago. 

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I loved that I could throw it all in the crockpot and then come back to something so wonderfully tender and moist, with a delicious gravy to boot!  I served it with some roasted potatoes, green beans, and crusty French dinner rolls.  Yum!

I was really pleased with the variety of recipes available in this edition.  There’s truly something for everyone and every occasion!  I also love that the author included the option to prepare many of the recipes in an electric pressure cooker!  In recent years, I’ve really fallen in love with the ease of my appliance, and I often adapt recipes to be cooked in that way. So it was a pleasant surprise that she gave alternate preparation instructions for some of the recipes using the pressure cooker.  It took out the guesswork!

The next recipe I picked out was the Tortilla Soup, which was one that had pressure cooker instructions provided.  I happened to have all of the ingredients on hand (which was true of a lot of the recipes…I love it when that happens), so I set to work gathering everything together and had it ready in no time!

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I was really short on time, so I used some pre-cooked grilled chicken strips and subbed out some ready-to-eat tri-color tortilla strips to serve on top. It was all ready in just 10 minutes of cook-time!

And of course, I had to try out a dessert!  I so enjoyed Becky’s Mystery Cake from the previous edition of this cookbook, which I had made for my son’s birthday that year.  It was almost his birthday again, so I let him have the honors of choosing which dessert to make this time around.  He picked the Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies!  I had everything except the Hershey’s Kisses, so I sent him off to the store for those while I gathered up the ingredients.

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I must say that they were quite a hit!  The ovens in my new house are quite small, so I had to cook them in batches (this recipe yielded 4 dozen cookies).  But these delightful cookies disappeared almost as fast as they came out of the oven!  Personally, I’m not that fond of peanut butter cookies, but these didn’t have an overpowering peanut butter flavor, and I really enjoyed them a lot!  My kids who do love peanut butter cookies said they would have liked the peanut butter flavor to be more predominant, but they were tremendously enjoyed by all!  We ate a whole platter of them and still had enough to fill up the cookie jar for the next day.  They didn’t last long!  I even sent some as a treat in my husband’s lunch.  Smile

Back in Virginia, I often hosted cookie exchanges with my friends (any excuse of an occasion would do!), and I kept thinking how great these would be for a cookie exchange!  The recipe makes more than enough to share, and they were so cute, too.  They cooled really fast, so they were ready in a flash.

And if you’ve ever wanted to try your hand at bread-making, this cookbook offers many recipes for basic bread with a host of variations, plus rolls, muffins, and fruit breads.  It includes step-by-step instructions with full-color photographs to help you get the basics of it right.

This cookbook also offers practical tips for using a pressure cooker, preparing a buffet station, meal planning and shopping hints, and quick ideas for getting breakfast on the table when you’re family is too busy to sit down together.  And for the student and future homemaker in your home, there’s even a mini-unit on food and nutrition, information about basic kitchen accessories, and a checklist of basic cooking skills.  Everyday Cooking has it all!

I have my eye on so many of these recipes that I plan to make soon.  The Belgian Waffle recipe is at the top of my list, along with the homemade Spiced Apples to put on top.  And I can’t wait to try the pressure cooker version of Lasagna!

I’m sure you’ll be thoroughly delighted with the repertoire of recipes and resources in this lovely cookbook.  There’s just so much to choose from, and I can feel good about preparing my family’s meals with natural ingredients and not a lot of junk.  Yet at the same time, the recipes are realistic and not too over-the-top “different” for the average family.  Give it a try, and add some belly-pleasing recipes to your family’s meal planning!

If you decide you’d like to purchase either the e-book version or the printed version of the cookbook, or if you’d like to purchase The Everyday Family Chore System (be sure to read the Crew reviews), Everyday Homemaking would like to offer you a special 10% discount through September 5th!  Just add the items to your cart (as many copies as you’d like), and then apply code TOS10books at checkout.

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