Monday, December 26, 2011

Endings and New Beginnings

My favorite holiday is New Year's Eve.  I have been told it is not a holiday.  I'll buy that I suppose, but it is still my favorite DAY of the year.  I love endings and new beginnings!  How much more final is the end of a year?  To reminisce about all the things that have happened.  To know that good things happened, bad things may have happened, but we made it to the end of another year.  This year I became the mother of a teenager.  All 3 of my kids achieved double digits.  If I didn't feel old when my son became 13, I certainly felt old when Paige reached the age of 10 in November.  :-(   We got 2 new cars this year, both Honda, because we were tired of car repair bills.  We haven't had any since we got the new ones, thank the Lord!  We vacationed in Disney in November and decided that we want to move to Florida.  We attended family reunions and funerals.  Kids went to camp again this summer and won a lot of awards for memorizing Scripture.  I started writing a novel, which I haven't picked up since September.  We attended the Washington County Fair.  I started selling Arbonne in an effort to quit my typing job.  This year was so full that I can't even remember half the things we did.

On New Year's Eve, I mentally drift into the next year and wonder what things could possibly transpire in the next 365 (or 366 if leap year) days God gives us.  I know it's just numbers and you could easily think of each day the same way or go from October 1st of one year to September 30 of the next year, but I deal in chronological years where I need to buy a new calendar to hang on my wall on January 1st.  That metaphorical action of throwing away the old year and hanging up a new one, full of possibilities, makes me happy.

So, what will this new year hold?  I know that Jacob will be starting high school in the fall.  We may be living in Florida at some point before the end of the year.  If not Florida, then possibly a new home in PA.  I will still be selling Arbonne, but I have come to realize that my typing job was a gift from God over 13 years ago and that I need to get my head on straight and be thankful for what I have and not complain, so I'll be keeping this typing job until I don't have to work anymore.  This year, more than any other, is so full of the unknown for us.  I am actually very excited about that.  I know that whatever this new year holds we'll be under God's care.  He will guide us.  He will help us to grow closer to Him.  Therefore, I know this new year will be wonderful!!!

I pray yours is as well!!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Vintage Remedies for Boys

With eager anticipation, I received Vintage Remedies for Boys to use with my 13-year-old and 11-year-old sons.


This book is filled with chapters about real food, healthy drinks, snack time, sweet desserts, local foods, healthy bodies, coughs and cols, backyard medicines, etc.  It has kitchen tips and many recipes using real foods, not artificial anything.  There are also quizzes included for each chapter to test their knowledge.

PhotobucketI was glad to have a supplement to my health curriculum for my boys, and this book is put together well with a lot of very useful information and delicious recipes.  There are only two issues I have with it.  One is that it is all words.  There are no pictures, hand-drawn or photos, whatsoever.  The second issue I have is that it doesn't seem to have been proofread.  There are a lot of typos in it. Besides that, it is a wonderful resource.

The website is  They have Vintage Remedies for Girls, Guys, and Kids.  The guys and girls versions are $45.00.  The  kids version is $25.  There is also one for tweens which is $29.95.

Vintage Remedies offers other great products for healthy living.  They even have a course called "The Family Herbalist."

They can be reached at 230 Franklin Road, Suite 807; Franklin, Tennessee 37064, or by phone at 615-807-0882.

DISCLAIMER:  I received this product free of charge in order to provide honest feedback.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Anybody for Punkin' Chunkin?

It is fun to watch Punkin' Chunkin' on television.  Imagine getting to build your very own trebuchet to toss large pumpkins thousands of feet away.  Wouldn't that be fun?  Of course, the machines those people build cost them sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars.  I've got a machine you can build for a couple of tens but then it won't chunk punkins either.  You will, however, learn a great deal about the machine and the history behind it.


Pitsco Education is dedicated to helping students succeed by offering a wide array of STEM-oriented classroom solutions (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).  I received the trebuchet and catapult kit that included  the Siege Machines book, the Catapult kit, and the Trebuchet kit and weights.  It retails for only $21.95.  The kits are AMERICAN made in Kansas.  There is a more expensive kit that includes all that is listed above plus two in-depth teacher/curriculum guides for another 20+ hours of teaching material for each kit.  It retails for $64.95.

The Siege Machines book that was included is full of wonderful information about the trebuchet and catapult. It talks about their history, safety, and mechanics.  The book provides experiments and charts for data.  I really enjoyed going through this book with my kids.  The directions for building each machine are separate from the book and are included with the kit.  They were NOT easy to understand.  Not that these kits are designed to be put together by a child, but there is certainly no way they ever could be.  Even my husband and I had trouble understanding them.  There is a lot of cutting of tubing and string or scoring of wood that is required with these kits.  The instructions would often say to look for an example in the picture above, but it would actually be in the picture to the left.  The pictures were dark and slightly fuzzy as well.  If the directions were in a much better format, I would have nothing negative at all to say about these two kits.  The instructions as they are, however, make putting these kits together a less than enjoyable experience.

Because these are the kits I received, I cannot speak to the quality of the other kits they provide or what the instructions are like, but they do offer other items such as airplanes, hot air balloons, kites, CO2 dragsters, many different architecture kits, math tools, physical science tools, and robotics.  It is definitely worth the stop  at the store,, to see what they have.  The list is extensive.

Pitsco Education also has an Academy for student-directed learning or teacher-directed learning.  As I browsed this tab on their website I was amazed by the quality of the experiments.  It seems Pitsco is truly devoted to helping kids understand and succeed in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math.  Perhaps all they need to do is work on their kit instructions so the parent who is not a scientist or engineer can   help their child put the kits together.

Pitsco can be reached at 800-835-0686.  Their address is Pitsco, Inc.; PO Box 1708; Pittsburg, Kansas, 66762-1708.  Their email is for purchase orders only.

DISCLAIMER:  I received this product free of charge in order to provide an honest review.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

"The Curriculum for Creativity!"

"The Curriculum for Creativity!" is a trademark slogan for Artistic Pursuits, an art curriculum I received in order to use and review.  I welcomed the opportunity to review an art program with my children because I am always looking for ways to encourage their love for art.  The grade 4-6 book we used was Book One which teaches the elements of art and composition including space, line and shape, texture, value, contrast, balance, overlap, depth, proportion, etc.  There were 16 units in all combined in a spiral-bound, 88-page book.

PhotobucketAt the beginning of the book, it lists all the supplies that are needed and for which unit they are needed.  There are some pages for "Getting Started" - What Parents Want to Know (book content and scheduling), What Students Want to Know (learning to observe and focus), The Elements of Art.  In the back of the book, there is an evaluation sheet for obtaining a number and letter grade and a bibliography.

Each unit provides students with many opportunities for drawing.  The unit begins with discussion of the topic such as texture or balance.  The student is given "a creative exercise using real-world experience."

The next lesson for each unit is a painting by a famous artist.  The student observes this painting according to the topic being discussed in the unit.  Some biographical information of the artist is provided and a section about what times were like during the period of the artist or the period painted.  Students are then given the assignment of drawing from observation.

Lesson 3 is the lesson on technique, trying to draw using the topic of the unit.  For example, unit 6 is "Form Using Value."  The technique discussed in lesson 3 is "How to See Shading and Shadow."  For the exercise, the student is to look outdoors for an object that has form and draw one object showing form by shading.  The technique lesson describes how shadows occur and how to draw them.

The fourth lesson, or final project, shows pictures drawn by other students that are like what they will be drawing themselves.  Instructions are given for how to set up for the final project for each unit, including what they will need to complete it.

My oldest son is in 8th grade, but he completed the assignments along with my 4th and 6th graders.  He enjoyed this curriculum, as art is his favorite subject.  Any time he has the opportunity to create, he is happy.  I am pretty sure my 6th grade son enjoyed it as well, and I think he learned some techniques from it that he did not know before.  I can see a real improvement in his drawing ability as he gets older and learns new techniques.

My daughter claims she is a horrible artist and can't draw anything.  I'm sure she didn't do her best during most assignments because of this fear of drawing poorly, but when she did apply herself she did a great job.  I'd love to try one of Artistic Pursuits books geared towards younger children so she might gain some confidence.

They have preschool curriculum, curriculum for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade that includes an introduction to the visual arts, stories of artists and their art, and modern painting and sculpture.  Each book includes projects for the student as well as learning about great artists and their work.  There is the book I used and the companion, book two, that teaches about color and composition.  There are two junior high books for the elements of art and composition and color and composition, and there are two senior high books (for grades 9-12) of elements and color and composition like the two previous grade levels.  The books are written to the student, so no teacher preparation is required.  The high school books are intended to be used independently by the student, and they include 64 lessons in each book.  The pictures in the books are in color, and they are printed on thick paper so the book holds together very well despite being opened and closed many times and tossed from child to child during the homeschool year.  Each book that has been created by Artistic Pursuits sells for $42.95.  They provide a view inside each book.  Simply go to the products page for the books and click on the book you'd like to view.

Artistic Pursuits also supplies art packs that you can buy that contain most of the supplies you'll need according to the grade level.  The art pack for Book One for Grades 4-6 is $45.00.

Artistic Pursuits can be reached at Artistic Pursuits Inc., 2626 East 109th Avenue, Northglenn, Colorado, 80233 or by phone at 303-467-0504.  If you have questions or need shipping information, their email is  Their fax number is 208-567-4269.

My 8th grader wanted to be sure I let you know that he loved this curriculum.  I may have to purchase the high school curriculum for next year because he loved it so much.  I know that he will learn techniques and have the opportunity to practice, and he will learn about the masters.  This is an excellent art program for any stage.  I especially love that it requires no preparation on my part except purchasing the tools required to draw.

DISCLAIMER:  I received this product free of charge so that I would use it and provide an honest review.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Parlez-vous Francais?

I took five years of Spanish in high school, and it was my first major in college until I changed it.  I love foreign languages and have tried over the years to teach my children some Spanish since that is what I know.  When I had the opportunity to review a French program with them, I jumped at the chance.  I had taken one semester of French in high school but didn't continue with it.  There have only been a few things I've been able to retain from that.  This was my opportunity to refresh and learn some more.  The program we reviewed is from Great Commission Languages.


Great Commission Languages - Easy French Level 1AWe received Le Francais Facile, Level IA.  It is the first half of the existing Level I curriculum and is created in such a way as to appeal towards older grade levels, grade 7 and up, although my children who are in 4th and 6th grade have been able to use it and enjoy it.  It includes exercises right in the book so copies don't need to be made.  It includes a CD with all the lessons and pronunciation so the student can actually hear how the words are supposed to sound.  There is another CD that contains the answers to all of the exercises that are in the book.  I also received a separate test booklet, test answer key, and phonogram cards which help in learning pronunciation of individual letters.   The level IA student book sells on the website for $84.95.  The test booklet and answer key are each $10, and the phonogram cards are $10.     
Great Commission Language has a classic format French program, Level I, that is intended to be used over 3 years with younger students or 1 to 2 years with older students.  It appears to be a higher end product than the new format which I reviewed as it is a much larger book and includes professional illustrations.  It sells for $139.95.  There is a second level program and a junior level program that is geared towards family with multiple children, especially younger. It has 34 lessons and focuses more on songs and stories and less on grammar and writing.  It is $69.95.

The new format, Level IA, that I received begins each lesson with a conversation that has words both in French and English, so it is translated as the story goes along.  There are then vocabulary words to learn.  Each lesson has the student conjugate a verb.  There are also grammar lessons throughout, cultural information, trivia, Scripture memory work (in French!), and a lesson plan for the week to be practicing French and doing the activities.

After just 3 lessons, I was able to recognize a lot of the words we had learned while watching a movie where one of the main characters was speaking French.  My kids have learned the vocabulary by making up silly sentences with the day's words.  At first my daughter didn't like it.  I think it was just because it was something new and more difficult than what she was used to but after a few lessons she said she was really starting to enjoy it.

Great Commission Languages also has a Spanish curriculum.  There is a level I similar to the French program for $139.95 and a Junior program.  There are extra grammar sheets available, phonogram cards, and CDs as well.

Great Commission Languages is a Christian company that operates according to Matthew 28:19-20 that we are called to go out into all the world and make disciples of all nations.  Teaching languages is one way this can be accomplished.  If we know the languages that others speak, we can reach out to them more effectively.  Take a moment to read their statement of faith at

They can be reached by email at, by phone toll free from Canada or the US at 1-866-773-7254 or outside the Canada or US at +1-306-728-3201.  Their address is PO Box 1446, Yorktown, SK, S3N 3G3 Canada.

I have enjoyed using this program with my children as I know that we have all begun to learn French in a very easy way and that those things we have learned will stick with us.  I can't honestly think of anything I dislike about this product.  I highly recommend Great Commission Language.

DISCLAIMER: I received this product free of charge to use and provide an honest review.

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Week After Vacation

Well, it's been a week since we got back from Florida.  My mind was in a fog for two days when we got back because I didn't want to get back to Pennsylvania.  The whole time we were in Florida it only rained a short time one morning.  We spent the week at Disney World and one day at Cocoa Beach.

 As we drove out of Florida, I almost cried.  I felt like I was leaving home forever.  On the way home, we talked about moving down there.
We watched the temperature drop on the thermometer on our car as we headed north.  Once we entered West Virginia, we were greeted by fog, rain, and very cold temperatures.  This picture is of the fog lying in the valley as we climbed the mountain in W. Va.

I can't say enough good things about our trip this year.  We did a lot of things we hadn't done before.  Some were corny like The Enchanted Tiki Room.  Other things were never really missed all the other years we had gone like Stitch's Great Escape.  My cousin convinced us to see The Country Bears Show.  Um, well, it was a classic, I guess.

We stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge - Kidani Village.  We ate at Sanaa, the restaurant on the first floor of Kidani.  I was a little apprehensive about eating here because I have some really picky eaters in my family, but I think it was the single most enjoyable experience I've ever had a Disney restaurant, maybe any restaurant.  Our service was spectacular (thank you, Ken), and the food was different and delicious.  I had Tandoori shrimp.  We sampled African breads and dipping sauces which were all wonderful.  One was a bit too spicy for my liking, but I don't do spice.  The decor and atmosphere were so inviting and comfortable.  If you ever go to Disney, I HIGHLY recommend Sanaa.

The day before we left we ate at Raglan Road in Downtown Disney, a place I had always wanted to go but never got around to.  It is an Irish pub, very quaint and authentic inside.  I had a lobster and avocado salad sandwich.  Oh my, was it just scrumptious!

I have almost 1000 photos from our trip, so I will have more to share in the days or weeks to come.  Suffice it to say, I may soon be posting the progress of our move to Florida.  :-)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Keyboard Town Pals Review

This program claims it teaches children to type in an hour on a QWERTY keyboard.  I agree that it does. My 9-year old daughter completed every lesson in less than an hour. This was not my intention, but when she saw what the program was like she wanted to finish it and never return to it. The website states, "We have replaced [the stress normally associated with typing] with adorable puppets who sing and dance. It was these puppets that made my daughter quickly go through every lesson. They state it is best for beginners ages 6-12. It seems it would be more appropriate for children ages 4-6. The puppets and ther opening sequence to the program are very juvenile. My boys, who are older, begged me to not make them do this typing program. Despite it being so juvenile, however, my daughter, a month later, was able to remember where every letter on the keyboard was.

I would encourage you to watch the video of the PALS method before purchasing this program because, even though it works, you wouldn't want to spend your money on a program your kids wouldn't use due it seeming to be more appropriate for a young audience.  This video is available at PALS Tutorial.

Keyboard Town Pals has a lot of different products for sale.  The "Learn To Type - Web-Based" program is $30.00.  It comes in English, French, and Spanish.  It works with PC or Mac and requires a broadband internet connection and the latest Adobe Flash player.  It is a single user license.  The same program sold as a bundle includes the concentration card game, coloring book, and stickers, and currently sells for $30.00 as well. The CD-ROM version for either Windows or MAC is $35.00.  The CD bundle is $45.00.  The CD with one companion item is $40.00.  The coloring books, digital and hard copy, are available separately as are the stickers and concentration card game.  The puppets with script are available for $70.00.

Keyboard Town Pals can be contacted via their webpage with any questions.  They can also be reached at 1-866-200-8881.  There is free shipping on all orders now.

DISCLAIMER: I received this product free of charge in order to provide an honest review.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Fallingwater and Ohiopyle

Pennsylvania is such a rich state. It is full of wonderful history and beauty.  Yesterday, I had the opportunity to go to Fallingwater with my homeschool co-op and then afterwards to Ohiopyle with a few friends.  Here are some pictures of our day trip.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Getting Fire Safety Training Out of the Way

As a homeschooling family, we are required to make sure we do fire safety training once a school year.  The co-op that I belong to usually goes to a local fire department, when they have time to fit us in, and they give us the safety talk including dressing up in their fire gear to show the kids they shouldn't be afraid of firemen who are wearing all those clothes and tanks.  They have a tiny fire house the kids can crawl through that has 3 rooms where they share specific fire safety techniques in the living room, kitchen, and bedroom.  They learn a lot through this method, but since we've done it for at least the past 5 years and since we are not a "school" group and they feel free to reschedule us to accommodate a "school" group, it is time for a change.  I was thrilled to have the opportunity to review Marshall Publishing's video entitled, "Lots & Lots of Fire Songs and Safety Tips," and the book entitled, "Lots & Lots of Fire Trucks and Firefighters."

I thought the video was very well done.  It gives students all of the vital information that should be learned during a lesson on fire safety.  They have a couple of catchy tunes included, which are more appropriate for a younger audience.  The book is excellent.  It is full of wonderful information and pictures.

The video is approximately 30 minutes long in its entirety, but it can be used as a short, 12-minute program if a shorter program is needed where safety concepts such as stop, drop, and roll; home safety plan; and calling 911 are taught.  It was created in 2008 and is clear visually and audibly. The book has 128 pages.  It includes an excellent timeline of firefighting which makes this also applicable to history class.  The video and book can be purchased separately or together for $49.90 total, but if you go to Marshall Publishing and enter TOSF1 at checkout, you can receive both for a total of $19.95 (plus S&H).  You can also call toll-free at 888-300-3455 between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. CST or visit their website, or

I also had the opportunity to review another of Marshall Publishing's videos.  This was entitled, "George Washington Carver: His Life and His Work."  Based on the website, it appears that this video was made in 2009.  I have to say that I was disappointed by the quality of this video.  It looks like it was made in the '70s when the video picture from cameras wasn't quite as crisp and clean.  There is a lot of wonderful information about the life of Carver, and the viewer is sure to learn a lot; but as my 9-year-old daughter watched it with me she said, "This is really boring."  I had to agree.  The narrator was hard to understand in a few spots also.  The first few minutes of the video was just nature scenes and animals.  I suppose this was because Carver was so interested in nature, but it loses the interest of the viewer right from the start.  This video sells for $19.95 regularly, but Marshall Publishing is offering a discount on it with the code TOSC1 at checkout of 15%, which makes it $16.95 (plus S&H).  If you are interested solely in the biographical information, this is a good buy.  If you are interested in a video which will be visually stimulating as well as educational, I don't think I'd recommend this one.

Marshall Publishing has many books and videos available to purchase about such topics as animals, educational historical documentaries, fire truck/jets and planes, monster trucks and motor sports, rockets and space, etc.  Their products are appropriate for all age ranges.  However, the songs, I think, are geared to a younger audience.  They also have some music CDs.  It is definitely worth the look on their website to find something that fits into your studies.  Some videos are just $12.95 and 90 minutes long.  The DVDs come with a lifetime replacement warranty.

The address for Marshall Publishing is 123 S. Hough St., Barrington, IL  60010.

DISCLAIMER:  I received this product free of charge to provide an honest review of it.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Could You Use a Little Extra Help with the Grocery Shopping?

If you could use a little extra help coming up with a menu each week and knowing what you need to purchase at the grocery store, then E-Mealz might be able to help.


This online service was created by two sisters in an effort to make meal planning easier and fit within a tight budget.  They also wanted meal time to be less chaotic and provide an opportunity for the family to come together and share with each other the day's events.

There are a number of different options when subscribing to the e-mealz program.  You can choose a menu for two people or a family plan.  You can also choose from Aldi, Kroger, Publix, Wal-Mart, Ralph's, or a menu that will work at any store.  You can also choose specialty menus such as vegetarian and gluten free.  All of the plans, except for the vacation plans, are $15.00 for 3 months of service which is automatically renewed.  You can cancel the automatic renewal, however.

The plan I chose was a low-fat Wal-Mart plan for a family.  Each week you print out the week's menu along with the grocery list.  The list has each item that is used in the week's menu plan and signifies which days they are used.  I found this helpful in cases where I didn't want to make a particular item they had on the menu.  I simply reduced the amount to buy because I knew I wouldn't need it on a certain day.

Now, certain people in my family are very picky and will only eat a limited variety of entrees.  Because of this, there were a few menu items each week I would not prepare.  Each item included a recipe and listed what sides were to go with it.  

I think there are a lot of benefits to this type of a program.  If you aren't picky and are willing to cook the easy recipes they provide, this could save you a lot of time.  You can tailor it to your store and your diet preference.  Because my life is very disorganized and I don't have a lot of time to do anything but make the simplest recipes that I often make on a regular basis, it was easier for me to go to the store, walk up and down each aisle, and pick and choose.  Perhaps as I get some more time back, after reducing the amount of time I work or cutting back on my kids' activities, this type of a system would be wonderful FOR ME.  Right now, it's just easier to keep it very simple by continuing to make those things I know my family loves and will eat.  You are able to change your store and your type of menu if you find your first choice doesn't work for you anymore.

These sisters have developed a very useful tool, and it would be of great benefit to many people out there.  It removes the task of deciding what to make every day; somebody already did it for you, and they even made you a grocery list.  It sure does simplify things a lot.  I wish I had had the time to really get into the habit of using it but, like I said, I am too disorganized right now to be even fit into someone else's organization.  I'm sure most of you, though, would love what these sisters have done for you.

E-mealz can also be given as a gift subscription to friends and family.  E-mealz can be reached at  They have folks available to answer questions Monday through Friday 8-5 CST.

DISCLAIMER: I was given this product for free to try so that I might provide an honest opinion.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Always Ice Cream

I LOVE ICE CREAM!!!!!  I also love Always Icecream!!!


This online educational and game website is for girls only, ages 7 to 12.  It was created by Dr. Johannes Ziegler who was looking for an appropriate internet site for his girls.  He and his team have created a wonderful place for girls to go to learn and have fun online in a safe environment.  Thankfully there are people out there with the know how to do this so that those of us who are less technologically savvy don't have to create anything from scratch.

From the first time my daughter started on this website, she has loved it and has learned a great deal from it as well.  Some of the educational choices are subjects such as language arts, math, geography, history, science, music, art, foreign languages, and religious education.  When the girls log in they create a minime, a mini version of themselves, and take up some challenges in order to win ice cream scoops.  With these ice cream scoops, they are able to "buy" things online.  On the home page, you buy an egg with the scoops you received from your first challenges and then with more scoops you can buy things for your egg.  It eventually hatches into a pet.  As I was doing this review, my daughter was helping me navigate the site.  When she realized there were new games, she started screaming, "Yay!  They added new games!"  She just loves this website.

It is impossible to list all of the different educational opportunities, aka games, there are on Always Icecream.  They are always adding new ones.  There are challenging games that stretch their understanding of different topics.  This is a screenshot of one of the geography games.  The student is supposed to click on the state they ask for.


The girls are able to invite friends to join them on Always Icecream.  They can chat on a moderated chat page.  They can "sell" things to each other for scoops and trade for other items.  They can send each other mail through the website as well.  They can go to MiniWorld where they can build items to sell.  A picture of various items appears.  They choose an item and paint it, then they can enter it into their store in MiniWorld with the price they put on it.  They can buy houses with scoops and also visit the neighborhood and see what all of their friends have inside their houses.

This website is so clever and imaginative and CLEAN!!  I just love it!  There is one thing that is just slightly annoying.  Often when clicking into a different portion of the website, a window pops up letting you know that a friend made a new minime.  If you have a lot of friends (who are all girls and you know the way girls change their minds), this can happen on a very frequent basis.

The girls are also able to send suggestions to the website designers to improve the website, which are taken into consideration and often acted upon.  This is a great way to help the girls learn how to use their voices to improve things.

There are videos that girls can watch as well that show them how to do math problems or language arts problems or listen to geography songs, etc.

Parents are able to receive email updates of their daughter's progress and can disable the community features so that chatting cannot take place.

Always Icecream offers a free trial membership.  It is free of advertising and costs $4.99 per month (the first month is only 99 cents) after the free trial per child or $29.99 per year per child.  It is payable through PayPal.  There is also a two-month membership for $9.98 or a lifetime membership for $99.99 (this option is best for girls 10 and younger).  Parents accounts are always free.  German is an alternate language the website comes in if that is the language you speak.

Always Icecream can be reached via email at


DISCLAIMER: I received this product for free to use it and provide an unbiased review.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Amazed by the Creator

I have had a growing fascination with the sky lately.  I usually only have my smart phone around to take pictures, so unfortunately these don't clearly represent the beauty that I saw which prompted me to take the picture in the first place.  Hopefully, though, you will be in awe of the creativity of the Creator.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Changing from the Inside Out

Yesterday was my one-month anniversary with my new job...independent consultant with Arbonne International. Arbonne is a company that not too many people are familiar with, at least around this area, but those who are have only had good things to say about it.

Arbonne is a direct sales company with independent consultants all over the world. I never in my life thought I'd be selling something. I love to be around people, but selling never crossed my mind as a career option.

When I was introduced to Arbonne by a good friend in Virginia, I approached the idea with skepticism. I listened to some recorded phone calls about what a career with Arbonne has done for some people, and I spent some time getting to know the product. The more I learned the more I truly believed this was a product I could feel good about sharing with people. This is not your typical cosmetics company or skin care company. This is a company that cares about the health and well being of people all over the world. The products are based on botanical ingredients. There are no harsh chemicals. There are no animal products in any of their items. There are no petroleum-based ingredients. Because there are no fillers, the products are concentrated, so they last longer than a typical department store item. These products actually help treat the skin and keep it healthy longer. The cosmetics actually moisturize the skin and allow it to breathe even though it has makeup on it.

A very small sampling of some of Arbonne's products

Arbonne will not make something unless it can be made to be pure, safe, and beneficial. The products are hypoallergenic. The eye care creams and other eye products have been ophthalmologist tested and deemed safe. The day lotions and foundations are formulated with SPF.  The products are made from the highest quality ingredients and conform to Swiss standards, which are THE highest standards in the industry.

Not only are there skin-care products and cosmetics, but Arbonne has a line of wellness products, from protein shake mixes to detoxifying skin-care products. There are energy fizz tabs which provide sustained energy without a crash like you get from high-dose caffeine or sugar drinks. They also help to boost metabolism and suppress the appetite. I have been using them every couple of days, and I love them. They work so well, and they come in citrus and pomegranate flavors (pom is my favorite).

Arbonne also has a holiday catalog with some of the most amazing smelling lotions, body washes, and sugar scrubs I've ever smelled. There is a Pampermint foot set (smells like, you guessed it, peppermint) that comes with an adorable pair of soft socks. They have perfumes and even a men's cologne.

Arbonne's signature line is called RE9. This product line helps to reverse the aging process by supporting collagen and firming the skin. It helps get rid of wrinkles. The skin-care and wellness products can all be used by men and can be used interchangeably with products from Arbonne's other lines depending on your needs. RE9 also has a men's shaving line. I use the exfoliating wash myself and shave gel. They don't have a men's shaving cream smell. The wash has a citrus smell, and the shave gel has no scent.

There is an acne line and a line to pause the aging process (FC5) which is directed at either oily, dry, or normal skin types.

I would encourage you, if you haven't already, to check out my Arbonne website at and find something that you will love. Arbonne even guarantees that you will love it or you can get your money back within 45 days of ordering. This usually gives people a good 30 days to try a product to determine if you like it.

You may also call me if you have any questions at 424-ARBONNE or email me at I would be happy to answer any questions or place an order for you over the phone.

Check us out! You'll be glad you did!

Thank you,
Tammie Bairen

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Aletheia Writing Magazine: Creativity For Christian Teens Review

Aletheia Logo - Oval border

Jacob, my 13-year-old, loves to write.  He is in the process of writing a novel.  I was thrilled that he could have an issue of this writing magazine to encourage him in his efforts.

Aletheia has a webiste - - where you can go to check out reviews of the magazine, testimonials, writing tips, etc.  You can also subscribe to the magazine from their website.  It costs $26 for a year's subscription which includes shipping and handling to a U.S. address.  A year's subscription is 4 color issues that are 40 pages each.  It is $29 for a subscription to a Canadian address.  If you want it shipped to a European address, you need to email them at
Aletheia Spring 2011 Magazine Cover
For some of Jacob's language arts classes, I assigned him reading from this magazine.  I figured he could only get better in his own writing by reading things other teenagers had written that were worthy of publishing.  The magazine and the website both detail how to submit poems and stories.  Not only that, though, students who are artistically inclined can submit original artwork and photographs.  It is nice that Christian teens have an outlet for their talents like this.

The magazine is for students 13-19 years old and, as such, contains articles on a variety of subjects.  All stories and poems are clean without any vulgarity, but I was not pleased to find a poem written to two teenage girls who had been forced into prostitution in Cambodia and then rescued in the magazine without so much as a warning at the top of the poem.  The things a 19-year-old will write about are often subjects of a deeper nature than a 13-year-old even thinks about.  I would like a little warning before an article that may not be appropriate for younger readers.  They put in a disclaimer at the beginning of the magazine about this, but I would rather specific stories/poems be marked.

The magazine comes with a writer's challenge.  The prize is 3 issues of the magazine to pass out and just being published.  If my novel I'm writing gets published, I will be ecstatic.  For me, just getting published would probably be enough.  I'm not sure a teenager feels that way.  I could be wrong.  The magazine is $26 for four issues.  It seems perhaps a very small cash prize could be awarded.  Just a thought.

There is also an article every issue by an adult in the business who provides tips and insight into the world of writing and/or art.  The magazine does have some ads throughout for Christian schools and businesses.

So, I like the outlet these kids have with Aletheia, but I am not sure I would be interested enough to pay $26 for four issues a year.  My son didn't seem overly excited about the magazine either and, since I would be buying it for him, it doesn't seem he'd get enough out of it to make it worth it.

Aletheia can be reached at Aletheia Writing Magazine, PO Box 1602, Lansdale, PA 19446.

DISCLAIMER:  I received this product free of charge in order to provide an honest review after use.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Tricross Strategy Game Review

My kids love to play board games, so in mid August 2011 when we received Tri-Cross we were thrilled.

We received this standard board game and the travel or eco-edition which comes in a bag with a cloth board instead of the hard cardboard seen above.

This game was produced by "Games for Competitors."  You can view their website at:

Tri-Cross is available in 3 different versions.  The standard board game is $24.95.  The wooden version is $35.95.  The eco-edition which can be easily taken on long trips is $19.95.

When I first received this game, the kids opened it up right away hoping to play.  When I took out the directions and began to read, I was immediately confused.  The website also has directions and frequently asked questions, and they sent along a CD tutorial as well.  Once I was able to understand the directions, the game was very easy to play.

You can easily play with 2, 3, or 4 players.  The directions give rules for game play with each.  The directions also give rules for easy play and more advanced play.  I appreciate this because I am always looking for the next thing since my kids catch on pretty quickly.  Once the directions are understood and you choose your colors, game play is simple.  Sometimes the game goes rather quickly, and sometimes it takes maybe 20-30 minutes.  I noticed while playing that it caused siblings who were not in the center waiting to win to cooperate with one another to get the other sibling (or mom) out of the center tri-cross.

The first person to play is determined by pulling a colored piece out of the bag.  Each person puts one of their pieces in the bag.  The person whose color is pulled is the one who starts the game.  There is a rule that states, "You may not turn over your piece without being challenged.  If you turn over your piece or your opponent's piece when it should not have been, you automatically lose the game."  There are a few other rules that speak to fairness and honor.  I appreciate this in rules for a game.

There are a number of skills that this game is said to develop such as logical thinking, cause and effect, abstraction, and memorization, among others.  I could see the thinking going on in my kids' heads as they played their pieces.  They were trying to remember which piece they were moving if it was still turned over.  They were trying to figure which one of an opponent's pieces was left when all the rest were turned over. They were trying to figure out how they could kick their opponent of the center and get themselves in.

While I thought the game went too quickly sometimes, I agree it is a fun and exciting game the kids enjoy playing while learning vital skills without even knowing it.  Playing the other variations described in the instructions would add to the enjoyment and extend game play.

The website is helpful for rules, FAQ, reviews, details on the eco-edition, and a page where you can purchase the games.  Once clicking, you are taken to PayPal.

Their contact information is:
Games for Competitors
3069 McCall Drive, Suite 1
Atlanta, GA 30340
Phone: 770-452-7987
Fax: 770-452-8138

DISCLAIMER:  I received this product at no charge in order to use it and provide an honest evaluation.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Review of AIMS 3rd Grade Problem-Solving Strategies Activity Book


I received an interesting activity book to review from the AIMS Education Foundation.  It is the Solve It! 3rd: Problem-Solving Strategies book for 3rd grade.  The bottom of the front cover states "Activities Integrating Math and Science."  This company sells many products created to improve "the teaching and learning of mathematics and science through a meaningful integrated approach."  This particular product sells for $24.95 on their website.


The back of the book lists 73 other publications related to math and science with additional publications for history and about mathematicians and some in Spanish.

My daughter is in fourth grade, but I was asked to use this book with her.  We did not make it the whole way through the book, as there are 29 separate activities, and we were doing some other things for math along the way.  What we were able to accomplish, though, has left me with some mixed thoughts.

I love the idea of tangible math.  I find that my kids have always learned better when they can use manipulatives, and this book is chock-full of activities using them.  Sometimes the manipulatives are as simple as copying a sheet in the book and cutting parts of it out.  Sometimes extra supplies are required such as balances, colored card stock, counters, etc.

Each activity has an introductory page that explains the topic, asks a key question, states the learning goals, lists the guiding documents that helped to create each lesson, lists the topics that are covered in each lesson and the processes the student will think through.  It lets the teacher know what materials are needed and some background information on the topic.  It provides a procedure to follow and gives suggestions for extending the lesson and questions to ask following the lesson in order to evaluate your child's understanding.

Each time I opened the book, I was overwhelmed by ALL the information in it.  I rarely read through everything on the introductory page that comes before EVERY lesson.  I appreciate the purpose of it all, but I am not normally looking for all of the background information.  If the instructions are clear then the purpose of the activity is usually clear as well.  I usually look for instructions on the student page, but there were times when instructions weren't provided there or weren't clear.  This was because I was required to read through them on the introductory page.  Yet there were times when I read through them and they still weren't clear.  The procedures oftentimes were written for use in a classroom setting, so some adjustments had to be made on my part.

I appreciate the effort the creators of this line of products put into developing them.  They have tried to make learning fun with such silly titles as "Schmoos 'n' Goos" and "What's the Scoop?"  The book is also filled with great illustrations.  They have also tried to provide products for learning that, in my estimation, are above and beyond what most curricula do.  Their idea of learning math is not rote facts in a book and black and white number problems but is done through the use of the child's senses.  It is learned by weaving science and history into it.

This activity book could not stand as a curriculum by itself.  I don't think it is intended to be.  These are activities that extend the learning process.  Because of this, I do not see myself using this type of math book.  If there were more activities and perhaps less wording throughout the book, if it were laid out in such a way as to provide a flow from one topic to the next, I might choose this as a stand-alone curriculum.  Perhaps if a consumable student workbook could be provided as well it would seem more appropriate for use in a homeschool setting as I do not like the idea of having to photocopy all the pages for every lesson.  There is a CD in the back of the book which includes a PDF file for each page of the book but, again, it would necessitate that I print it out.

So, even though I do not particularly care for this one book, I am intrigued by the philosophy of the company enough and by the other products that I have seen that I am going to seriously consider purchasing some of the other items they sell.

AIMS Education Foundation can be reached at 888-733-2467 from 8-5 Monday through Friday PST.  Their mailing address is

AIMS Education Foundation
PO Box 8120
Fresno, CA 93747-8120

DISCLAIMER:  I received this product free of charge so that I might provide an honest evaluation of it after use in my home.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Deeper Roots - Discovering Who I Am In Christ - A Review

     I have searched long and hard for a decent Bible study curriculum for my kids.  I was given the opportunity to review one through Deeper Roots Publications over the last month with my oldest son who is in 8th grade.

     The website for this company is  This company sells much more than the particular product I was reviewing.  Deeper Roots sells missions resources, evangelism resources, all types of Bible curriculum, and also bargain books.  The authors of the curriculum have served in the missions field and are deeply grounded in God’s Word.  The website has many links to reviews; information about the three authors; their statement of faith; a link for new customers to sign up for an account; a link for returning customers to log into their account; a link to an order form PDF for those who would rather mail their order; a link for info about shipping and returns; their privacy notice; a link to contact them which provides fields to enter your name, your email address, and your concern or question to which they can then reply.  You can also click the “Search” link to search their entire website to find something specific you are looking for.  At the bottom of the page, there is further contact information that includes their address (2100 Red Gate Rd., Orlando, FL, 32818) and their phone number (407-797-8557).  The number on the website is different than the number on the back of the teacher’s guide.  The copyright on the website is 2011; the teacher’s guide is 2002, so I would assume the phone number on the website is the current one.  Their email address is

     I received the Discovering Who I am in Christ workbook which was coauthored by Jan L. Harris and Howard and Bonnie Lisech.  I used this with my son who is in 8th grade.  It comes with a student workbook and a teacher’s guide.  Located under Home School Bible Curriculum on the website, it can be found by scrolling down the list of items for sale.  The teacher’s guide and student workbook are sold separately for 28.95 and 19.95, respectively.  They can be used for students in 7th-9th grade.  This book, the second in the series, is meant to help students understand their personal identity in Christ.  The website allows someone interested in the book to download sample pages before actually purchasing it, after entering your email address.
Photobucket                The student workbook includes a page in the beginning of the book that describes journaling.  It lets them know the purpose of journaling is to allow them time to reflect on things they are experiencing or thinking.  They can then go back to it later and reflect on how God worked in different situations.   Journaling is encouraged at the end of each lesson under the heading of “Reflections.” 
                Each new chapter has a profile on an unreached people group.  They are described to the student so that they can understand how these groups live, where they live, what they believe, and how they are currently being reached for Christ.  They are also given a number of ways they can pray for the particular unreached people group being studied.
                The lessons begin with a scripture memory verse.  Students are encouraged to memorize two scripture passages each week.  Lessons are separated into 6 days with questions about passages the student needs to look up and various activities with a study sheet to be completed on the 7th day of the week.  There are black and white drawings included throughout the book of the unreached people groups and various illustrations to enhance understanding of the passages studied and provide for a break simply reading words.
                Students are encouraged to write stories or poems on different topics throughout the book.  Some of the lessons have students interviewing a variety of people about their views on topics being studied that week such as what it means to be born again or how God answers prayer, etc.
                Some of the topics included in this book are “Sinner or Saint?”, “Precious in His Sight,” “Citizen of Heaven,” and “A Branch Full of Fruit.”  As the book continues, the number of pages given for reflection increase.
                The teacher’s book includes all of the same questions and information as the student workbook, but it provides answers to the questions for each day’s lesson and for the study sheet.  Sometimes the answer to a question isn’t obvious, so it is nice to have the teacher’s guide.
                The content of the curriculum, I believe, is appropriate for 8th grade.  I appreciate knowing that I can assign a day’s lessons to my son and don’t have to worry about the Scriptural content that is provided in it.  I know that he will be learning from the Word of God in a manner that is consistent with our beliefs as well.

                As my son has been going through the book, he has asked at various times, “Do I really need to do this assignment?”  There is a lot of writing so sometimes I say no.  While I like the idea of journaling and I understand the usefulness of it, he does have a lot of writing for his other classes.  Sometimes a long writing assignment in this curriculum is not realistic.  I know that my son is gaining insight into Scripture through the daily lessons, and I really appreciate the lessons that require him to dig into the Word; but I’m just not sure that writing assignments ought to be included in a Bible study curriculum.  The writing assignments that are included are not part of the “Reflections” or journaling as I see it.  They are separate:  write a story, write a poem, etc.
                If I were searching for Bible curriculum, this is definitely one that would be in the running as there does not seem to be a lot of really good Bible curriculum available, at least not that I’ve found.  I am glad that I have had the opportunity to review it though and have seen what is included in it.  If there were less “extra” assignments I would be more inclined to choose this as my Bible curriculum.  There are field trips included in it.  There are videos that are listed which the parent would need to locate.  This might be very difficult for some people, rendering those lessons completely useless.  I think the idea of using a Bible curriculum almost as a unit study is interesting, but unless I were looking for that I would not be able to use a lot of things that are in this book.  I am sure there are many who would find this approach very practical, but it would only partially eliminate the need for science, language arts, music, etc., curriculum in addition to what is already done in the homeschool setting; but I don’t think there is enough for “extra” subject matter to constitute a full week’s worth of lessons in other subjects.  You would still need to add more to your day.

                So, if you are looking for a Bible study that does more than just study the word, then this curriculum is for you.  If you are looking for Bible curriculum that is strictly Bible with no fluff, then this is not the program for you.

DISCLAIMER: I received this product free of charge so that I might use it and provide an honest review of it.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Big IQ Kids Review

I think my kids are smart, but I'm not going to talk about that in this blog.  You see, I have had the opportunity to review an online, interactive product intended to enhance the learning of children in grades K through 6 in the homeschool setting...
My daughter begged me at the end of school last year to find an online math program for her this year because she hates to do worksheets.  When given the opportunity to review Big IQ Kids, I jumped at the chance.  I was eager to see if this would be just what she wanted.

The first time I went to the Big IQ kids website, it looked pretty busy.  They list all of their programs right there on the home page for you to see.  Across the top of the page, underneath the logo, were links to pages about their products, testimonials, frequently asked questions, a page about how to use Big IQ Kids, and a very large link for the Member's Log In page.  They make it very clear and obvious where to go to sign in.  That was helpful on a page filled with so much other information.

Once to the member log in page, you simply have to enter your username and password if you are a member.  If you are not a member, the "Create an Account" button is directly below the log in fields.  There are three membership options.  The user can have access to math, spelling, vocabulary, and U.S. Geography through the free program, but the premium membership provides more features to the user.  The premium membership  allows the parent to keep track of their child's progress because the program sends the parent an email to let you know how your child did on a particular task.

It allows the user to play interactive games using virtual coins they collect by completing their lessons.   The user can create a buddy to use in the games.  People who have free memberships can upgrade to a plan that allows the user to play games with the buddy but does not provide any of the other benefits that a premium membership comes with.  The premium membership is $9.99 for one month and $49.99 for a year.  Folks who are interested can sign up for a 7-day free trial.  The upgrade to games only is $9.98 for a year.

Two of my children tried the Premium program and enjoyed it immensely.  They were able to solve addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems geared toward their level of learning.  The program is able to be changed by the parent to suit the individual need of the child if it is too easy or too hard.  The child is given a number of math problems to solve.  The number of problems, also,  can be changed by the parent.


There are timed quizzes and mastery enables them to proceed to the next level, although a perfect score does not seem to be required as the site states.

While I like that they can master these skills, I would like it more if they could learn other math topics like graphing, fractions, exponents, etc., especially for 6th grade.

I like the vocabulary section of Big IQ Kids, especially for my fourth grader.  She read the word and the definition and was able to learn synonyms and antonyms.  They asked her to spell the word while it was still on the screen.  My son who is in sixth grade played the spelling bee game.  He was required to spell correctly all 30 words before moving on.  He was not able to do that without help, so he got very frustrated.  Sometimes the voice that was saying the words was a little bit difficult to understand because it was a computer speaking.


This page is for the geography portion of the program.  It gives them the option of working through a map by clicking on the state or area that answers the question the program asks.  They can learn where states are located, how to spell them, what the capitals are, and what their abbreviations are.

As with the other portions of the program, these lessons can be modified by the parent.

I do feel my kids have learned a great deal from this program.  The idea that they can earn coins to play games is definitely a way to keep them interested.  I like that I can keep track of their progress without having to be in the same room watching them.  I also especially like that the premium plan does not display any ads during lesson times and that the ads that are displayed otherwise are NOT offensive in any way that I have seen.

When first signing up for the Premium membership, it asks you to make a buddy that your child can use while playing the games, but you need to go to the FAQ page to figure out how to do that.  It is not clear that they do this once they begin playing the games.

There were very few things I didn't like about this program, and those things weren't very important.  I would still recommend it to others.

DISCLAIMER: I received this product at no charge so that I might provide an honest evaluation of it.