Monday, April 22, 2019

34 Weeks of Clean 2019! Week 16- The Master Closet

You knew it was coming, right?  We cannot simply do our bedrooms and skip our closets, though trust me, the idea did cross my mind.   Let's face it, most of our closets are pretty dungeon like.  At least mine is.  I have had ONE closet in my lifetime that I loved.  In our Virginia rental house, the closet was the size of a small bedroom.  Seriously!  It had a wonderful window in it that lit the place up and I even had my treadmill in it with plenty of space to walk around in.  I loved it.  That is no longer my reality sadly.  This is-

Yep.  Not very big and often piled high with junk.  As usual,  I have allowed it to get completely out of hand.   It is an easy place to just toss things in and not look back.  It is one of the few places guests don't see so I let it slide.  Often.  And dresser drawers, don't even get me started.  I actually do not even use a dresser anymore, Clarke took mine over, so I have three cubbies and a few baskets in the closet that house my things that don't hang up.

So this week- Master Closets and Dresser Drawers are on our attack list! 

Here we go!

  • You know the drill - take everything OUT!  Trust me when I say this, it WILL make things easier in the end! Closet and drawers.  It truly is the only way to really see how much you have.  Time to face reality, ladies.
Just getting started!

  • Once everything is out, wipe down the shelves and rods and vacuum the floor in the closet and wipe out dresser drawers.  Now is your chance before things go back in!

  • And now, for the hard part!  Put it back.  Notice that I did NOT say put it ALL back in.  Because that is not what we are going to do.  Shake your head up and down to indicate you understand, please!

If you will remember back with me, one of our goals is to declutter.  This means we are NOT keeping extra stuff we do not need or wear. 

    - Throw away things that are stained or torn or 100 years old.  Some of you know I am looking at YOU!
     -Donate things that do not fit you or that you do not love!  NO keeping stuff just because.  Touch every piece and ask yourself, does it fit and do I love it?

Helpful hints-

When you wear something, wash it and then put it on a hanger facing backwards.  When a month is over, the things that are are still on front facing hangers are the things you have avoided for a month.  hmmmm- do you need them? 

Or try this- I hang all my shirts together in a row and then each day choose the one on the far left to wear.  From there I pair it with whatever else I need and off I go.  If I find myself skipping the same shirt over and over again I take that as a clue that it is not something I like or need and should pass on to someone else.

This also helps me avoid wearing the same few things over and over again that I love.  Because, yes, I would do that.

Really evaluate what you have and what you NEED.  There are plenty of good sites out there that can help you decide what looks good on you (and what does not) and how to mix and match with fewer things.  I have found that when I keep my clothes to a few colors, some times I do better than others, it all goes together AND it keeps me from buying more.  My oldest does something similar and has a capsule wardrobe which she has blogged about several years ago for me!  One thing I have learned from all the traveling we do is that you can create many different outfits with few pieces if you plan well.  Let's commit to stop buying random stuff just because it is cute or on sale!  If you don't need it, don't buy it!

If you have a high shelf in your closet, invest in a few dividers that will help you stack things without the risk of an avalanche every time you open the closet door.  Or just get rid of stuff and clear the space! ;)

Hang your dress clothes separately.  It makes Sunday mornings and special occasions easier to get ready for when those clothes are separate.

Make piles like TRASH, GOODWILL, or SWEET DESERVING FRIEND who will fit better into it! ;)

You can do this!  I know it is hard to let go of things, but let's not make things an idol.  Clothes especially.  They simply cover our bodies and do not make us who we are.

    This is also the time to go through scarves, shoes and jewelry if this is where those things are housed. 

                 -I love having my jewelry in my closet so it is easy to match to an outfit on the way out the door.  I recently pared down my jewelry to only the pieces I love.  Hard, but necessary.  I use a spool holder for ease.  Trust me, this is pared down!

               -Shoes!  Let's talk shoes for a minute.  How many pairs do you own?  Actually, how many pairs can you wear at once?  That is a better question.  I love shoes as much as the next person, maybe not as much as my mom, but I realized that shoes were one of the areas that was going to get the best of me if I was not very careful.  So I donated a lot of pairs a few years ago!  I realized I only wore the same two pair of booties all "winter" anyway, and because of a hip and leg problem (steps are a very dangerous thing!) I wear almost the same two pairs of summer shoes all summer long.  All the others, except for two pairs of church shoes and one very dressy pair, were extra.  As in not needed!
              -Bags and pocketbooks.  Now we are getting personal.  If you know me well, you know I have a thing for both.  Don't know why, but I cannot seem to pass up either.  I love changing purses with the seasons and I can find any excuse to have a new bag.  In my defense, I use them.  But, again, not all are necessary (did I really say that?), and I did get rid of a few.  Ok, 2 more this season, it is a work in progress, I promise!

YOU DID IT!  Stand back and look at what your hard work accomplished!  And don't panic- you have a week to finish this project!

So how did you do last week in your Master Bedroom?  If you haven't shared your pictures on our Facebook page, please do!  We love seeing your hard work in action!

Thanks for working hard and having fun with us!  Keep cleaning and organizing- you CAN do it!


Intro Week
Week 1- Holiday Decorations
Week 2-The Pantry
Week 3-Kitchen Cabinets and Drawers   

Week 4- Fridge, Freezer and Floors
Week 5- Recipes 
Week 6- The Stove and Loose Ends 
Week 7- The Dining Room 
Week 8- The Living Room 
Week 9- Books 
Week 10- Bathrooms  
Week 11- The Foyer
Week 12- The Family Room and DVDs 
Week 13- Pictures and Scrapbooks
Week 14- Arts, Crafts and Hobbies 
Week 15- he Master Bedroom

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Cracking the ACT

It is that time of year again when many college bound high schoolers are working on transcripts and taking the ACT and/or SAT to try to get into the college of their choice.  The race is on and the stress is real.

Years ago after my first child took both the ACT and SAT, both nationally recognized college admittance exams, we decided we preferred the ACT.  Thankfully for us, so did most of the schools she applied to and so that is what she concentrated on taking.  At the time, that concentration basically looked like eating a good breakfast and going in and doing her best on test day.  She was a natural test taker and it worked for her.

Now years later, it is her brother's turn, who consequently, is not a natural test taker.  He is a good student and loves anything history related, but spitting out facts he considers unimportant, ie ACT questions in general, is not something he excels in. 

His first attempt at the ACT was a solid score, but in my momma's heart, I KNEW he could do better.  Convincing him of that was a whole different ballgame.

Thant's where Cracking the ACT- 2018 Edition came into play!  Because I am a reviewer for the Timberdoodle Company, I often have the privilege of reviewing parts of their amazing curriculum line.  Seeing that Cracking the ACT was being offered, I knew the timing was perfect for our family.  

For the past four months my 17 year old has spent 20-30 minutes a day reviewing this resource in hopes to raise his original ACT score.  He took the test for a second time last weekend, and while the results are not in yet, I can tell you what we have seen by way of his practice test scores.

First things first!  Let me tell you about the book Cracking the ACT.

THINK BIG-  Remember the old fashioned phone books.  Well, they have nothing on this book!  It is a whopping 815 pages, softbound thank goodness.  And no, there are not a bunch of filler pages of silliness. 

THINK COMPLETE-  Did I mention there are a lot of pages?  11 Chapters to be precise! 
  • Part 1- This is your orientation that talks about general strategies, score goals and how to actually take the ACT.
  • Part 2- Cracking the English test
  • Part 3- Cracking the Math test
  • Part 4- Cracking the Reading test
  • Part 5- Cracking the Science test
  • Part 6- Cracking the Writing test
  • Part 7- Answers and Explanations
  • Part 8- 11 Practice Exams- This is where the rubber meets the road and you get to try out all of your knowledge.

In addition to the four practice tests included in the book, there are also two additional tests you can access online.  It is important to note that the sections that talk about "cracking" the tests are made up of a few different parts.  Some sections simply show you ways to quickly eliminate fluff answers and "best guess" the correct answer.  Other parts are quick reviews of basic skills you should have down pat before entering the test room.  Either way, all of the practice is just one more way to not only beef up one's skill's, but make your student more comfortable with the four hour long test.

One of the most helpful parts of the book, in my opinion, is the Answer and Explanation section.  Once your child has taken the practice tests and you have scored their answers, it truly behooves you to have them look at what they missed.  While it may not be possible to learn everything that will be on the ACT, there are some mistakes that can be quickly fixed with the simple explanations given.  Trust me, the process works!

THINK RESULTS-  This is what you have been waiting for, right?  After all, what is the use of a study book if you do not see any positive, measurable results?  Again, we do not have the official results of my son's last ACT, but I can share with you that we saw much improvement and a more confident test taker after using this program.  Our goal from the beginning was to improve his original score, but also to make him more confident in his ability to take the test again.  After taking the English portion of the ACT practice score his score was raised by 5 points!  We were thrilled as this is the area we felt he had done well on in the first place, so to see him improve the already strong score was a win for us!  In math, one of his harder areas, he increased by three points!  We did not have him do the grammar and science portions again because we were happy with his scores he had and wanted to concentrate on the other areas.  Better yet, since he was able to get immediate feedback after taking the practice test, he felt more confident in his ability and went into the actual test day with a great attitude and very little anxiety!

Based on the improvements we saw after using just ONE practice test, I would HIGHLY recommend this book!  The next time we use it, yes we have one more to go through this rite of passage, I will be even more deliberate in how we use it, beginning in 10th grade and working on it throughout the year.  My theory is, by the time a child has taken all six of the practice tests, they will be old pros at test taking and sure to score well.  Time will tell, right?!



Monday, April 15, 2019

34 Weeks of Clean 2019! Week 15 - The Master Bedroom

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh, the bedroom.  A place of rest and relaxation.  And beautiful sleep.


Yep, me neither.  At least not most of the time.

Most of the time it is a catch all.  A place to pile laundry waiting to be folded.  A place to throw the extras when unexpected company comes.  A place of piled up books and stuff to be filed and on and on.

But rest...not really.

So today is the day.  Well, luckily for you, this WEEK is the week.  Yes, you have a week to make a transformation.

This week's assignment- the Master Bedroom.
We are going to make it a picture of rest.  A place to unwind.  A safe haven for sleepy heads.  (cue lovely music here)

Are you ready?

* First off- we are concentrating on just the bedroom proper.  Stay out of the closet and drawers for now.  Yes, I am talking to a few specific people, not naming names yet, that I KNOW like to get ahead.  Stop it!  You are making the rest of us look bad.  So stick to the assignment at hand.

Please keep in mind- this is that once a year, deep cleaning project.  Let's go!

  •  Strip the bed linens and put them in the wash.  ALL of them.  Comforters and bedskirts as well.  Trust me, they are dirty.  Throw pillows?  Them too!  Mattress pads?  Yep!  Take this time to replace anything that is old and ragged.

  • While those things are washing, take everything off flat surfaces and take them OUT OF THE ROOM! Seriously, go on and do it.  I will wait.  As you can see, I had a lot to clear off!

  • Wipe off window frames and clean windows.  If you have mini blinds, I am sorry.  Those get done too.  If you have curtains, into the washer they go.  If you are simply too afraid to wash them, at the very least, take them down, pop them into the dryer on air dry and give them a few minutes.  You will be surprised at the difference even that will make, I promise!

  • Time to look up, try not to cry, and clean off those ceiling fans and light fixtures and corners of your room.

  • Don't forget light switches.  Crazy how dirty those things get!

  • Since your surfaces are bare (you did take stuff out, right?), dust!  No feather dusting this time, deep clean dusting only.  Tops, sides and more!

  • Before you put anything back, pull furniture away from walls and hit those baseboards!

  •  Vacuum around the edges of the carpet.

  • Now put furniture back- this is your chance to do some quick rearranging if your husband is not looking- I mean if your husband agrees! ;)  Since we just moved in less than a year ago, this room hasn't been re arranged but I did manage to find a new-to-us chair from our neighborhood website and snatched it up.  It is notw my place for reading and Bible study and I LOVE it!

  • NOW, put your "stuff" back, but aim to only bring back half.  REMEMBER, WE ARE DECLUTTERING, TOO!  Is it needed?  Do you love it?  Is it time to give it to someone else to enjoy?  As you replace each item (after much thought, much thought being the operative word), make sure it is also wiped down.  Don't forget those plants and baskets.  They collect a lot of dust- ask me how I know!

    *A word about nightstands.  Why do they seem to be a second (or third) junk drawer sort of area? Honestly, keeping mine straightened is one of my biggest battles. I kid you not.  There is always a stack of books waiting to get read, with a few in progress.  Add to that chap-stick, emergency weather radio, pens (in case I want to take notes in said stack of books), hair bands, a tea cup, and on and on and on.  I now use an old sewing machine as a nightstand that has a few drawers to hold those things in hopes of it at least having a semblance of tidiness. 

  • Remake your bed. I admit, after 26 years of marriage we bought a king sized bed.  There was just not enough room in the bed for me, Clarke and his Darth Vadar machine! I liked the current quilt we were using but it didn't fit anymore, and my hubby did not love it because it was so heavy.  (I have a thing with flannel quilts) I finally found a lighter quilt and so far there have been no complaints!

  •  Lastly, finish vacuuming and you are done.

Seriously, you are done!  That is a lot of work.  Reward yourself with a cup of tea, a chocolate treat and a good book.

Oh, and a good night's sleep, of course!

Real quick, I need to brag on my super star husband and son who stained and hung a barn door to my bedroom to close off the bathroom. I love it!

Don't forget we would love for you to leave us a picture on our Family, Faith and Fridays facebook page.  We're all in this together and sharing is half the fun!

See 'ya back next week!  Until then, happy cleaning!


Intro Week
Week 1- Holiday Decorations
Week 2-The Pantry
Week 3-Kitchen Cabinets and Drawers   

Week 4- Fridge, Freezer and Floors
Week 5- Recipes 
Week 6- The Stove and Loose Ends 
Week 7- The Dining Room 
Week 8- The Living Room 
Week 9- Books 
Week 10- Bathrooms  
Week 11- The Foyer
Week 12- The Family Room and DVDs 
Week 13- Pictures and Scrapbooks
Week 14- Arts, Crafts and Hobbies 

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Learning History Through A Story

This is certainly not our first review of a book from YWAM Publishing, but Colby said Heroes of History: Douglas MacArthur- What Greater Honor was by far one of his favorite Heroes of History books!  That's a pretty big statement coming from a boy who owns over 20 of the Heroes of History and Heroes of Faith series.

YWAM has been publishing books for a while now and adds a few new titles each year to the collection.  Because my family consists of a bunch of history loving, book-reading people, we seem to gravitate towards these naturally.  Written as historical fiction, the Heroes of Faith and Heroes of History books tell the story of a famous person who has shaped history and our faith.  Intended to be read by ages 10 and up, these books are rich with factual historic details, but have added a engaging story line to capture younger audiences' attention.  From birth to death, the story of these amazing people, from George Washington to Billy Graham and the Wright Brothers, introduces kids to important people with fun facts and exciting adventures.

Also available to help further your studies are Downloadable Study Guides.  These guides include vocabulary, in depth questions for each chapter, and a biography of the featured person.  You will also find creative writing prompts, arts and craft ideas, essay questions, and even audio visual project ideas.  There is a social studies section that has field trip ideas, vocabulary and maps.  A resource section gives many more book titles for you to use if you want to further your study of the subject.  These study guides are perfect for unit studies for homeschooling families or just to help your child with reading comprehension.  The books in the series are also great read-aloud books for your family and can be enjoyed by older readers as well.

When we are in the thick of our school year, I use these books and the corresponding study guides as Colby's reading and vocabulary (Colby is our 6th grader).  Because we are winding down our school year, I allowed him to read this one at his own pace, about 30 minutes a day.  He has already decided that he wants to read the Louis Zamperini book next!  For the record, my 17 year old is currently reading the Jacob DeShazer title.  I told 'ya this is good stuff!

Even if you choose not to use the study guide to its fullest, I highly recommend you print out the fact sheet.  This is a great way to encourage your child to read for details.

We also love using the maps to label!  Not only are they great geography reviews, but they help bring the books to life. 

 The timeline provided does the same thing, and put all together, they can make a neat little keepsake.

Colby does want to tell you about his favorite parts of the book-

"Douglas MacArthur was a 5 Star General who was famous for fighting in World War I and World War II as well as the Korean War.  Kind of like our family, his family moved every few years when he was a child.  One of the neat things he did was help Japan a lot.  He helped women there gain the right to vote and they all liked him a lot.  The thing I like about MacArthur was that when he was outnumbered in battles, he never gave up.  I think that is one reason he is a hero.  I like reading stories about people in History because I am a history buff and this one is my favorite so far because it is about war and I like war facts!"

Boys!  Go figure!

YWAM Publishing has definitely won a place in our hearts with their Heroes of Faith and Heroes of History series.  They are a treasured group of books on our bookshelves and great, wholesome family reading.  Now, to choose our next one!

So many other books were reviewed- click on the banner below and see if you can find one that would interest you!

Study Guides - Christian Heroes Then & Now & Heroes of History {YWAM Publishing Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

34 Weeks of Clean 2019! Week 14- Arts, Craft, and Hobbies

I want you to know that I am not an arts, crafts, and hobbies kind of gal, so this week is just for you all.  You are welcome!  I used to like doing a few simple things like cross stitch, making cards, and sewing clothes.  The cross stitch stopped after my eye sight went south, the card making has Hallmark people in hysterics, and the clothes-making stopped when I wore a dress I made and someone asked how far along I was.  I wasn't!  Now I stick mostly to quilting when I can find a free moment (where DOES one find that?) and otherwise save the crafts for people with more patience and talent and better eyes!

But I do have a few things lingering, plus I have a daughter who makes make quilts for people, so we do have a craft/sewing room.  Well, it is mostly her sewing area, but she humors me occasionally by letting me hang out there.

With a growing tee shirt business she needs space and so we have taken a bedroom and turned it into sewing central.  (with our workout stuff squeezed in as well) It has been a huge blessing and allowed her more space for quilt layout and occasional fittings for the alterations that she does.
The point here, Michele, you might ask?  Think outside the box! 

Be creative with your spaces!  If you need more space, look around and see what changes you can make!  Do you have an extra closet you aren't using? A guest room that barely gets used? Often if we stop and reconsider our spaces and how we use them, we an see all kinds of new possibilities.

This is your assignment this week-

Clean!- If you have a room dedicated to Arts and Crafts, now is the time to clean it.  you know the drill-
  • Take everything out, yes do it!
  • Clean ceiling fans and blinds or curtains.
  • Wipe down walls, light switches, and baseboards
  • Clean and vacuum the carpet or scrub floors
  • Wax furniture
If you just have stuff in random spots- start here-

De-clutter and organize!
Find all of your arts, craft and hobby "things" and go through them with a fresh set of eyes.  Do you use them?  Do you need them?  Do they bring a smile to your face?  If not, move it out.  Free yourself to simplify and maybe even bless someone else with what you do not need.  Throw out old stuff and resolve not to buy any more for a while.  It can be a freeing thing my friends!  I am currently using some old fabric stashes to make some baby blankets.

Recycle from about your house!  You don't always have to go get more stuff to be more organized.  f you have bins around your house that are empty, use them.  Arts supplies and such can be kept in labeled shoe boxes you can buy at the Dollar Store.

Get rid of what you do not use!  Remember, we are on a mission to take back our houses.  Let's commit to stop holding on to things we do not use and do not need.  I know it is difficult to let go sometimes, but let's not allow "stuff" to take up our heads, heads, or homes!  Give it to a friend who will use it more, donate it to a retirement home or hospital, or take it to your local Goodwill.  Regardless, move it out.  Stop thinking you might use it later and live for today!  If years from now I decide to take a cross stitching again (it could happen) I know where to get a new piece of fabric and some thread. 

Now, I know some of us are still tackling our pictures and scrapbooks (PLEASE someone tell me I am not alone!) but let's keep going this week and hit those arts, crafts, and hobbies area.

Meanwhile - show us your hard work on our Family, Faith and Fridays facebook page so we can cheer you on!

The next three weeks are some hard cleaning and organizing, but also some of my favorite assignments.  Get ready, friends!


Intro Week
Week 1- Holiday Decorations
Week 2-The Pantry
Week 3-Kitchen Cabinets and Drawers   

Week 4- Fridge, Freezer and Floors
Week 5- Recipes 
Week 6- The Stove and Loose Ends 
Week 7- The Dining Room 
Week 8- The Living Room 
Week 9- Books 
Week 10- Bathrooms  
Week 11- The Foyer
Week 12- The Family Room and DVDs 
Week 13- Pictures and Scrapbooks