Wednesday, July 31, 2013

You Are Never Too Young to Help

Being a helper is not necessarily a natural born talent.  In our family, we believe that it takes time and training to encourage children to be helpers.  They all want to please, they just don't all want to help.

The answer for us- chores, starting at a pretty young age.  Not to get money.  Not to be a punishment.
  But simply because you are a part of the team and you are expected to learn to help others.


Chestnut Grove Academy
Today I am guest blogging for Jen over at Chestnut Grove Academy.  I would love for you to pop over to read the rest of the story!

Tots and Me

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Old Schoolhouse Expo and Giveaway

When is the last time you attended a home school convention?  For me, it has been YEARS!  I had great intentions of going last year, but an unscheduled surgery got in the way.  And this year, well, let's just say that the move made it impossible again.
Yea for virtual conferences.  They are a lifesaver and this is one I cannot wait for!

The Old Schoolhouse (TOS)  Expo is a week long event, from August 19-23, 2013, that allows YOU to hear all those incredible speakers you have missed.  If you miss them live, no worries, a recording of the speakers is available in the price of your ticket.  Now, THAT is a deal!  Plus, throughout the expo there are chances to win great prizes.  Hope to "see' 'ya there!
You can sign up for the TOS Expo for $24.00, or I am giving away one free ticket!  Enter the rafflecopter below for your chance to win!


Monday, July 29, 2013

Picking the Bucket List back up!

The Brookings Art Festival was something we had read about before we ever moved here.  It was in all the information we got about the area and it looked like fun.  Unlike some of the ones we have been to in the past, it is not so big that it overwhelms you completely, and yet it's not a small town affair.  Vendors have to apply for a spot and be chosen out of hundreds of applicants and people come from miles away to see the sites.  It is a yearly event and I am already looking forward to the next one.

It was fun!  Even the boys enjoyed it.  The weather was overcast which kept us from melting so you could not have asked for a more perfect day to be outside.  There were food vendors galore, wonderful booths to explore with upscale arts and crafts and even an antique/thrift store area where the oldest guessed it...Pyrex!  Next time we are just dropping her off at that area and picking her up when we are done.  In addition to all that there are three stages running music and other theater type stuff and an area especially for children.

We had fun that evening talking about everyone's favorite thing they saw.

The verdict-

CJ- The foam bow and arrows (he's 6 remember!)
SCP- the real swords and guns
RNP- The young girl dressed like a statue.  She was painted all in copper, stood perfectly still and then when money was put in her basket she would shake your hand or tip her cowgirl hat in perfect replication of a     .  We were mesmerized watching her.
ALP- The wooden cutting boards.  They were amazing and a show piece all on their own.
Me- Bird feeders made out of old glasses and dishes.  Wish I had gotten a picture of them.  They were stunning.  Next time, someone remind me to take my camera.  The few pictures we have my oldest took with her phone.
Hubby- The stone cutting boards that have oil lamps built into them.  Beautiful.

(hmmm, on a side note, does it seem that some of the family has a thing for sharp, pointy items?  Anyway...

Lots of laughs and memories shared.  After all, shouldn't that be what a Summer Bucket List is all about?
Have you joined The Happy Family Movement?  What have you checked off your list this week friends?


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Spanish For You! Discount code and update!

A while back we had the privilege to review Spanish For You!  It is a wonderful program that has found a place in our homeschool curriculum for the elementary and middle school age, grades 3rd-8th.  Since we hope to make our children bi-lingual, Spanish is one of those subjects I am pretty opinionated about.  I know, shocker, right?!

Spanish for You Logo photo spanishforyoulog_zpsa3fadef7.jpg

So, I want to pass on an update for Spanish For You! They have recently released their latest unit, Viajes, and are offering our readers a 10% discount good through the end of the year.  The codes are-


The numbers at the end of each code match the grade level of the package.

From the table of contents-
•Lección 1 - La transportación (Transportation) 1
•Vocabulario y mandatos 1
•Verbos - poner (to put), salir (to leave), hacer (to do, make, pack) 3
•Gramática - Telling Time 7
•Lección 2 – La ciudad de México (Mexico City) 12
•Vocabulario y mandatos 12
•Verbos - ir (to go), estar (to be), dar (to give), caminar (to walk) 14
•Gramática - Talking About Location and de + el, a + el 18
•Gramática - Saying what someone is going to do 20
•Lección 3 – El hotel (The Hotel) 22
•Vocabulario y mandatos 22
•Verbos - usar (to use), abrir (to open), subir (to go up), mirar (to look at) 24
•Gramática - Personal Pronouns (yo, tú, él, ella, etc.) 28
•Gramática - Indefinite Articles (saying “a”, “an”, “some”) 29
•Lección 4 – El restaurante Méxicano (The Mexican Restaurant) 31
•Vocabulario y mandatos 31
•Verbos - cenar (to eat dinner), pagar (to pay), pedir (to ask for), comer (to eat) 33
•Gramática - Saying what someone likes - “gustar” 37
•Lección 5 – La playa de Puerto Rico (The Puerto Rico Beach) 40
•Vocabulario y mandatos 40
•Verbos - nadar (to swim), tomar (to take), llevar (to wear), tener (to have) 42
•Gramática - Saying what someone has to do (tener que...) 46
•Gramática - Direct Object Pronouns (lo, la, los, las) 47

Can't wait to add this to our home!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Fun Fridays- Return of the Muffins, Week Four

For several years our family did a lot of camping and S'mores became a staple dessert for us.  We are not picky...over the fire, on the stove, or in the microwave, it's all the same.  So when I saw this recipe, I knew we had to try it. 

S'more Muffins

3 tbsp. butter, softened
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
4 tsp. sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup sour cream
2/3 cup flour
1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp baking soda
3 Tbsp. milk
1/3 cup chocolate chips
6 Tbsp. marshmallow creme (I used mini marshmallows instead)

In small bowl, cream butter and sugars until fluffy.  Beat in egg and then stir in sour cream.
Combine dry ingredients then add to wet alternating with milk until moist.  Fold in chocolate chips.
Spray  muffin tins and fill 1/4 full.  Spoon in 1 tbsp. marshmallow cream and top with remaining batter.
Bake at 400 for 14-16 minutes.

This says it makes 6 muffins.  I usually get 8!


Thanks for joining in the fun with Return of the Muffins!  Hope you have found a few to add to your menu.  Up about some pizza?


Tots and Me

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

TOS CREW Review- KidCoder-Web Design

Do you have computer geeks at your house?  We have several.  OK, all but probably me.  And it isn't that I am not interested, it's just that it all loses me fast.  I end up frustrated.  But since I am trying to keep up with the family, and because I have a blog and I would like to know how to work it without my 15 year-old daughter's help, when I saw the opportunity to review a web design program, I jumped at it! 

 Homeschool Programming, Inc.  has just released a brand new course this May - KidCoder Series, Beginning Web Design.  The advanced portion is scheduled to be done in August.  Each portion is designed to take about a semester to complete but will vary some depending on how quickly your child catches on to the concepts.  KidCoder Web Series, designed for kids 4th - 12th grade, is a HTML based program designed to teach you what HTML means exactly, how to read it, and how to use it to design your very own web pages.  Beginning Web Design is a 233 page manual filled with 13 chapters of information and activities to help get you started.

 photo KC_BWD_Cover_MED_zps2e139921.jpgTopics included are -

  • Mark-up concepts
  • Website layouts and files
  • Backing up projects
  • Essential HTML symbols
  • Styling of text
  • Using symbols and lists
  • Internal and external hyperlinks
  • Navigation bars and footers
  • Simple CSS effects
  • Spacing and positioning
  • Graphics and image editing
  • Tables

We received the material in download form, but when you purchase it for $70.00 you will get the printed manual.  The printed material and the instructional video will be available soon for $85.00.  These videos are not meant to replace the manual, but to enhance it with verbal instructions and more step by step pictures.

 photo KC_WEB_YP_VID_zpsaff72637.png

The course begins by telling you a brief history of computers and the World Wide Web and an introduction to web browsers.  From there it begins to teach you how to build a web design, with each chapter teaching you a new concept and then challenging you to use the information you have just been taught to add another layer to your own web page.  Sections called "Your Turn" lets you practice what you learned, while sections labeled "Work With Me" give you step by step instructions to apply to your web page project.  They use the subject of Raptors (birds of prey) to get you started.  Every chapter ends with a chapter review and there are chapter tests of 10 questions each you can print out as well. 

So...How did we use this product?

Ironically, my 19 year old has gotten the most use out of this program so far.  As a matter of fact, she has really enjoyed working with it!  As chance would have it, she is scheduled to take a web design course this upcoming semester and so we thought this would be a fun way to get her feet wet and give us a project to go through together.  Honestly, she latched on to the information more quickly and took off on her own.  No surprise there, right?  We have been impressed with the thoroughness of the course so far, we are up to chapter 8, and will continue on. We are already looking forward to the release of the advanced portion.

While she has had no trouble using the written manual alone, I found I comprehended much better when watching the optional instructional videos.  An example of learning styles at its best!  If you have an auditory learner or one who learns better by watching someone else do things first, I HIGHLY recommend you add those to your cart!   They are slightly animated, but well done with a woman's voice that is very easy to hear and follow.  Each video lesson is fairly short and will not add too much time to your child's lesson for the day.

We read each chapter first, then watched the video which helped me in clearing up any fog I had on what was taught.  Then we would proceed to the computer and test our skills by creating our own web page.  Below you will see an example of the page that we started and the coding it took, on the right, to get that page. 

One of the things we found that was invaluable was that within the info you get to download onto your computer, there is a place that you can copy and paste the codes they tell you to use.  It may seem simple enough to type in yourself from the instructions, but trust me, with all those little symbols and letters, one mistake will mess you up!  I can imagine for younger students this would be especially true.  No reason to test their typing skills now...just let them cut and paste for ease.

A quick thought on the age range.  4th through 12th grade is a pretty big span.  I am pretty sure my rising 6th grader could do this with a lot of guidance - but not by himself.  The chapter reading alone is pretty hefty.  If I was sitting in your living room giving you my personal recommendation, I would say save it for your highschooler.  Though the subject of Raptors that they use to create the project page may bore them a little, the lesson is about programming, not raptors - they will get over it.  That being said, I know kids these day are more up on computers than I am, so know your child.  If they are geniuses at computers, get them started right away.  My hope is that my 15 your-old will be able to use this program as a high school computer class this fall and that my son will follow suit soon thereafter.

If you are looking for a web design class for your kids, this is a great one for the price and one I do not think you will disappointed with!

 photo KC_AWD_Cover_MED_zps565e5910.jpg


Monday, July 22, 2013

TOS CREW Review- Christi the Coupon Coach-Couponing Made Simple


Couponing.  Heard of it?  Yeah, I thought so.  You would have to be a hermit hiding under a rock these days to not know that there is a coupon frenzy going on in the United States. 
There are lot of sites out there to help you get started,  lots of coupons and lots of money to be saved.  The problem is where does one know how to start. 

I have a solution!

Christi the Coupon Coach, aka Christi Bassford- wife and mom to four,  has taken all the details and ideas and put them into one simple to follow book,  Couponing Made Simple.  I spend a lot of time reviewing kids' products, so yes, this one was just for mom.  As many of you know, I also am passionate about saving money, so with our recent move, new stores and no more military commissary, I was eager to look at couponing with a fresh stat and review the "rules of engagement".  That's military talk, don't 'ya know! ;)
Let me tell you about what this book IS and ISN'T, then we will get into some details! 
First- the chapters-
Success Stories- She has lots to share here and throughout the book.  They are fun to read (pictures included) and hopefully will inspire you!
A New Way to Shop-A quick overview of what couponing is.
The Language of Couponing- BOGO, Blinkies, OPP, Peelies.  Lost yet?  Christi will explain it all.
Organization System- Learn some of the different ways people organize.
Step by step process- By far, the best way to know exactly what to do!
Tips and Tools- Each time you shop you will learn something new, usually from mistakes.  The easy way to learn is from the lessons learned from someone else.
Couponing Ethics- This is NOT about breaking rules and being obnoxious.  This section should be a must read for anyone out there using coupons.
Networking and Communicating- Using the resources out there explained.
Bonus Sections- Other places you can save!
Beyond Couponing- Christi is a Christian and not afraid to proclaim her beliefs.  Love this about her!
Some Take Aways
 "This is not "Extreme", but Real couponing for Real people.
I teach buying a reasonable amount of products using an organizational system that takes a reasonable amount of time for great savings!"
 (from the website)
 photo christithecouponcoachlogo_zpsbe2a70cc.png
That quote is one of the first things that attracted me to this book.  I have read many ones like it.  I even own a few.  But be forewarned...some can be extreme.  I am not an extreme shopper.  I do not have nor want a closet full of toothbrushes, or toilet paper, or whatever the sale of the day is.  I do however want enough to get me through until the next sale comes along. 
It is not ALL about coupons.  Several chapters Christie writes are about finding savings in other forms-  yard sales and thrift for example.  Those are  GOOD places to save money and she has some great tips and ideas for you.
It doesn't have to take all your time.  I am a busy homeschooling mom of 4, who has a life.  And is still trying to settle into a new town and life, thank you.  I do not devote hours to couponing.  Nor does Christie tell you that you have to.  She does however offer several different ways to cut (or not cut) and organize coupons.  I encourage you to find what fits for your time and motivation level and go for it.  This is not the time to try to keep up with the Joneses.
My family does not eat a lot of processed food.  There - I said it, because I know it is one of the arguments against couponing.  There was a time that we did and yes, we saved A LOT of money then.  Let's face it, there are a lot of coupons out there for boxed, canned and bagged food.  If that is where you are, then you will find BIG savings.  Trust me.  Also trust me though when I say if you eat a more back to basics diet you can still save.  We do. 
You do not have to do it alone!  If you are one of those people that loves looking up sales, comparing prices and making lists, God love 'ya.  I am not one of those people.  I, instead head to those people's blogs and use what they have so faithfully put together.  Christi says it is as simple as a Google search of your favorite grocery store plus coupon matches plus your town or state.  In other words, for me I did this week HyVee+CouponMatches+SouthDakota.  You can do the same thing for drugstores which are by the way, my FAVORITE places to save money. 

You do not have to spend money to save.  Christi does recommend buying a paper per family member, but if you are not at a place you can do that, then don't.  I have at most bought two.  Now, I have also been known to ask people for the coupons they are not using.  If you know of a neighbor or relative is just trashing them, be bold and ask for them!  There are also lots of free sites out there that will notify you of store sales, store coupons and manufacturers coupons out there for those items.  It's called stacking, and Christi does a great job of explaining it all.  Promise.  Just as a side note, I do pay a few dollars a month to use a site called The Grocery Game that does that for you as well.  I just found that I liked the way it was laid out best and I like the forums that have amazing people saving amazing amounts of money.  It works for me.  Again, find what works for you and get busy!
Ok, so for a small, and I mean small example.
I am new in this small town and the only gigs here are the farmers market, HyVee (never heard of them before a few weeks ago!) and a Walmart, so I am still trying to figure out what best fits our needs and budget.   It has been a challenging learning curve.  Meat prices alone are at least double to what I was getting at our military commissary.  BUT, Christi reminded me that there are still savings to be found.  I have asked when markdown day is and I am again relearning to stock up on meat when it is on sale.  No coupons necessary, just a watchful eye.
Again, we do not buy much processed foods these days, but there are still essentials out there that we need that you can find coupons for...milk, butter, mayonnaise, mustard, oil, peanuts, an occasionally healthy chip (is there really such a thing?) and the dreaded cereal.  Yes, I am still trying to get that one out of our lives but that is when the other family  members call a mutiny meeting.  Juice is another big one.  We do not drinks sodas, coffee, or tea here so water is pretty much it.  Because of that, and again the possible family mutiny, I do still buy juice and allow the kids to have one glass each in the morning.  Yes, I am mean that way and that would be another post.  Vitamins, toothpaste, toothbrushes, toilet paper, tissues, hair care and soap are yet other items that we utilize coupons for.  We have lost our major drugstore chains here, but I assure you that with their sales, coupons and loyalty cards, you can get much of that stuff free or for very little money.  DO NOT buy that stuff without using a coupon.
So here was a little experiment...
First off, this was not my weekly grocery run.  I went out specifically to buy only items I had coupons for.  So none of these things were on sale at the time.  But I spent $33.03  and saved $ 9.75 .  Two items were not coupon items- the crab and the peaches.  Like Christi says look for sale on meat (fake, I know, but for my diet) and on seasonal produce.  Both were rock bottom prices so I bought them.  Had I been smart, and not still a bit frazzled from the move, I would have only bought what was on sale AND used coupons for those items.  Yes, it may mean you have more of one thing than another for that week, but after a few weeks it evens out and you "shop" from your pantry instead of buying at full price out of desperation.  It also may mean you alter your menu to take advantage of sells. 
Either way, you have saved money.  Was this example a ton of savings?  No.  But every little bit adds up and in no time you have extra money in your budget.  I have personally saved a ton of money couponing.  There are times I have saved more than I spent.  It is a great feeling and even fun when the cashier cheers you on.  Or when your husband tells you how proud he is of you. 
If you want to get started, Couponing Made Simple,  $18.00 or $4.99 in Kindle,  is a great resource for you.   Fix yourself a cup of tea, sit down with this book and let Christi coach you through the steps.  She will bless you greatly and probably even save you some money along the way.



H2O Time!

Our summer bucket list was put on hold for several weeks while we tackled this move.  Too many weeks!  But we have managed to get a few things done and are now back into the have fun mode.  Trust me, after a move like this one, we needed some fun.

All of my kids like the water.  Two of my kids really like the pool.  One of my kids thinks he is part dolphin.  So we try to get to the pool as much as possible.  It is my personal belief that everyone should know how to swim and not be afraid of the water.  We have that covered here.

Right before we headed out from Virginia we were able to have a few days at the pool, one day with good friends.  The pool is always better with friends!

On the drive out to South Dakota we managed to jump in the pool, although a COLD one, one night after a long day of driving.  The girls wimped out of that one, but the boys needed to get some energy out!

Since arriving here in South Dakota we have found the local water park.  Can you believe it is just right around the corner?  Like three turns and a few block.  My boys are so excited!  There are water slides, splash areas, a playground and more.  Get a pass and you are ready to go.  We are all over that!  Dolphin boy would like to live there.


I am just glad to see them having fun.

It was a good reminder for me that sometime you have to be deliberate in your planning.  Even the fun things!

What about you?  Have you joined the fun with The Happy Family Movement? How is your summer bucket list coming along?

Blessings, Michele

Friday, July 19, 2013

Fun Friday- Return of the Muffins- Week Three

C-H-O-C-O-L-A-T-E!  Need I say more?

Let me tell you why I am showing you a picture of this mix.  IT. IS. AMAZING!  Really.  Tastes like cake batter.  Just in case you wanted to know. 

This is also one of my favorite recipes because it makes 24 muffins.  Trust me- you will NEED 24 muffins!  Again, pretty sure this came from an old Taste of Home Magazine.  Haven't seen one in years, but boy, did they ever have some great recipes!

Chocolate Muffins

2 2/3 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla
 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Mix wet ingredients together.  Mix dry ingredients.  Stir dry into wet ingredients until just moist.  Fold in chocolate chips.
Bake at 325 for 20-23 mins.

Makes 24 yummy muffins!

Well, are you making muffins this morning?



Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Where Did Modesty Go?

Please know that I do not post this lightly or without much prayer.  It has been sitting in my drafts for about two months.  I never want to offend or alienate anyone.  That being said, it weighs heavy on my heart for several reasons.  The first one being modesty.  The second being safety.  I have friends who have found that the pictures they took of their children and posted to their blogs AND Facebook have been stolen and used in completely inappropriate ways.  Sick, twisted, disgusting and heartbreaking.  Not something you would ever want for your photos.  Or your kids.  Let's not give that kind of people an easy job!

Modesty.  Oh friends, allow God to speak to your heart on this one.  I know our family, when truly seeking God's direction,  always finds room for improvement in this area of our lives.

With that being said....

Oh!  The posts.  The status updates.  The pictures on Facebook.  The girls in the stores.

I have said it before and I will say it again...where ARE their mommas?

Oh wait, I see them.  Standing beside them.  Posting the pictures of them.  Not modest ones!

Oh my.

If I told you all an eleven year old boy was looking at your daughter's barely clothed body, how would you feel?
How about the 20 year old in the store?
Or your friend's husband on Facebook?
Or the child molester?

Creeped out yet? 

Maybe you should be.

Because what you seem to think is cute,  those guys see as nothing more than lingerie.  It covers no more and sometimes even less. 

Please, mommas.  Protect your daughters.  Don't encourage immodesty and then paste pictures of them everywhere half dressed in sexy poses.

Your job is to protect them.  Not promote them.

It breaks my heart.  I am pretty sure it breaks Gods.  It reminds me of the line from a song, "Break my heart for what breaks yours..."
May the Lord break our hearts and point them towards Him!  And modesty!


I am linking up with Amy this week at Raising Arrows!
Welcome Home link up |

Also linking up with Caroline at The Modest Mom!

modest mondays 3
I love these two women!   I encourage you to visit their sites and be encouraged!

Also linking up to Hearts at Home blog hop.  A great place to connect with other moms!

Hearts for Home Blog Hop

Womanhood With Purpose

Monday, July 15, 2013

Just Swinging

I have discovered the secret to why you should not have kids when you are older.  It is not about diapers.  It is not about late night feedings, or having to read Dr. Seuss again and again.

It is about swing sets!

And our diminished ability to put them together at a slightly older age.  That my friends, is why young people should have kids.  Old people like me should have someone pushing them on a swing set, not helping build one!


My dear hubby and I built a wooden swing set about 15 years ago when our youngest was 4.  We even took it apart when we moved and rebuilt it at a new location.  I remember doing it in a day.  I remember it being fun!  HA

Fast forward 15 years and we have a newly turned 6 year old in our house.  Who has never had a swing set.  It's not his fault he is our last.  It is not his fault we are old.  So I was determined that prince of mine was going to have a swing set like his siblings.  Next time, would someone just tell me to get a life and take him to the park, please?

New house- new swing set.  Let the adventure begin.

You should have seen his face when he saw the forklift bring it to the truck.  Wish I had gotten a picture of that!  Priceless.

For the first day, and 6, yes count them, 6 hours of the project we had help.  Team effort at its best.

For the second day the team was pretty much down to two...when an occasional spot check by the 6 year old.

By day three my sweet husband was on his own!  The kids were no where to be found.  I was tired of the drill sounds, tired of lifting, tired of bad directions,  tired of the swarm of mosquitoes trying to carry us off.  TRIED!

Luckily, my husband (read here my hero) did not give up despite being tired and finished building this...

Had it had been left up to me, a few parts would have been conveniently left off.  Permanently.

And now...

we are just swinging!  Every free minute we have.

Happy boy, happy mom!

Thanks hero!