Monday, January 21, 2019

30 Days to Understanding the Bible Review

I am always thrilled when I get invited to review Bible resource material.  Between our family devotion time, my quiet time, and time spent in church and numerous studies there, I spend a lot of time in God's word.  But that is not necessarily how I grew up and therefore I often still feel behind the power curve when it comes to basic Bible knowledge.

There is no place better to go to learn about God and His word than to His book - the Bible!  But often times, it is helpful to gain knowledge from those who have gone before us and spent much of their lifetime studying.  How blessed we are to have people like that in the world.

30 Days to Understanding the Bible is the brainchild of pastor and author Max Anders, who has spent many years studying the Bible.  This 385 page, paperback book is his attempt to pass along general Bible knowledge in an easy to read and understand way.  While he admits that 30 days is not enough time to learn everything, he suggests that in 30 days, about 15 minutes a day, you can learn about key people, events, and doctrines in the Bible, as well as a basic framework to increase your knowledge.

Book sections include-
  • The Story of the Old Testament
  • The Story of the New Testament
  • 10 Great Doctrines of the Bible
  • NanoSummary of the Bible
  • How to Master the Bible So Well the Bible Masters You
  • Teaching Plans
  • and Bonus Chapters

Each of those sections, of course, are broken into numerous chapters, most being 6-10 pages long.  Specifically, about a 15 minute read.

Included in many chapters are charts, maps, pictures, and more.  There are places for you to treat it like a workbook and fill in the blanks and at the end of each chapter is a self test to see how much you can remember.


How we are using this book-
If our family had chosen to work through this book daily, we would indeed be done with it.  Instead we have taken a slightly different approach.

We chose to read one chapter a week out loud as part of our family devotions.  We take turns reading as well as answering the questions.  Then throughout the week we review as needed and test each other's memories.

There is no doubt if you were going through this book alone you could indeed read it in 30 days and have gained a lot of knowledge.  But if you are like my family, or maybe just me, you need more time to chew on the facts, memorize them, and make the yours.  The extra time has also allowed us to dig  deeper, often bringing in application- how does that affect me?  What do I think about that?  Why did it happen that way?  What else does the Bible say about that?

 I love this gem of a book!  While written for older teens and adults, it is easily adapted for younger children and be be read alone or with a group.  Think of it as Sunday School on steroids!

And know that while your head knowledge of the Bible increases, God is most certainly at work increasing your heart toward Him as well!

Here is a great promo video to give you a glimpse of 30 Days to Understanding the Bible.

“Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255:  “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”):  Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway.  Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation.  I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post."


34 weeks of Clean 2019! Week 3- Kitchen Cabinets and Drawers

Welcome back friends!  So, how are those pantries looking from Week 2's assignment??  I hope sparkling and organized.  Hey, our meals may not all be stunning, but at least our pantries can be, right?

And let me just say, you guys are really doing well.  I have been blown away by the pictures you all are posting and the ideas you are sharing.

Real quick before we dig into this week's assignment.  Here is a quote I have been pondering this week from the Minimalists-

 Possessions had become the great distraction in my life. And the best way to recenter myself on the things that mattered most was to remove the excess from my home. Since then, I’ve been asked countless times if I think minimalism is just a phase. I always answer the same, “Absolutely not. Never underestimate the importance of abandoning crap you don’t need. It has the power to change your life dramatically.

Ladies, I am just going to put this out there.  With all the recent talk about what brings us joy, we may easily veer off course from the real issue.  Our JOY should NOT be in our stuff!  Period.  There are many things in my house I love and they make me happy to look at, but even then, there is a danger in that.  Too much stuff is TOO MUCH STUFF!  Let's don't justify our mess!  If you have a family of 10 and USE 10 spatulas then do so.  But if you have 10 spatulas just because they "bring you joy", you may need to re-evaluate a few things.  I am not trying to be ugly. but I am trying to be honest.  There are true hoarders in this world that think their stuff brings them joy that have a hoarding problem.  If that is where you are at, please, let's talk.  I would love to chat with you and try to help.

Up this week- the kitchen cabinets and drawers
Now, I know that for some of you that is a lot of ground to cover.  No worries, you have a whole week.  Rome was not built in a day, nor will our homes be transformed in a day.  Slow and steady wins the race, I promise.  Hold off on all those recipes, as well as the stove and fridge- don't worry they are coming up soon!  Some of you, I will NOT name names but you know who you are, are so excited to make changes you are like a racehorse on a mission.  I applaud you, but want to remind you we want to make changes that stick.  Don't wear yourself out so quick that I cannot find you in a few months!

Remember our goals- deep clean all those surfaces, de-clutter what we don't need or simply do not use anymore, and reorganize if needed.
Your assignment-
  • Take everything out of the cabinets and drawers.  (See, I told you to get used to that!)  You may want to dedicate one day to cabinets and one to drawers if you are overwhelmed or just do 15 minutes a day, but yes, take it ALL out!

  • Wipe down all surfaces, inside and out.  Don't forget to clean places like silverware holders and baskets and such.  For me "the such" is underneath the kitchen sink.  In our new home, it is a very small space due to the water filter system, but it was still a mess.

  • Once everything has been cleaned, put things back neatly, weeding out any unneeded items. Here is where you need to stop and think! Do I need it? Do I use it?  Do I love it?  Is it just taking up space? Is this the best location for me to put it in? For example, we have lived in this house a few months now and have found a few things still were not right in the kitchen.  I changed the location of those things and it just works better.  Knives are closer to the stove and the drawer with placemats is closer to the table. I know if the waffle maker is at arm's reach, I will use it!  If it is tucked way back in a cabinet and hard to get, it gathers dust.

  • How many dishes do you have?  I am asking for a friend, of course?  Dishes could be my downfall, but I assure you ours get used!  I have gone through them all and decided if they are not being used they went out.  Even gave a few to a young friend of ours recently.  It was freeing and hopefully blessed her as well.

  • If you have a gravy boat you use faithfully every Easter and Christmas, by all means keep it! If you have a springform pan that you might use ONE DAY to make a cheesecake that has been waiting for that time for the past 10 years, maybe it is time to pass it on to some other chef-wanna-be!  Again, do you need it, use it, and love it?  Or can you just borrow from the neighbor or make do without?
  • If you store cooking ingredients in your cabinets now is the time to check expiration dates and toss what is old.  Do not skip this step, seriously!  Sauces and such do get old and we tend not to notice them as quickly because we do not use them as often. Also, label, label, label!  If you do not know what it is, you will not, or at least, should not use it!  I had several containers of wheat products we cannot use anymore that had to go. Sad, but true.

  • Got two of something? Try to consolidate.  One exception to this rule is cooking utensils, but do not use that as an excuse to have hundreds!  Really, no matter how many you cook for, you can only use so many at one time. 
  • Going out on a limb here- but re-think your plastic storage.  It can absolutely take over your kitchen and rumor has it that it is not healthy for you anyway. ;)  I now have 2 large ones I use, and the other times I use glassware.  All those plastic cups you bring home from restaurants- throw them out, and don't allow any more in. (Unless they are from Rudy's, your husband's favorite restaurant.  Just keeping it real. folks!  Sometimes it is not a hill worth dying on!)  We have found that mason jars are great to drink out of and you can use the little ones for the little people in your life.  You can even get cool tops for them now!  


  • Throw out old spices!  They do not keep for years, no matter what anyone tells you! And organize and consolidate!  You do not need three of each and if you cannot remember what they are, you are never going to use them.  I love my old Tupperware organizer, but use whatever works for you.  I do have a few new spices in a basket now (who else LOVES Penzy Spices?) simply because I have run out of room in my other containers.  And yes, I DID get rid of the ones I do not ever use.

  • Match your pots and pans with all their lids and stack neatly.  If you have non-stick pans, make sure they are in good shape.  For health and safety, if they are peeling, throw them out.
  • This week is a good time to throw away old dishcloths and scrubbie things!  You can do it. Once a year is not too often to just start fresh.  We buy a stack of white washcloths and white towels for washing and drying dishes as well as our hands.  We also use cloth napkins, so we keep those in drawers as well.  Each person in our family has their own color.
  • Throw those crusty pot holders in the washing machine and clean or wash the decorative rugs while you are at it!
  • A note about junk drawers!  Do you have one and why are they usually in the kitchen??  I would love to tell you that this is one thing you do not need, but let's face it, that is not reasonable for everyone.  Go ahead, open it up, throw away all the stuff you do not need and at least make it look neat and tidy.  To help with the clutter, I keep a plastic container in our hall closet that houses flyers and odd papers I need to reference in a hurry.  It just helps keep things more contained and neat looking.
All of our keys stay in this drawer as well as pens and paper for notes.
Let's also take one more minute to discuss these little plastic things.  I am sure they are from Satan.

Several of my shelves were at weird heights and I wanted to change them.  Easy right?  With pegs!  But NOT those little plastic things.  I will not share how long I wrestled with getting them out, but I did eventually win!  And now the shelves are where I want them.  I now know why no one bothered to change them before!



Once every space has been emptied, cleaned, decluttered, and reorganized, it is time to step back and admire your success!  I realize this is a hefty assignment, but you can do it!  Let's see those pictures!!

Rest up when you are done- a new assignment will be posted next Monday and it is one of my least favorites!  We are making progress, my friends, I hope you are starting to see it!


Intro Week
Week 1- Holiday Decorations
The Pantry

Monday, January 14, 2019

34 Weeks of Clean 2019! Week 2- The Pantry

Oh my word!  You all are amazing- your excitement has absolutely thrilled me and your comments have blessed me.  I love to see you all cheering each other on and your sharing of our posts has helped spread the word across the United States!

If you are just joining us, we are so glad you are here. You can find week one, Holiday Decorations, here if you want to start from the top!  If this is your second week back, YAY you!   Know that we are cheering you on as well. We really are so excited to hear about all the people across the country who are determined to take back their houses with us - one week at a time!  Let us see those pictures by posting on our Family, Faith and Fridays Facebook page. It really helps to know you are not alone.

So how'd you do with week 1?  Hopefully your trees are at the curb and your lights are taken down. Trust me, your neighbors will appreciate your effort! And as someone said this about week, it is freeing.  As much as I love the pretty decorations, there is just something about starting the new year with a clean slate.

Up this week, The Pantry!

Why start with the pantry?  I can only speak for myself here, but the holidays seem to be a season of food, more food, and even more food.  And a lot more junk food than normal.  Anyone else?  I found myself opening the pantry, throwing something in, and shutting the door as quickly as possible to avoid the mess.  Yep, I am THAT kind of gal during the holidays.  And then add my husband's Sam's Club runs to the mix and well, you can see what happens.  But guess what ya'll?  Eventually, that mess starts trying to come out on its own.  So even if your pantry does not look as bad as mine, (and please do not tell me if it doesn't) it surely could use some sprucing up as well, right?  Plus, we are in a new house this year, and let me tell you-  obviously I was more concerned about just getting it all unpacked than I was making it an organized space.

Remember- our goal is to deep clean, de-clutter, and reorganize.
Here we go!

Your Assignment-
This week we are concentrating mostly on the food.  If you have food in other areas of your kitchen as well, don't leave it out!  Spices and such will be covered next week, as they reside elsewhere in my kitchen.  You can thank me later!
  • Pull everything out!  Yes, just do it.  I will wait.  And get used to it, because you will see that instruction at the beginning of every week.  We will pull EVERYTHING, yes EVERYTHING, out of a space to start with.  I promise, it works, just trust me!

 I do not know how all this stuff possibly fit in the pantry!

Yes, we have a water bottle problem!  We got rid of more than a few, I promise.

  • Check expiration dates and throw things out.  One of our goals should be to NOT poison our families this year with bad food. Hey, did you know that even clear gelatin has an expiration date? Whoops. Who knew?!

  • Wipe down all of the shelves, wood or otherwise.  Between sticky honey drops (anyone else?) and dirty handprints, those things need to be cleaned!  If you are an all natural kind of gal, you can use my favorite natural cleaner recipe.  If you use store bought stuff, no worries - I won't tell anyone!

  • Wipe down the floors of the pantry and the walls, any light switches, and baseboards as well. You know women did not design all those fancy doors with little rims and grooves!  Sometimes it takes nothing short of a Q-tip to get those clean.  Yes, go ahead and get out your Q-tips!

  • Decide a plan of attack BEFORE you put things back.  I try to keep like things in one area, so in our case cans are on one shelf and boxed foods on another. You get the idea.
  • Put things back with purpose- do you use something only occasionally?  Put it higher up. All of our snacks are together, with smaller items in a basket, and then breakfast foods are near the bottom for easy access.  Have something in there that doesn't belong?  Put it where it does!  Have extra stuff you do not use or need?  Get rid of it!  Like water bottles.  Just saying.

  • Use glass jars when you can!  I admit, I love glass jars.  Here's why - I love the uniform look, I love that you can see exactly how much of something you have left, and I get so tired of looking at half opened boxes and bags.  This is especially true of things like flour and sugar.  I seriously would put our potato chips in a glass jar if I thought I could get by with it.  (For now those are all in the wood bin.)  I also use Tupperware for staple items that need to be airtight.  After living in Florida for several years, I gave in and invested in containers that would keep the humidity and bugs out.  20 plus years later they are still reliable.  

Finished result-

This project is a little quicker for most than last week's!  Regardless, don't forget, if you cannot do it all at once, no worries!  Set a timer for 15 minutes each day if you have to and work until it goes off.  Slow and steady wins the race.  You have a whole week so don't fret!  When you are done, reward yourself with a cup of tea and some chocolate.  Because who doesn't love chocolate?

And because a few of you have asked - nope, I am not going to give you a list of all the weeks in advance, though if you really want it, it is not hard to find! ;)  I remain convinced, and I saw from our first run of 34 Weeks several years ago, that it is best to only share each assignment as we go.  I think our tendency is to go in strong to a project like this, push too hard, and then fall off the wagon from exhaustion.  It's kind of like that rush at the gym every January. This way you can truly concentrate on the task at hand and not be weighed down by what is to come. 

So, I think that is about it!  This should not take you all week, but go on and get started.  There is never a better time than the present! And don't forget to post pictures of your progress, we love being able to cheer you on.


Intro Week
Week 1- Holiday Decorations

Friday, January 11, 2019

Let Go and Love People

I can't remember when it all got started- this desire, this NEED of mine to downsize but it may have been about the time that I wrote this.  Go ahead, read it.  I will wait!

Time to Let Go and Move On

We had come off living in two very large homes, one that was a historical 5000 square foot base house, and I think I was just tired.  Tired of stuff and tired of what it took to take care of said stuff.  When you are a military family that moves a lot you get used to keeping stuff "in case,"  You never know what the next house will be like and those curtains, or that piece of furniture, might fit.  Or even those coats and boots and snowsuits might finally get used again.  True story!

Fast forward years later, and after several years of writing about 34 Weeks of Clean, and I still feel the same way.  OK,  maybe even more strongly about cleaning, de-cluttering and organizing.  But also about this-

I want to love people more than things.

Yes, I want my house to be beautiful, but I want people to be first.
Yes, I want to spend time cozy in my home, but I want to spend more time with people.
Yes, I want to love the things that surround me, but I want to love people more.

Love God, love people has become my mantra these days!

May I put it to work as much as I say it!

How about you?  How are you loving people?  I would love to hear your ideas and experiences!


Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Are They Ready for the Test?

It is nearing that time of year for testing in many schools, as well as ACT and SAT time for many highschool juniors and seniors.  If you listen closely you can hear the moans of teachers everywhere- public and homeschool alike.

Let's face it- the pressure is on.  And not just for the students.  As a homeschool mom, I am the one that imparts information to my child, and whether I like it or not, their success, or lack thereof, often feels like it rests solely in my hands.

Years ago, most states had mandatory testing at some level for homeschoolers, and so early on in our homeschool journey I began testing my children.  Yes, I can and do administer the IOWA state test.  Not only did it help me keep my bases covered legally, but it also helped me assess how each child was doing and identified areas of weakness we needed to address.  It has held us accountable and I like it.

The kids, not so much! ;)  In their defense, what kiddo likes tests?

We have never made it a practice to "teach to the test", but through the years I did begin to see that my kids were lacking a bit in the "test taking" skills.  They were not in the habit of many tests outside of spelling and math tests.  Filling in ovals and reading paragraphs for information were new to them.  Upon that realization, I began looking for ways the kids could practice the actual test taking phenomena to be better prepared.

One such book series that we have come to count on is the Spectrum Test Practice.  Thanks to Timberdoodle Company, we have once again had the opportunity to review one of the books in the series, Grade 6, and continue to be impressed with it and the newer features.

Spectrum Test Practice 6th Grade is a 154 page softbound book that covers Reading, Language, and Math for 6th grade students to practice for standardized testing (other grades are available).  Reading covers Vocabulary and Reading Comprehension, the Language section covers Mechanics and Expression, and Math covers includes Concepts, Computation, and Application.  There are multiple skills that are practiced and then each section ends with a practice test.  Answers are all included at the back of the book.

A newer component of the Spectrum Test Practice Books in the free online resource area for each US state. There you will also find information about national and state specific standards.

One thing you should know about Spectrum is that they do adhere to the Common Core Standards.  While I do not follow common core curriculum in our own home, most states have adopted those standards and therefore our kids will run across some of those while testing.  For that reason, I do not mind their exposure to it on a limited basis.

So how do we use this?

It's pretty simple actually.  Usually about this time of year, we gear up for any testing we decide to do.  By doing a page or two a day from the Spectrum Test Practice book, I create a non threatening approach to testing.  I have found when it is just part of our everyday school, test taking is not nearly as scary of a process.  Each test section is relatively short and can be completed in 10-15 minutes.

Umm, yeah, that is something we haven't learned yet!

I then do a quick check of the page or pages and go over any that were missed.  Easy peasy!

Sometimes we make things harder than they should be.  Test taking seems to be one of them, in my opinion.  With a relaxed attitude, and a little practice with books like Spectrum Test Practice, we can help our children be confident and successful test takers!

Spectrum Test Practice 6th Grade is part of the Timberdoodle 6th grade curruclum kit or can be ordered separately.

Monday, January 7, 2019

34 Weeks of Clean 2019! Week 1- Holiday Decorations

Welcome to 34 Weeks of Clean! 

If you are new to Family, Faith and Fridays, let me say a big hello! We are so glad you are here!  Since our initial post, (you can find common Q&As there!) we have had over 1000 people read about 34 Weeks of Clean, and many say they are joining us.  People just like you and me who are ready to take their homes back.  We are overwhelmed with your responses and enthusiasm and thrilled you are joining us.  THANK YOU to all who have shared our posts and egged on encouraged their friends to join us!  I would love it if you would continue to share and help us get the word out.  It is my true desire to help people in the cleaning, de-cluttering, and organizing adventure.  If you do not know me yet, you can read all about me and my clan on my About Me Page. So let's start with re-visiting a few housekeeping details- I love details, don't ya know!

  • A new assignment will be given each Monday.  You will find it here on the blog and linked on our facebook page- Family, Faith and Fridays.
  • You will have one week to work on said assignment.  How that looks is up to you.  You can conquer it all in one day and sit back and enjoy the week, you can make it your weekend project, or you can set a timer each day and work until the buzzer goes off.  Find what works for you and go for it!  Every week will look a bit different, so be sure to be flexible. 
  • Your goal EACH week will be to deep clean, de-clutter, and then reorganize.
  • Take pictures!  If not for us, then for yourself.  You will be amazed at what you will accomplish in 34 weeks, I assure you!  We would love for you to share your pictures on our Family, Faith and Fridays facebook page!  It's always fun, and motivating, to see what others are doing!
  • I KNOW it is tempting to work ahead.  I advise you not to.  Trust me, if this is a light week for you, enjoy it! ;)  Not all weeks are created equal and you will get burned out if you press too hard and too fast.  Clean the assigned area and then go live life.  Enjoy your family, love your neighbors, have some fun.  Next Monday will be here before you know it, I promise!
  •  DO NOT spend lots of money on organizational "stuff."  Some things are great, and if you need something then go get it.  But please do not buy boxes and bins just to fill a space.  Remember, the goal here is to de-clutter as well.  Those cute plastic bins can just add to the clutter.  Look at what you have and re-purpose things - think bags, baskets, and existing furniture.  We will expand on this idea as we go, promise!
  • Have fun!  Or at least as much fun as one can have while cleaning and organizing.   
First things first!  Holiday decorations!  Sorry, no keeping things up for the next month in this house.  Now, I know many of you have put things away.  I am challenging you to pull it back out this week.  I know, I know, but you can do it!  If you really think you have already addressed this area well, then enjoy your week off and be ready to work hard next week!

I love decorating for the holidays but when Christmas is over, well, let's just say I. Am. Done!  Just ask my kids! ;)  It is almost as much fun as spring cleaning, trust me on this one.  Put on your favorite music, roll up your sleeves, and let's get started!

Your Assignment-
  • Clean each piece as you put them away!  (This is the deep clean part.) All those little knick knacks and do-dads have been sitting out for at least a few weeks gathering dust.  Before you put them away, wipe them down!

  • Same goes for artificial trees.  Although I love ours, they are dust magnets.  You can use a small hand-held vacuum to help you out.  At the very least, take them outside and give them a shake.  A few years ago I decided to save myself the trouble of taking ours apart and just put them back in storage in one piece.  Putting a large plastic bag over the top helps protect them a bit from the dust and grime.  We leave the lights on our trees but if you take yours off, old cereal boxes that have been collapsed are perfect for winding lights onto, as are cardboard wrapping paper rolls cut down to size!


  • This year when you put things away, ask yourself- do I really love this?  Do I really need it? (We are going to ask ourselves these questions a lot over the next 34 weeks, start practicing!) Again, if you have put things away, pull them back out and really think about each piece. Sometimes more isn't better (well, most of the time, but that is for a different post, right?!). Donate what you do not need - local shelters and retirement homes might love your extras!  Keeping with the "yes, our family does follow the same rules"- we finally let go of a bunch of angel ornaments we have not put on a tree in several years.

  •  Repair anything that needs a quick fix, or throw it away.   Our little balloon dog lost his head and needed a quick gluing.  I am happy to report he is back to new.
  •  Put like items together and LABEL them!  Some of mine had beautiful labels on them (I do love my label maker) while for others I used a sharpie marker.  Details don't matter, just make sure it is all labeled. That way, if you decide to decorate in waves like I do, you can pull out just what you need in the moment rather than riffling through every bin looking for your one treasured item.
  • Think outside the box!  Literally!  See that yellow trash can?  It used to hold dog food.  But I found it was perfect for coiling up outside lights and garland into.  Easy to put them in, easy to get them out.  Now, if we could just invent a way to make them easy to put up! My husband would love that!

  • Ornament boxes and wreath boxes are two exceptions to my "don't buy special boxes" rule. There are other ways to store those things but with all of our moving I have found that things are better protected in those specialty containers.  If you have the space to hang up wreaths you can do so, just know they may get pretty dusty in a year.  Ask me how I know this! ;) A trash bag over them may help.

  • Put it all away in ONE spot if possible.  Each time we move that storage looks a little different.  One year it was in the basement.  We have been blessed with a wall of cabinets in our new garage, so several of those now house the Christmas stuff.  The key is to try to keep everything in the same area if at all possible.

  • Keep a list of what you have. There is no need to buy items on sale that you do not need.  If you don't need it, you can consider it saving money - no matter the price.  Know what you have and know what you need.
  • And as long as we are on the subject of HOLIDAY decorations, if you decorate for other holidays the same things apply, and go ahead and go through those decorations this week too, if you can (Thanksgiving, Easter, Valentine's Day, etc.).  Label your boxes, sort through what you don't need or use any longer, and keep it all in one place. If you can't tackle them this week, don't worry, you can fit them in during the break week!
OK, don't get lost in the details!  Just get started and see what you can do in a week!  Don't forget to take pictures of your progress to share with us!  And if you have a tried-and-true helpful hint, we want you to share with us!  Many hands make light work, and many ideas - well, they give us inspiration.

So glad you have joined us!  Week by week, we CAN take back our homes and put a little order in our lives!

See ya back next week for our next assignment.  Until then, happy cleaning!