Saturday, June 28, 2014

Patriotic Watermelon "Cake"

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Red, white, and blue desserts are so fun to make for patriotic celebrations! If you're trying to aim for something a little healthier this year, try making a Patriotic Watermelon "Cake!"

You only need 4 ingredients:
  • 1 large, ripe watermelon
  • Fresh blueberries
  • Heavy whipping cream
  • Powdered sugar (to sweeten the heavy whipping cream if you wish)
* If you are a Cool Whip kind of person, you can skip making your own whipped cream. Personally, I don't like the taste or the ingredients of Cool Whip, so I take the extra time to whip the heavy cream and a little powdered sugar on high with an electric mixer until I reach desired stiffness.


(Even though the picture shows only half the "cake" covered in blueberries, the intent is to cover the entire surface. Or, you could make a flag instead by frosting whipped cream stripes across the watermelon and keeping the blueberries in the upper left hand corner. However, each piece, once it is cut, won't look as pretty or taste as yummy without the blueberries.)

Don't let your leftover watermelon, whipped cream, and blueberries go to waste! If you have a star cookie cutter, use it to cut shapes out of the leftover watermelon. Add a dollop of whipped cream to each star, then top each star with a blueberry. Makes for some fun, festive 4th of July finger foods.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

TBT: Glamour Shots

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Anyone remember Glamour Shots? Apparently for my 14th birthday I wanted a Glamour Shots makeover. I must've made an appointment on the make-me-look-like-a-hideous-monster day. ;) Either that or it was my makeup artist's first day on the job. Or, she took one look at my face and thought, How in the world am I going to work with that?

What's even more disturbing is that my parents ordered a ginormous portrait for our living room wall. And it hung there forever. It was still there when my hubby and I started seeing each other. It almost scared him off, but, thankfully, he stuck around.

Well, I hope I've brightened your Thursday morning with a good laugh. Anyone else ever had a Glamour Shots makeover gone bad? Don't be shy. ;)

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Science Experiements on DVD {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

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Over the years, I've tried to do most of the experiments in my children's science books. However, we can't possibly do all of them. Sometimes, I don't have all of the supplies on hand or the homeschool funds to purchase every single item needed. Other times, I honestly just don't feel like making a mess or the projects seem too overwhelming. And quite frankly, I don't always have the energy either.

Thanks to Library and Educational Services, a wholesale distributor for libraries, churches, schools, etc., our family got to sit back and watch someone else do some really cool science experiments! Schoolhouse Review Crew members got to choose two Go Science DVDs from their latest series, Series 2, which includes the following science videos:

Volume 1: Sound, Gravity, Space
Volume 2: Life Science, Weather
Volume 3: Air
Volume 4: Motion, Friction, Electricity, Light
Volume 5: States of Matter, Water
Volume 6: Chemistry
Volume 7: Engineering, Design, Flight

I chose Volume 6: Chemistry since my daughter and I spent all year studying this subject. I let my daughter choose the other one, and she picked Volume 2: Life Science, Weather.

Ben Roy, former director of News Channel 9 Science Theatre and current teacher of science methods at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, performs and explains all of the science experiments in each episode on the Go Science DVDs. Ben's passion for science is contagious, and he enthusiastically welcomes the children on set and at home to each episode by greeting, "Welcome to Learning Time!"

Not only is he passionate about science but he's passionate about his Creator as well. Many times throughout the DVDs, he ties in Biblical principles that children can either relate to or apply to their own lives. He gives glory to God, and ends each scientific demonstration with these words: 

Most of the episodes are featured in a backyard type setting - nice back porch, white picket fence, beautiful green yard splashed with colorful flowers - while some of the others are located in a school gym or outdoors. As part of the program, Ben Roy interacts with a group of kids ranging from young elementary to teen who are included on the set, and a few kids from each group get to be helpers during the experiments.

My plan was to watch a few experiments each day, but my daughter had other plans. After popping in the Life Science and Weather DVD, she didn't want to stop after a few experiments. So, we ended up watching the whole thing. It really wasn't that big of a deal since both DVDs only run for about an hour each.

The entire family can enjoy watching these Go Science DVDs, but they are specifically targeted toward children ages 4-12. My 9 year old daughter watched both DVDs with me. My sons who are a little older (12 & almost 15) sat in on a few experiments here and there.

Now, let's take a look at each DVD more specifically. Volume 2: Life Science, Weather includes 12 experiments - 7 life science experiments and 5 weather experiments. You can watch each experiment individually or play all.

Life Science

1. Flashlight Animal Eyes: In this experiment, Ben Roy explains why God made some animals' eyes to reflect light. He also shows kids a neat way of looking for spiders at night.

2. Animal Skulls: This one was my daughter's favorite life science experiment. Here, kids identify a beaver skull and learn facts about beaver teeth and why they have eyes on the sides of their faces. Other skulls are identified as well, and kids learn the difference between prey and predators.

3. Bobby Pins: Kids experiment with bobby pins and learn about the sense of touch.

4. What Are You Looking At? Ben Roy shows kids pictures of a familiar person's face with a couple of the features misplaced, but they are still able to identify her, especially in one of the pictures. This is a neat experiment about how our brains work.

5. How Much Do Your Lungs Hold? Ben Roy explains vital capacity and why it is important. Kids do an experiment to see how much air our lungs can hold.

6. Eating Nails for Breakfast: Ben Roy does an experiment that actually takes the iron out of cereal and talks about why we need iron. I thought this one was really cool!

7. Naked Egg: Kids learn what vinegar does to eggshells and why. Ben Roy shows eggs in different stages of vinegar soaking and talks about calcium and why eggs have shells.


8. Fire and Tornado: Ben Roy makes a fire tornado and explains how our words can be like fire.

9. Ping Pong Cannon: Here, Ben Roy does an experiment that shoots a ping pong ball out of a pipe and straight through an empty can of soda.

10. Liquid Nitrogen Cloud: This one was my daughter's favorite weather experiment. She loved watching the huge nitrogen cloud form! Ben Roy gives some facts about liquid nitrogen and explains why it makes a cloud.

11. Cloud in a Bottle: Here, kids learn about the difference between high and low air pressure and how clouds form.

12. Garbage Can Vortex: This is a neat experiment in which Ben Roy fills garbage cans with fog and creates smoke rings. He explains why the rings are always circles no matter what and that even nature has to obey certain laws.

Volume 6: Chemistry includes 11 experiments divided into two categories: Chemistry 1 and Chemistry 2. Again, they can be watched individually or played continuously.

Chemistry 1

1. Milk and Food Coloring: Ben Roy gives facts about water and milk and does an experiment that breaks the surface tension of water.

2. Elephant Toothpaste: Kids get to see what happens when yeast is added to hydrogen peroxide and soap.

3. Stains: Ben Roy states facts about bleach and does an experiment that takes away the color in Kool-Aid.

4. Staying Dry/Diapers: Kids get to see what a diaper looks like when it's taken apart. Ben Roy explains what the granules are and shows how they absorb liquid.

5. Lava Lamp: Ben Roy helps kids on the show make their own lava lamps with oil, food coloring, and effervescent tablets. He also talks about how the center of the earth is made of magma.

Chemistry 2

6. Instant Snow: Ben Roy does a fun experiment with the same type of chemicals that are used in diapers to absorb liquid. My daughter loves making snow especially since we don't ever see it where we live.

7. Silly Slime: Kids make a substance more like silly putty during this experiment using materials like borax, glue, and water.

8. Hydrogen Bubbles: This is an experiment that really has pop! Ben Roy lights bubbles on fire which makes a loud noise.

9. Grain Elevator: This is an experiment which involves the use of candles, and Ben Roy uses it to explain how little things are important and can make a big difference.

10. HHO Generator: Ben Roy does an experiment which takes the hydrogen and oxygen out of water.

11. Mentos Fountain: This is an experiment that show what happens when Mentos candy comes in contact with carbon dioxide. Ben Roy also shares why carbon dioxide is not good for our bodies.

So, in a nutshell, those are all of the experiments on the two DVDs we watched. Some of them we'd done before, but some of them were new and interesting to us. I like that some of the experiments can be safely replicated at home for kids who really like to try things out on their own. I also like that some of the experiments are ones that really can't be done at home because this gives kids the opportunity to see science in action that they wouldn't normally get to see.

While the experiments are all fun to see, I did feel that some of them could have been explained a little more clearly. Also, as a highly visual learner, I think it would be helpful to have some of the main points, definition of terms, etc. of each experiment as subtitles on the screen. Sometimes there's so much action going on with the effects of the experiments that Ben Roy's words get lost in the mix. I'm the type of person who likes to thoroughly understand why something is happening, but I am sure most kids will be satisfied with watching the cool experiments!

These DVDs are a great "extra" for homeschooling and can be enjoyed separately from a science curriculum or they could definitely be used to compliment science books you may already have. My daughter seemed to really enjoy them, especially the one about life science and weather.

As a homeschooler, you can become a member of Library and Educational Services free of charge and save 30-70% off of retail prices for these DVDs and tons of other educational products. Both of the Go Science DVDs my daughter and I reviewed can be purchased for $8.97 each which is a 40% savings. The entire 7-CD set can be purchased for $59.82 which is also a 40% savings.

You can connect with Library and Educational Services on Facebook, and also be sure to click on the banner below to read Crew reviews about some of the other videos in this series.

Click to read Crew Reviews

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Sunday, June 22, 2014

Happy 9th Birthday Daughter

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Dear Daughter,

I just can't wrap my mind around the fact that this is your last year in the single digits. I've noticed over that past year, more than any other year, how much your sweet, little "babyness" is rapidly fading. I hardly even call you "baby girl" anymore. And to think that I thought those first 2 years of sleepless nights and constant crying would never end. You totally rocked my "Baby Wise" world for sure!

Every bit of it was and still is completely worth it. By far, you have the most easy going personality, well, with a flair of sass thrown in. I guess you come by that last part pretty honestly - I am your momma after all. ;)

Oh girl, I am so blessed and grateful that you are my daughter. Hope your 9th birthday is super special, and know that I love my crazy-for-stuffed animals girl more than I could ever express in a blog post!



I love that Shiloh wanted a radio for her birthday so she could listen to Air 1 in her room. :) We went old school - reminds me of having a jam box ;)

Thursday, June 19, 2014

TBT: 10 Years Ago This Month (Leaving kids for the first time.)

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Hard to believe that a decade ago I was leaving my two sweet little boys and their daddy to visit my Arizona family all by myself. So thankful I made scrapbooks during that season of life so I can look back at all the fun memories.

My mom and I took a day and went to Disneyland (still have the ticket purchased for $49.75), I got to see my sister's third baby boy, and spend time with my sister and brother and extended family. The best part was that my mom flew back home with me for a visit. Loved that I didn't have to spend the 3 1/2 hour flight home fighting back tears of missing my mom.

Looks like my 2 stinkers had a blast with daddy while I was gone. Oh, it's so hard leaving little ones. I missed all those mama cuddles for sure. The only complaint I remember hearing about was that Lincoln didn't like something about the way daddy was doing the sippy cups. I think he was putting the wrong color lids on the cups - because we all know the colors can not be mixed up! Yes, I was that mom - lids always matched the right cups. ;)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Blackberry Cupcakes

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I love it when my mom gives me fresh-from-her-backyard blackberries every spring. I like trying new recipes with them, too. This year I made delicious blackberry cupcakes inspired by the strawberry cupcakes I made last year for Valentine's Day.

Blackberry Cupcakes


1 Stick Butter
3/4 cup white sugar
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/8 -1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
2 room temperature eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract  
1/4 cup milk (I used whole milk)
At least 2 cartons (maybe 16-20 oz.?) of blackberries (I added about 1/2 - 3/4 cup puree to my batter and 1/4 cup puree to my frosting. Better to have more than not enough)
Difficult for me to measure accurately with the blackberries since mine didn't come from the store. So, I am making an estimated guess at how much you will need. If you end up with too much, then use the leftovers for pancakes or French toast - yum!
The night before, cover blackberries with white sugar and refrigerate.
When you’re ready to make the cupcakes, mash the blackberries. I used a fork because I don't have a potato masher. Keep the puree a little chunky. Place mashed blackberries in a strainer over a bowl; you won’t need all the juice to go in the batter.
Pre-heat oven to 350° F and line cupcake tins. (Makes about 1 dozen.)
In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In your mixer, mix together the butter and white sugar until pale yellow and fluffy.
Slowly add the room temperature eggs one by one, mixing for about one minute after each egg. Beat well.
Add in vanilla extract.
Alternately add the dry mix and milk, blending well and scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition.
Add in the blackberries (leave 1/4 cup out for frosting) and about 1/8 cup of the juice if you have it; fold into batter and mix well. If batter is too thick, you can add more milk or more juice if you wish.
Fill cupcake liners about 3/4 full and bake for about 18 minutes or until the tops of the cupcakes spring back when pressed and are slightly golden. Allow to cool in tins for 5 minutes before removing them to cool on wire racks.
Cool completely before frosting them.
Blackberry Frosting


* 4 cups of powdered sugar
* 1/2 cup butter, softened
* 1/4 cup blackberry puree
* About 3 TBSP milk or leftover blackberry juice from cupcakes


First, the night before you want to make the frosting, sprinkle about 1 TBSP of white sugar over 1/4 - 1/2 cup of blackberries. Let them sit in the fridge overnight. The next day, mash the mixture into a chunky puree. Hopefully, you will end up with about 1/4 cup of puree. (Or you can just use leftovers if you have enough from making cupcakes.)

Now, beat the powdered sugar, butter, and blackberry puree together, adding the milk or juice as necessary to make it the consistency you like. I like my frosting to be a little thick so I can pipe it on the cupcakes without it sliding down the sides.

There you have it - fresh, homemade blackberry cupcakes. VERY YUMMMY!

Linked to Try A New Recipe Tuesday, Works for Me Wednesday, Tasty Tuesdays

Monday, June 16, 2014

Thinking About Going to Sea World?

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38 years old and never been to Sea World until my mom and I went during our beach getawayI absolutely loved it and recommend going if you've never been! The whole time I was there I kept thinking, my kids would love this!

I sure hope the opportunity arises for my hubby and I to be able to take our kids sometime in the near future. (My daughter will be studying sea creatures in school this fall - surely Sea World qualifies as a homeschool field trip, right?)

So, if you and your family have never been to Sea World and you've been contemplating a trip, I invite you to read the rest of this post in which I've included pics from the shows and a few short videos that I caught on my phone. I recorded bits and pieces so my kids would be able to get a better feel for it. I'll throw in a few tips along the way, too. :)

Currently, there are 4 shows going on at Sea World in San Diego. The first show we watched was Pets Rule®. Super cute. I so wished my crazy-about-dogs daughter could've seen it. I learned after the show that all of the animals are rescue animals. Neat. I was truly amazed at the talent!

Here is a brief video I took during the show. I didn't take long videos because it was hard for me to actually watch the show while recording on my phone, but here's a taste anyway . . .

There wasn't a flamingo show, but there are a couple of spots at Sea World where you will find flamingos. I think they are so interesting to watch. At one point, there was a flock out from behind their caged-in habitat. It was really fun to sit down and let them come over and peck at your ears. Don't worry, it doesn't hurt. :)

Tip: There are lots of other animal stations to view and explore as well such as dolphins, mantas, turtles, otters, sharks, fish, etc..

Did you know that flamingos really are pink because of what they eat? Click the link for lots of cool flamingo facts.

I adore dolphins. Watching this show made me want to sign up for a dolphin encounter. :) The shows do more than just show off animal tricks. This one told a lovely story about a princess.

Tip: arriving early to all shows- about 15 to 30 minutes prior to show time - is highly recommended so you can get good seats whether you want the perfect SOAK ZONE seats or the perfect not so SOAK ZONE seats.

We chose to stay dry that day.

Sea Lions Live® was really a blast! The main guy in the show was super entertaining, and of course, the sea lions were, too! Lots of fun music and laughs. There's even a cute little otter in the show.

My goodness, aren't these creatures gorgeous! Very beautiful show to watch. Mama and baby were so adorable.

I am NOT a knick knack kind of girl when it comes to souvenirs. I like practical or CHRISTMAS ORNAMENTS! I like things I will actually use like clothes, cups, etc.. For practical, I decided on a t-shirt. For Christmas ornament, my mom and I both got that cute little dolphin sugar cookie looking one. Can't wait to hang it on my tree next to the Disneyland ornament my mom and I got back in 2004 when the 2 of us took our first "just us" trip.

Sea World also has 7 rides. We didn't really do the rides that day because so many involve water, but I did talk my mom into riding a super fast roller coaster - Manta. :) It was fun!

Tip: You can't have any loose items on this ride and probably most of the others, too. Be prepared to rent a locker to store your stuff if you want to ride rides. First hour is free, but after that there is a small fee.

I personally wouldn't want to take very small children to Sea World, however, there is an area called Sesame Street® Bay of Play® which is perfect for all the littles.

Of course there's lots of fun and very expensive food to eat. We shared a churro, but it really wasn't that great. If I ever get to use my free second visit I'd like to eat at Pineapple Pete's Island Eats!

Tip: You are allowed to bring in you own bottled water and some small snacks in a purse or something but no coolers etc.. Also there are allergen free snacks available at the markets between Shamu and Dolphin Stadiums.

Hope you enjoyed this small taste of Sea World San Diego. It surely makes for a very fun family outing! Definitely doable in one day, too.

Thanks for the memories, Mom. Sure had fun.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

TBT: Yes, The Red Hair is From Me

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Because my hair is mostly considered a medium brown with a few highlights brought out by the sun and has been this color (naturally) for quite some time, I am often asked one of two questions about my middle child:

1. "Where does he get his red hair?"


2. "Does his dad have red hair?"

Well, here is the answer: his red hair does indeed come from me!

My, my, I was an unattractive child. Seriously. Wow.

During my childhood, I kind of went back and forth with red, blonde, gold, and then finally brown and oftentimes even a pretty dark brown. Weird.

It looks as if my son will never be a brunette, though, which I find really neat. Makes him a very unique family member to have all of the recessive traits.

Here he is at 18 months, and his hair matches mine pretty closely at 18 months. 

Here he is at 2. His hair is more blonde here, and it stayed pretty blonde for a while. Just thought I'd throw those in. :) His hair seems to pretty much stay in that strawberry blonde range. Here's what it looked like on his 12th birthday if you want to know. ;)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Blackberry Lemonade

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* 1 cup sugar
* 1 cup water
* 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (takes about 6 lemons - depends on size though)
* 3-4 more cups cold water
* About 1/4 cup freshly squeezed blackberry juice


In a saucepan stir together the one cup of water and one cup of sugar. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and pour into a pitcher. Stir in lemon juice and 3-4 cups of water. I usually stir in about 3 1/2 cups. Since this only makes about 50 oz. or so, I like to double it when I have enough lemons. :)

To get your fresh blackberry juice, mash blackberries with a fork, spoon, or your hand through a mesh strainer. Make sure you have some type of container underneath to catch the juice. Juice will be thick. When you have about 1/4 cup, stir into pitcher of homemade lemonade. Discard all of the seeds and pulpy stuff.

My mesh strainer is very similar to the ones pictured below.

I like to squeeze citrus by hand, and once I do that I pour the juice through a mesh strainer like the one above to make sure I get all of the pulp out. This does take extra time, but I don't like pulpy lemonade. ;) I measure my lemon juice after I've strained it.

Blackberry lemonade is simply lovely on a hot summer day.

Linked to Try a New Recipe Tuesday, A Little Bird Told Me

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Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Voice Over the Water

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Isn't the sound of the ocean majestic? Waves softly crashing upon the shore over and over again lulling one into a peaceful trance. A heavenly trance. One in which the voice of the Lord speaks to the soul. Godly meditation on His Holy Word.

Who else but to the Lord could I ascribe the glory due his name for this glorious sight and sound? I didn't actually do this, but in my mind I pictured myself bowing face down in the sand, arms outstretched worshiping the Lord in the splendor of his holiness. Words from Psalm 29:3-4 were the meditation of my heart this past week:

Salty ripples gently caressing feet in the sand, wrapping around ankles for the teeniest moment only to quickly return to the vast expanse from whence they came as if commanded and pulled back by an unseen force. And take my breath away, this unseen force is explained by God Himself when he speaks to Job out of the storm:

Highest praise is for you alone Lord. I could sit for hours and watch the waves rise and fall and listen to this majestic voice over the waters. And I did. Between each roaring splash, I also felt the Lord impressing two simple words upon my heart over and over again - like the waves.


Not super impressive words, but I got the point. Standing upon the shore looking out into the briny deep, I felt so small and the ocean so big and vast. But God was whispering deep within that He is far bigger, and He's totally got this thing called my life.

Ah, if only I could completely and wholeheartedly trust my God who is big and vast and surrender myself to ride the waves of His perfect plan for my life without fear. Lord, give me strength to follow You into this future of uncharted waters that you've planned for me and my family. And thank you for the gift of relaxation, refreshment, and restoration during the eight days of ocean side bliss with my sweet mom!

Linked to Thoughtful Thursdays

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Peter Rabbit Collection from Kinder Cottage Publishing {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

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What comes to mind when you think of the storybook character, Peter Rabbit?

Besides mischief, gardens, and blackberries, this bunny immediately conjures up in my mind comforting, nostalgic tales and colorful, vintage images. I remember loving the story of Peter Rabbit as a child. My very first book purchase when I found out I was expecting my first child happened to be a set of 4 small  Peter Rabbit board books that came in their own little carrying case. I still have the set and will save it for the grandmothering phase of my life.

If you also love Peter Rabbit, you will want to stay tuned for this review! Kinder Cottage Publishing generously sent members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew two Peter Rabbit picture books from the following 10 books in the series:

Howard and Ann Closs started Kinder Cottage Publishing in 2012 with the desire to instill in their own four children a love of their rich heritage. They focus on materials that are characteristic of western civilization such as literature, history, culture, and Christianity. Their main goal is to develop and provide products that help parents instruct and train their young children.

The ten 5x7 hardcover books in the series mentioned above are ideal for children ages 3-9. They are adaptations of the original works written by Duff Graham for the Henry Altemus Company in the early 1900s. Though Kinder Cottage is faithful to the original text, some words have been slightly edited for modern children. For example, the word velocipede has been replaced with the word bicycle.

Each classic features the mischievous yet loveable character, Peter Rabbit, and a unique adventure. All of the books have 64 pages except for two which have 56 pages. Samples of each timeless tale are provided on the Kinder Cottage Publishing website.

You can purchase titles separately for $4.00 each, or you can save $10.00 and purchase the entire set for $30.00. As an additional bonus, you can save 20% off the product price on the website by entering the coupon code: TOS.

I was having a difficult time choosing which stories, so I let my 8-year-old daughter pick. She chose When Peter Rabbit Went to School and Peter Rabbit at the Farm. I guess they were good choices because after we read them together she exclaimed, "I love these books! I wish I could get all of them."

In When Peter Rabbit Went to School, Peter disobeys (surprise!) his mother and decides to go near the well he's been warned to stay away from. After a most dreadful experience, Peter's mother decides that the best thing to do is send her precious bunny kids to school.

All decked out in new school supplies, Peter and his sisters head off to Miss Hannah Hare's School. There they are greeted by friends such as Little Bunnie Bunniekin, Bobby Coon, Polly Possum, Ducky Daddles, Little Fannie Field Mouse, and many other students they'd never met before.

School is quite an adventure. Peter helps pass out writing books, gets in trouble for eating a carrot, goes to singing class, and is finally sent to recess with a warning not to play in the wood. This is where the real trouble starts.

Peter and Squirrelie disregard the warning and skip right off to the woods to collect acorns. After being frightened by an owl they run out of the woods and back to school, only Peter runs in the wrong direction. While he's out meeting all sorts of folks and having adventures, everyone back at school is scared silly. Will Peter ever find his way back to school? Will he be punished for disobedience? Well, you'll just have to get the book and find out for yourself!

In Peter Rabbit at the Farm, one morning Peter decides he's ready for some mischief and slips out the door while his mother isn't looking. Along the way he smacks into Pollie Possum and spills all of her persimmons, and he finds a sobbing Goosie Poosie. He helps her fix the swimming pond that's all dried up but not without falling in and soaking himself. (Polly Possum is spelled differently in these books.)

After that he heads over to Mr. McGregor's farm and makes friends with Old Growler, feeds Silver Tail, watches little lambs frolic, and sneaks into the cow stable. After a kick from the man who's milking, he visits the barn and barely escapes being bitten by Thomas the cat but only because his friend Goosie Poosie saves him. When he is ready to go home, he tries to think of the shortest way to get there but ends up getting lost.

Will Peter ever find his way home? Yep, you guessed it - you'll have to read the book to find out!

Truly, these little books are delightful. I enjoyed reading most of the two stories (my daughter read aloud a little bit) to my daughter. Though she is almost 9, I love that she still enjoys it when I read aloud to her.

For a little enrichment, I created a Peter Rabbit word search using a bunch of the characters from the books we reviewed. I also tried to find a persimmon at the store because my daughter wanted to try one after reading about them in Peter Rabbit at the Farm, but the store didn't have any in stock. :(

I found it quite appropriate that when I sat down on my front porch to begin writing this review, my daughter spotted a rabbit in our neighbor's yard. Thinking it would be delighted to eat a carrot, my daughter ran inside to get one, however, this rabbit wasn't as willing as Peter to make friends.

Be sure to visit Kinder Cottage Publishing and take advantage of the great deal on this set of Peter Rabbit books! Of course they'd be great for your own children, but they would also be a wonderful gift for someone else. I think this book set would look especially lovely in a baby's nursery. :)

See what fellow Crew members thought about other books in this series by clicking the banner below!

Click to read Crew Reviews

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Monday, June 02, 2014

Blessed Beach Vacation

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If you don't count the 30 minutes my family spent at the beach on our way home from Disneyland a few Octobers ago, then I haven't been on a beach vacation in 20 years.

I love the beach.

Sun, sand, water . . . it's all very much me. Just not a place I want to spend with the boys in my family (unless it's an extremely private, isolated beach with hardly any people), so it was such a gift to be able to steal away with my mom to Carlsbad, CA for 8 glorious days.

Even though we weren't right on the beach, we were blessed with an amazing second story view from Carlsbad Inn Beach Resort. Waking up to cool breezes and crashing waves was incredible. I have to admit that reading God's Word and being able to look out upon the Pacific Ocean was quite a bit more thrilling than the view from my room or backyard at home. It was just so peaceful.

This was the view from our back porch. Simply lovely. Loved, loved the glimpses of dolphins swimming across the sea. Too bad they didn't leap out of the water like the Sea World dolphins. ;)

My mom and I made so many memories, some of which I will be posting all about over the next couple of weeks I am sure. :) Sea World, Seaport Village, Seashell collecting, miles and miles of walking, the beach bomb, and so much more.

As much fun as I had, there really is no place like home. Thankful, though, that I had an opportunity to miss and be missed.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Progeny Press Comprehension Guide {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

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Progeny Press gave Schoolhouse Review Crew Members the opportunity to choose up to two literature digital download interactive PDF study guides for children in lower and upper elementary grades, middle school, or high school. I chose The Last of the Mohicans study guide for my ninth grade son to use. It is recommended for students in grades 8-12.

What is Progeny Press?

In 1992 Michael and Rebecca Gilleland founded Progeny Press and began creating in-depth study guides to help children better understand ideas and themes of literature with an emphasis on literary analysis and terminology. Most importantly, they use a Christian approach to teaching the ideas and philosophies contained in the stories. Their goal is to teach well-written literature and to equip children with the ability to think critically and process man's philosophies in light of Scripture.

You can see the Progeny Press mission statement, their statement of faith, and a wonderful 7-minute video explaining how it all began on the "About Us" page on their website.

The Last of the Mohicans Study Guide (E-Guide)

We received the guide in a digital download interactive PDF format which is convenient because you have the option of printing the guide and writing your answers on paper or typing in answers directly on the computer and saving your work as you go. I chose the latter for my son so we could save ink! The Interactive Study Guide will open with Adobe Acrobat Reader 9.0+.


Before jumping right into the study guide, there are a few things of importance to note:
  • Background information of the study guide author, Lisa Tiffin
  • Table of Contents
  • Note to Instructor explaining how to use the study guide which even includes high school credit information
  • Synopsis of the novel
  • Information about the author, James Fenimore Cooper
  • Background information about the book, setting, and what was going on in the world at the time
  • Pre-reading activity ideas such as map work, reports, timelines, etc.
In order to finish by our scheduled summer break and before I took a pre-planned vacation at the end of May, my son skipped the suggested pre-reading activities and dove right into the book answering the study guide questions as he went along. Now, it is suggested that the child read the book prior to starting the study guide, however, I knew my son would not have time to finish it if we went that route. Usually, it takes anywhere from 8-10 weeks for a student in high school to complete a study guide, but my son only had about half the time to finish.


The study guide covers three chapters at a time and there are a total of thirty-three chapters in the book. Each section in the guide starts off with vocabulary and covers concepts such as synonyms, definitions, context clues, prefixes and root words, sentence writing, and antonyms. As you can see in the screen shot below, my son typed his answers on the computer. Love this feature!


Next up are the comprehension questions for the designated chapters. There are usually about six questions in this section, and basically, it's just answering the whos, whats, and hows in the story.

Thinking About the Story

After answering basic comprehension questions, your child will answer more questions that target application. Topics covered in this section might be things like discussing literary terms, comparing and contrasting, analyzing characters, and relating aspects of the story to his own life.

Dig Deeper

Finally, your child will be asked to dig deeper by reading Scripture references and answering questions that apply to the book and/or his own life.

Optional Activities

Sometimes after the "Dig Deeper" section, there are optional activities such as class discussion topics, writing assignments, online research, etc..


The overview comes after the heart of the study guide which I covered above. This section discusses the dramatic structure (the dividing of the plot), theme, point of view, conflict, tone, etc..  There are questions to be answered here, too.


This is the final section of the study guide. There are 12 essay ideas from which your child can choose to write a 2-3 page paper.

Answer Key

The answer key comes as a separate file which needs to be downloaded separately from the study guide. Answer key contains 12 pages and follows the exact order of the study guide, so it is easy to use.


You can purchase the Interactive Study Guide for $21.99 on the website and get immediate access to your downloads. You can also view a sample of the guide before purchasing.


Unfortunately because my son didn't like The Last of the Mohicans novel, he wasn't all that enthused about completing the study guide. He said the book was extremely difficult to read, and this is coming from a guy who loves to read and has been reading novels since he was in first grade! When I told my son the other guide I could have picked was The Hunger Games, he looked at me like, why didn't you pick that one instead?! He'd already read that book, though. I figured since he'd never read The Last of the Mohicans and the fact that it is considered a classic was reason enough to pick it. Oh well.

The fact that he disliked the novel doesn't affect the quality of the study guide, though. In fact, a couple of years ago, we reviewed a different Progeny Press study guide, and I wouldn't have chosen to review another one if I hadn't thought it was a quality product! The study guide is thorough, clearly laid out, and easy to follow. I really appreciate the interactive feature, and my favorite section of the guide is the "Dig Deeper" section. Since literature as always been a favorite subject, I think I would have been thrilled to have these around when I was in school.

I asked my son to write what he thought about the study guide, and here is what he had to say:

"The Last of the Mohicans comprehension guide is just ok. There isn't much that makes it special compared to other reading companions. There is the option to fill it out on the computer, but glitches such as not being able to see what you type would make printing it out more convenient. I do like the "Dig Deeper" section which incorporates the Bible into your reading. Most other comprehension guides don't have that.

I have noticed several typos, inconsistencies, and strangley worded questions in the guide that can sometimes make things difficult.

Overall, I would say it is just an average comprehension guide."

There were a couple of times, too, when my son said he remembers saving his work only to find that the next day the work, for some reason, hadn't been saved. While that could definitely be more of a computer issue, it was still frustrating, so I can see why he'd rather have the guide printed off instead.

Before I close, I would like to say that even though this study guide wasn't a favorite with my son, I do like the company and think their products are of high quality. Hopefully, we will use them again in the future. (I only wish they were a little less expensive.) Please read the rest of the Crew reviews as members reviewed several different titles. Click the banner below!

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