Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Clued in Kids

Clued in Kids, treasure hunt

My kids love games and treasure hunts so they were excited when we were recently asked to review Clued in Kids. They have a variety of scavenger hunts available in both a physical book as well as PDF downloads. We received the Slumber Party Clue PadPrincess Treasure Hunt Clue Pad, and the PDF download Winter Treasure Hunt.

What is it?

Clued in Kids is not just your typical treasure hunt with simple clues. This company has taken a unique approach to an age old game and gave an educational twist to it.Throughout the clues, kids will find themselves using logic to complete puzzles or unscramble words, math to solve problems that unlock letters, telling time as well as other skills that are incorporated in to helping them solve each clue.

There are a wide variety of themed scavenger hunts to choose from. You could either order the physical product online, or purchase a PDF file that can be downloaded immediately and printed to be used right away.

How it works:

For our Princess & Slumber Party treasure hunts, it was simply a matter of tearing each clue out from the book and reading at the bottom of each clue where to hide it. Each hunt contained 12 clues as well as an answer sheet of where each clue is hidden.

Setting up the PDF Winter Treasure Hunt was easy. I was given a link to download the PDF that I then saved and printed the 8 pages it contained. Each page contained 2 clues that I had to cut apart. From there, it was the same as using the physical product in that I hid the clues where it stated to on the bottom as well as having an answer sheet of where each clue was hidden. These scavenger hunts do not come with a prize to be found at the end but that's ok. It allows the parent to be creative in what they hid as the treasure!

Once I figured out what treasure I was going to hide, I worked on setting up the scavenger hunt. I had the kids all go into one room so I could hide the clues. Examples of hiding places were in the dishwasher, by a doorbell, by eggs, near toothbrushes, in towels, under the couch, etc. If by some chance you don't have a hiding place that the clue suggests (say a microwave), you can just hold the clue and make your child do an activity (like jumping jacks) to receive it when it comes time for that clue. It only took me about 5 minutes to set up the entire treasure hunt.

Because some of these clues required multiplication and unscrambling of words, I had my older children help my little ones. It's a great way to teach teamwork! There is also a spot at the top of each clue that you could write in a childs name to assign specific clues. I left those blank as I wanted my kids to do each clue together.

My teens thought they would breeze through the clues but they found some of the puzzles took them a little bit to figure out. My only suggestion would be to have an answer sheet for these for the parent to reference as I admit there was one or 2 that I wasn't sure of right away.

To my childrens surprise, there weren't just riddles & puzzles they had to figure out but also silly activities they had to do! I could only get my 3 & 11 year old to do them as my teens didn't want their photos or videos taken while doing it but they did have fun watching. Some of these silly activities involved snorting like a pig while reading, dancing on your front porch in your pjs, make headgear out of toilet paper and walk the catwalk, walk around the room balancing a book on your head, etc. Many laughs ensued as they did these activities.

Watch this video to see some of the activities in action!

It took my children about 20 minutes to complete each hunt though I imagine if you were doing this with a larger group of kids and only had 1 child complete each clue, it would take a lot longer. I think these treasure hunts would be great for birthday parties, sleepovers, playdates or something to save for a rainy or cold day.

Finding the "treasure", which was a rare treat of candy! And no, that wasn't all for her!

Even though each hunt is done in similar fashion (puzzles to solve, activities to complete, etc), each treasure hunt had clues and pictures that went along with it's theme. The slumber party hunt used objects and clues that would go along with a slumber party as well as silly riddles that you can imagine a group of kids giggling over.

The winter treasure hunt included cold weather items such as snowflake pictures, riddles that have to do with winter activities, hiding clues with pjs and using winter clothing for a funny dress up dance.

The Princess Treasure Hunt used pictures of knights & jewelry to solve clues as well as having the child practice their best curtesy or bow. This would be a fun hunt for a princess themed birthday party!

Clued in Kids can be used with children as young as 4 and can be adapted for older children as well. While 1 child could do the treasure hunts, it certainly is a lot of fun with multiple kids & ages. Stop by their website and check out their free puzzle maker to make your own scavenger hunts as well as check out their Christmas Products available.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Gluten Free Molasses Oatmeal Bars

I was recently looking for a new recipe to try using blackstrap molasses and coconut oil. Why those 2 things? Well, the health benefits of both are great!  

Blackstrap molasses is a good source of calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium and a whole host of other essential minerals. Seriously look it up some day. One of the simple ways I consume it is to heat a mug of water up, add a tablespoon of blackstrap molasses (it sort of tastes like black licorice) and squeeze half a lemon into it. Makes a great morning tea! 

Coconut oil is also great for your body, both inside and out! You can use it on your skin as a moisturizer as well as using it in cooking. It helps boost your immune system, contributes to weight loss, kills viruses, helps digestive issues and so many more things! You can use coconut oil like you would butter in cooking. Or if you enjoy coffee, make a cup of bulletproof coffee using coconut oil.

Back to my newest recipe. I know most recipes calls for baking molasses so I set out to try using my blackstrap molasses and this recipe turned out great! I used blackstrap molasses & coconut oil from Golden Barrel. If you don't have these products in your local store, no worries! You can order them online. 

My other challenge for this recipe was to make it gluten free. AND I did! To make sure it's gluten free, use gluten free oats, gluten free flour and make sure your baking powder is aluminum free.

If you've never used coconut oil, it is typically solid. Once temperatures reach about 75 degrees, it does turn liquid which is perfectly normal. (that's how I knew my house was warm over summer time! Ha!) I simply melted it down for this recipe which made it easier to blend. You could measure it out like you would crisco.

Once your ingredients are combined, it does produce a thick batter which you need to spread out. These molasses oatmeal bars come out thin like you would expect a bar to. I would imagine doubling the recipe in the same size pan would give it more of a thicker, cake-like texture. Either way, these bars came out so soft!!! They tasted good both warm and at room temperature. It reminded me of a mix of gingerbread and molasses, it felt like Christmas time on my tastebuds, yum!!

Gluten Free Molasses Oatmeal Bars

Gluten Free Molasses Oatmeal Bars

1/2 cup of brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp allspice
1/4 cup blackstrap molasses (1/3 cup if using regular)
3 Tbsp of coconut oil, melted
1 egg
3/4 cup gluten free flour (or use regular)
1/2 gluten free quick cooking oats (or use regular)
1 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 350. Spray an 8x8 pan with non-stick spray. Mix together brown sugar, spices, molasses, oil and egg. Add in oats, flour and baking powder. Spread in a baking pan and bake for about 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Check out Golden Barrel on Facebook.

Looking for more recipe ideas? Check out our full recipe section.

Disclaimer: I was provided a jar of both products in exchange for coming up with a recipe to share using their products. All honest opinions are my own.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Pumpkin Pretzels

Ah fall is definitely in the air and with it, comes the fall crafts and food. I came up with a fun and easy project in the kitchen to do with the kids. We made pumpkin pretzels!! (no, they do NOT taste like pumpkin, they just look like pumpkins!)

Pumpkin pretzels

mini pretzels
green M&M's
a bag of white chocolate chips
1 Tbsp of shortening
food coloring

Lay a piece of wax paper on a cookie sheet. Place your white chocolate chips into a microwave safe dish with the shortening. Microwave 30 seconds at a time, stirring after each time. Do this until the chips are melted. Add food coloring to achieve orange color (this is a mix of red & yellow). Dip pretzels in the orange-colored chocolate then lay on the cookie sheet. Place an M&M at the top of the pretzel for the "stem". Once you have your dipping done, place the tray of pretzels in the fridge to harden up.

Pumpkin Pretzels

I also have other holiday inspired pretzels! Check out my Shamrock Pretzels and Santa Hats!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Preschoolers and Peace

When I first started homeschooling, my children were close in age (4 children in 3 years) so it wasn't too hard when we started homeschooling as they all worked together. But we went on to have more children. Now I have preschoolers all the way to high schoolers and I'm finding myself in new territory. I recently heard about Preschoolers and Peace and was quite intrigued. Kendra Fletcher started the blog and went on to compile her best tips in the ebook Preschoolers and Peace: Homeschooling older kids with success while loving the little ones at your feet.

Preschoolers and Peace

This 47 page ebook is an easy read for the busy mom. She broke the book down into 13 chapters that include:
  • What a Homeschooling Mom Needs
  • Preparing Yourself to Homeschool Older Kids With Little Ones Underfoot
  • Planning Around Preschoolers
  • How Do I Keep Them Busy?
  • What Does a 2 Year Old's Day Look Like?
  • How Do I Get Any Pre-schooling Done?
  • How Not to Just Kill Time
  • Circle Time, or How We Pull the Little Ones In
  • Preschool Boys
  • When All of Your Kiddos Are Preschoolers
  • Preschool Chores
  • Planning for Preschool
  • When Mama is Worn Out (or Pregnant)
At the end of the book you'll also find a menu planning guide, a word of encouragement and a resource page. The resource page ties in with many of the chapters throughout the book by having clickable links that take you to the authors favorite resources which I found quite invaluable!

The author is a mom to 8 children ranging in ages 20 to 5 so she truly gets what homeschooling is like in the trenches with a broad age of children. I love how she not only shares her tried & true suggestions and tips but she also shares her heart.

She hit the nail on the head by stating that preparation is the key to successful homeschooling! One of the first steps to preparation she said is simply starting your day with prayer. I loved her suggestion of a prayer box by taking all those photo Christmas cards you receive and pulling them out during circle time to pray for those families.

Kendra also shares how she teaches her little ones to get into habits to start the morning off well. She feels that starting a routine when they are young, will help them once they get older in becoming more independent. She goes on to even show what a schedule looked like for each of her children with their ages listed.

I think one of my favorite sections of this book was when she shared ideas of how to keep toddlers busy! Some of the things she shared we already do (like rotate toys, helping mom with chores, make forts, etc). But I also gleaned some new ideas which I needed.

Have you heard of Circle Time? I hadn't known there was a term for this but this is something we do that is also talked about in Preschoolers and Peace. It's a time when you can gather all the children no matter their ages and do things together as a group such a prayer, memorization (which could be of planets, Bible verses, poetry, etc). We also use this time for a short devotion and right now we also do history as a group. Kendra also said she wrote an ebook about Circle Time that comes with planning pages.

We are big fans of starting our children out very young with simple chores and I appreciated how the author highlighted this same thing. She went on to list ideas of chores that a 2, 3, 4 & 5 year old can do.

I only scratched the surface of sharing about this wonderful resource. Preschoolers and Peace was an encouraging ebook to read and one that I know I will continue to reference the next several years. It's available to purchase for just $2.99 for the ebook. This book is geared towards moms!

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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

National Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month

While October gets a lot of attention for breast cancer awareness month, it's not as well known that October is also National Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month. 1 in 4 women have experienced the death of their child through miscarriage, stillbirth or infant death like I did with my son Noah. Yet this is something that isn't widely talked about. We need to break the silence and help spread awareness so moms like myself can get the support they need and have their child remembered & included like our living children. 

October 15th is the day set aside for Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Day where many support groups around the country hold remembrance walks, balloon releases as well as lighting a candle at 7pm in your timezone to create a world-wide wave of light. I'll post a reminder that day but please feel free to join us wherever you are by writing a gone-too-soons baby's name of someone you know (and be sure to share it with them) or write my son Noah's name and share the picture on our Facebook page. You could also light a candle in remembrance of all babies gone too soon and share the photo on Facebook.

For those wanting to participate in a healing project that lasts all month, check out Carly Marie's Capture Your Grief project she is hosting. I've been participating in this the last few years and it's a wonderful way to connect with other bereaved moms. I love that I feel like I am not only "allowed" but invited to share about my son and our journey during a month dedicated to our sweet babies.

Do you do something special this month to remember a baby gone too soon from your life, whether your own child or someone else's?

Friday, September 19, 2014

Mexican Cabbage Rolls

Cabbage is in season right and super cheap at the farm stands! I pay about $.50 a head (and we are talking HUGE ones) so I like to find different things to make with it. We love coleslaw, egg rolls and I even make my own sauerkraut to enjoy over winter time. I've been busy making meals for the freezer so I wanted to come up with a meal using the cabbage.

We love Mexican food and because some of those in my house are gluten free, I wanted to come up with something that everyone could eat. So what do you get when you marry enchiladas plus cabbage rolls? Mexican Cabbage Rolls!

Mexican Cabbage Rolls

There are a few steps involved in making these but it is SO worth it! The flavor is superb and knowing that this is a healthy meal makes this mama happy! It's also gluten free and low carb.

I started off bringing a pot of water to a boil and carefully removed the leaves of cabbage from the head. I submerged the leaves for about 45 seconds. This is done to softened the cabbage so you can later fold the leaf around the filling. I also removed the stem of each leaf (the hard part). After boiling the leaves, I left them on a dish towel and started the next step. 

In a large skillet, I browned ground beef then added in the peppers, onion, garlic and jalapenos.

In a saucepan, I heated up the olive oil and sauteed some garlic, added the cornstarch & whisked for a minute. I slowly whisked the milk in and brought it to a boil. I then added the tomato sauce, chili powder and cumin.

Once the filling is cooked, the next step is to fill the cabbage leaves. Depending on your size leaves will determine how much filling to use. I folded the cabbage like I would a burrito ensuring all ends were closed in.

From here, I laid all my filled cabbage leaves on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper to flash freeze them as I was freezing them for grab & go lunches. Once they were frozen, I laid each filled cabbage on a piece of foil and divided up the sauce then popped it back in the freezer. After the sauce was frozen, I simply wrapped the foil around each one then popped them into a freezer bag. When I want to eat one, I'll pull it out of the freezer, thaw & bake! 

If you don't want to freeze them, simply put a little sauce in the bottom of a baking dish, lay the cabbage rolls on the sauce then spread the rest of the sauce on top.

Seeing as this was a new recipe, the kids and I were really wanting to know just how it tasted so I kept one out to bake right away.

I topped it with some shredded cheese and baked it at 375 uncovered for about 25 minutes.


Mexican Cabbage Rolls
10-12 cabbage leaves
1 lb of ground beef
1 small onion diced
1/2 red pepper diced
1/2 green pepper diced
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 1/2 Tbsp chili powder
3 tsp cumin
2 jalapenos diced (leave seeds in if you like a little heat)
2 Tbsp water
2 tsp cornstarch

Enchilada Sauce
2 garlic cloves minced
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp of cornstarch
1 cup of milk
1 3/4 cup of tomato or spaghetti sauce
1 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin

shredded cheese

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil then boil cabbage leaves for about 45 seconds (will probably only be able to fit a few in at a time.) Set aside to let cool.

In a skillet, brown the ground beef and add to it the peppers, onion, garlic & jalapenos. Once veggies are softened, add the chili powder, cumin, water & cornstarch. Simmer for about 5 minutes. (I let this then slightly cool as it  made it easier to handle the cabbage for stuffing so I didn't burn myself).

In a sauce pan, heat up the olive oil then saute the garlic. Whisk in cornstarch and cook for a minute. Slowly whisk in milk and bring to a boil. Then add in the tomato sauce, chili powder and cumin. Let simmer about 10 minutes or until slightly thickened.

Carefully fill each cabbage leaf, folding the ends in and tucking them in as you roll it (like a burrito). Place some of the sauce in the bottom of a baking pan and place the cabbage roll seam side down. Pour rest of the sauce on top of the cabbage and shredded cheese on top of the sauce and bake at 375 uncovered for about 25 min.

My Student Logbook

This school year I have set out to be a bit more organized in our homeschooling. Part of this includes putting some of the responsibility on them for making sure they complete all their assignments. I was excited to recently have the chance to review My Student Logbook as this seemed to be just what I was looking for, especially for my son this year. My Student Logbook was created by a fellow homeschooling family so they knew the exactly what a homeschooler needs for student organization.

What is it?

My Student Logbook is a simple and easy to use log that puts the responsibility of completing schoolwork and tasks in the hands of the student. A parent takes a few minutes to write down general assignments or chores on a reusable checklist, then from there the student checks off boxes as they complete each item. You can choose to purchase a dated logbook for a school year (August to July), a calendar year logbook (January to December) or you could choose an undated logbook. There are also a variety of covers you can choose from as well as having the option to purchase a PDF download.

How does it work?

When you first receive your logbook, there is a quick cut and tape process involved to get started which is easily explained on My Student Logbooks website. After you have the reusable flap in place, then it's the parents job to write down assignments, chores or other responsibilities you want your child to complete. There is also a space where you can record how much time they should spend on an activity or what time of the day they are to complete that item. Once the assignments are written down, you give your child the book to be used daily. It's a simple way for the student to know exactly what is required of them each day without you having to constantly remind them. If you need to redo their assignments, you simply attach a new flap and write down the new assignments.

Also included with the logbook are pages to record extras such as:

  • all about me 
  • prayers and goals
  • Bible verses memorized 
  • books read 
  • activities pages to record field trips, projects, etc
  • test records
  • favorite memories from the year

My Student Logbook

How did we use it?
I chose the undated logbook and my son chose the fighter jets cover. Once I received the logbook and got the flap in place, I wrote down things I wanted to make sure Erik completed each day. This included writing down the subjects he needed to complete as well as his chores. I also wrote down reminders such as making sure his bed was made, clothes put in the hamper, etc.

The idea behind this logbook isn't to write down specific assignments (I use a lesson planner to record those), rather this is a general way for a student to see what needs to be done in a days time and checkmark it as it gets completed. I have found this has saved me a lot of repetition with my son. He used to complete one subject and ask me what else has to do and I found myself repeating what he needs to do more times than I care to admit. He also knows by looking at his logbook that if something isn't checked off yet, he can't go have free time where as before, I would find him wandering off as he would forget what else he needed to be working on.

My Student Logbook is so simple to use but it really has saved us a lot of sanity! I can tell at a glance where my son is at in his school day by seeing what all is or isn't checked off. It also helps keep him accountable and gives him the responsibility to follow his daily list.

My Student Logbook is intended to be used by students reading on their own (approximately 2nd grade and older). You can also use this daily student planner to create a high school transcript. My Student Logbook can be purchased for $15. It can also be purchased in a PDF download (a single use license for $10 or a family license for $20).

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The 7 Minute Life Daily Planner

Have you ever gotten to the end of your day and looked back wondering what all you accomplished? Do you have so many daily things you need to complete each day but don't know where to start or how to prioritize? Then you might want to check out The 7 Minute Life Daily Planner from The 7 Minute Life. I recently had the chance to review this planner.

What is it?

The 7 Minute Life Daily Planner isn't just a run-of-the-miller planner but a personal training tool to help you get focused and accomplish daily goals as well as long term goals. Author Allyson Lewis shared that research shows the average attention span of an adult is just 7 minutes. Her mission for the 7 Minute Life Daily Planner is to show us how to prioritize, organize and simplify by taking just 7 minutes to set goals. Throughout the book there are places to record daily & long term goals, daily contacts, meeting plans, calendar at a glance, etc.

How it works

In the beginning of the book, she walks the reader through various exercises:
  • prioritizing our top 10 values (what is most important to us)
  • helps us discover our purpose (& having us write it out)
  • establishing 90 day goals
  • writing out our highest value activities (where our time is best spent)
This 271 page planner is spiral bound and meant to be used for 90 days. Once you get through the beginning portion of the book that teaches you how to use it, you are then ready to put it to work. For each day, you have a 2 spread page where you can keep track of appointments, 5 tasks to complete before 11am, daily contacts, list unfinished tasks, voice mails and even a space to track how much water you drank as well as what you ate.

How I used it

Prior to reading the beginning of the planner, the author suggests watching this video to help you fully understand how this planner works which is what I did. I admit it was a little daunting when I first dove into the planner and I took several days reading over what she shared and completing the various activities. I don't make time for myself very often so it was tough to spend time doing some self reflection. I had to first highlight things that are a priority to me such as friendships, faith, compassion, honesty, travel, taking risk, making a difference were a few I chose.

From there, I had to write out my purpose in life, jot down mental clutter (for me, it's those things I am always remembering that I need to do or all the ideas I have swarming around in my head), set 90 day personal and financial goals as well as life goals. There are a lot of things to complete before actually using the daily planner section. After completing most of those pages, it does make sense why you have to do that. It helps you clearly define what your priorities are in life as well as where you want to end up so you can establish smaller, daily goals to reach your long term goals.

It finally came time to implement what I was learning by using the daily progress reports. I knew going into it I would use this planner for Monday-Friday taking weekends off. Each evening, I sat down and jotted down the 5 tasks I wanted to complete before 11am for the following day. I found I was more productive and would complete my goals if I knew upon waking up what exactly needed completed. Sometimes I listed small things like doing morning dishes or devotions, or I listed larger things like reorganize the nursery. This was my most favorite and useful part of this planner! I also wrote down any appointments I had for the following day.

This planner would be very useful for a working parent as it contains sections that include both home & work goals and tasks. Because of this, there were a few sections on the daily progress reports I repurposed. Under the voicemail section, I wrote down emails I needed to return. Under the thank you notes section, I jotted down prayer requests from others. In the daily contact section, I wrote down blog & social media goals and ideas.

While I typically keep track of my life electronically, there is something satisfying by seeing your tasks in writing. It was a good feeling being able to check mark it off and answering the question at the bottom of the page "did I do what I said I would do today?"

Overall, I truly appreciate what the author of The 7 Minute Life Daily Planner teaches her readers. I needed a way to try and regain focus of my life goals and this planner has been helping me make the most of my time. I love all the different checklists that are included as well! Check out this planner for yourself as I have only just scratched the surface in conveying all that is included! Also, if you are a homeschooler, check out this post she wrote on 7 steps to homeschool schedule sanity.

This planner is intended for adults and can be purchased for $24.95.

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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Philly Cheesesteak Stuffed Peppers

As the gardening season is winding down, I feel like a squirrel frantically gathering nuts to store for winter time! I've been in freezing & canning mode again lately. I had a ton of peppers, zucchini, broccoli & cabbage to do up. While I've been freezing a lot of the veggies plain to use over winter time, I also wanted to try some new recipes.

I happen to have gotten some roast beef lunch meat in the marked down area of the deli. I love this section as I can often find the more expensive lunch meats that are either sliced too thin or are the chunked up ends for only $1.99lb (otherwise, roast beef is NOT a staple in our house! lol)

As I looked at the roast beef & peppers, I thought that a Philly Cheesesteak Stuffed Pepper sounded like a good idea. It wasn't until I started cooking that I realized this was going to turn into an awesome recipe so I quickly dug out my camera to snap some photos so I could share the recipe with y'all! Let me just say the photos don't do this recipe justice! The kids and I absolutely LOVED these and the next time I get some cheap roast beef, we will be making this again!! A bonus is that this is gluten free and low-carb!

I started off sauteing chopped up mushrooms, onions & garlic. Once they were nice and ccaramelized I added in the sliced roast beef.

I sliced 2 whole peppers in half and took out the seeds. You can use any kind of cheese you prefer but I used a slice of pepper jack and laid it in the bottom of the pepper half.

I divided up the meat mixture evenly between all 4 peppers then laid a piece of cheddar cheese on top.

I popped the peppers in the oven and baked them for about 15-20 minutes.


If you are looking for another stuffed pepper recipe, check out my Mexican Stuffed Peppers with Quinoa & Black Beans!

Philly Cheesesteak Stuffed Peppers
about 1/2lb of roast beef lunch meat sliced into strips
8 slices of cheese
2 whole peppers cut in half
2 Tbsp butter
1 medium onion sliced
6oz of mushrooms sliced
2 cloves of garlic minced
salt & pepper to taste

In a saute pan, saute the mushrooms,onions & garlic until caramelized. Add the strips of roast beef & toss with the veggies. Cook for about 5-10 minutes. Lay a piece of cheese inside each pepper then evenly divide up the meat between them. Cover the meat with another piece of cheese. Bake in the oven at 400 for 15-20 minutes.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Sufficient Grace Ministries Auction

It's that time of year again that Sufficient Grace Ministries holds their online auction to help raise money so they can offer support to bereaved families. They provide support and many items (such as their comfort bears, tiny baby gowns, etc) to families who have lost a baby but they are only able to do this through donations and fundraisers.

I have been blessed to have received support from them over the last few years since Noah died. I want to make sure other families are aware of their services as well as help drum up financial support for this wonderful, faith-based organization which is why I am sharing about their auction with all of you!

The auction just started today, September 3rd and goes till midnight September 5th. There are almost 400 items up for bid! It's not too early to think about Christmas shopping and what better way to not only get a gift for that special someone (or yourself!) while at the same time helping Sufficient Grace Ministries raise money so they can in turn help other moms out like myself!

Here are just a few photos of things that are up for bid, but go spend some time checking out the auction now!!!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

UberSmart Math Facts

I remember as a kid in school playing games with flash cards. It was a great way to help master whatever skill we were learning while having fun competing against our classmates. Fast forward to my childrens generation and many educational tools are computer based. What if I told you there is a program out there combining the simplicity of flash cards with the technology of computers? Well there is! UberSmart Math Facts is a downloadable program from UberSmart Software that we recently had the chance to review.

What is it?

UberSmart Math Facts is a downloadable program for Windows 7, 8, XP and Vista. It covers basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. This program was founded by David Kocur, a homeschooling dad & computer engineer. He wanted a no-frills program to help his children learn to master their basic math facts and couldn't find anything to fit the bill.

How it works:

Once you purchase the program, you can download it onto multiple computers in your home for up to 8 children to use. You go in and assign a login name for each child as well as set custom parameters such as how many seconds they need to master the fact in, how long they have to beat the clock and the highest number you want them to practice in multiplication and division (if they are learning these facts). This section is password protected from your students.

There are 4 different ways to use this program:


In the learning section, you select between beginner & intermediate levels. The beginner level uses dots like on a domino with the number lightly showing behind the dots so an early beginner can associate counting how many dots there are to what the corresponding number looks like (they can choose to do this for addition or subtraction). It first shows you the problem for you to try to figure out then you click on "show" and it shows you the answer. This process works the same way for the intermediate level except they show the actual numbers on a flash card. In both levels, you can select which group of numbers you want to practice or you can choose to learn them all at the same time. You also have the ability to shuffle the order in how they are presented to you or learn them in order.

In the practice level, the student can again select from beginner or intermediate level. The beginner student can use the dot system to practice their addition or subtraction or they can choose to practice their proficiency on using the 10 number key pad to manually enter the number on the screen that they are given.

The intermediate level has the option to choose to practice addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. The other option intermediate student can choose is to do a focus practice session. Which brings me to the testing section.

In the testing section, you have the option to have a beginner take an assessment test before beginning this program to see what skills they know. This is not a timed test. The intermediate student can take a mastery test which is timed. In the practice section, the intermediate student has the ability to checkmark "focus" which means they can practice solely the math facts they need they haven't mastered yet.

In the compete section, the student selects their name, which level to compete at (elementary, middle school, high school or adult) then they select if they want to compete with addition & subtraction, multiplication and division or all 4. They can also choose if they want to see the time bar as they compete against the progress they are making. This is where setting the time they need to know the math fact comes into play. If they are starting to get better at mastering the fact,  you simply adjust the time to make it smaller for them to recall the fact.

There is also a report section for the parent to see what type of progress their child is making. You can see all sorts of things in this section such as their mastery progress, assessment, grade book (which even shows the dates) just to name a few. You can even print the reports if you wanted to.

How we used it:

I downloaded the program on to 2 of our laptops so the kids didn't have to wait as long to take turns using the program. For 2 of my children, I had them jump into practicing their multiplication facts and the other 2 I had work on division facts. While they all know these facts, their recall skills needed some help on. I wanted to see them be able to give the answer much quicker than they were. During the review, I had them practice about 4 times a week for about 15 minutes each. I had them go over the learn section several times just to refresh their memory then I had them jump into the practice section. I had them go through each number family by itself a few times then eventually I had the program give all the number families together.

Once they seemed to feel confident in their practicing skills and not getting many wrong, I had them move onto the compete stage where I gave them a generous amount of time to answer each problem. As their mastery score improved, I made the amount of time they had to answer the problems in start getting shorter. In the time my children used this program I saw improvement in their recall skills when asked a math fact.

Overall I think this is a great program to help students practice their basic math facts. I like that it's simple & straight forward for the student to use and I love how detailed it tracks their progress. Keep in mind because this is a software, if your child goes to access it on a different computer, their records won't go between different computers. I just made sure whichever computer my kids started out using this program on that they continued with the same one.

The target age is K-6 grade though anyone who is wanting to review math facts can benefit by using it. Because it's a software program, once you purchase it, it's yours forever! I plan to continue to have my older practice their facts and will use this for my younger ones once they reach the pre-K stage.

UberSmart Math Facts can be purchased for $24.95.

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Friday, August 22, 2014

Tips on Freezing Corn

It's that time of year that keeps me busy with canning and freezing. It takes a bit of time to do this but in the middle of winter, it tastes so good to eat food knowing it came from my garden or the farm stand!

Tips For Freezing Corn

Just this week we froze corn so I thought I'd share some of my tips & tricks to make the job a little easier. Many hands makes the job easier so the kids and I work as a team to get this done. They work on husking the corn outside while I prep the kitchen for blanching, cutting & bagging the corn.

They didn't want their photo taken since they were in PJ's (lol) but they are set up in the shade of the garage with garbage bags to husk right into and listening to a radio blasting some music!

For those who have never froze corn, once you husk the corn you will need to blanch it which is simply dropping the ears of corn into boiling water for about 3 minutes. From there, you want to put the corn into cold water to stop the cooking process. Then you cut off the corn and put it into freezer bags (I use quart size). That's it!!!

This is a photo of my set up. (click on it to enlarge) It looks confusing but I actually have a good system down so I can multitask. Another tip, because corn cobs are heavy, use the plastic grocery store bags to gather empty cobs rather than using a huge trash bag (the bag will be too heavy to lift otherwise).

Here's my tip for making it easier to cut the corn off:

If you own an angel food cake pan, this is just the center piece that I put in the bottom of my bowl. It holds the ear of corn in place making it quick to simultaneously cut & turn the ear of corn. It also holds it above all the corn.

My other handy tip is on cooling the corn. You can start off with cold water, even adding ice to it but after a few dozen ears of corn, the water heats up quickly. I drop ice packs in the water to keep it colder longer and just rotate them out with other ones I have in the freezer as they start thawing.

Just a photo of some of the bags of corn ready to go in the deep freezer.

And that's about it! It truly is easy to freeze corn! Do you freeze corn? Feel free to share in the comments if you have any tips!

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