When It Comes to Travel Deals. . .


I am your person to contact!

I have enjoyed traveling for many years as well as helping my friends find deals and plan their vacations. I figured I might as well turn my hobby into something more so I recently became an Independent Travel Consultant!! (<--- that's my bio that you can read more about).


Pre-Cruise Report

So before I start sharing our daily cruise journal from our past trip, I thought I'd sort of give a background as to how this trip came about.

We certainly weren’t planning to go on a cruise this year. But I always keep my eyes out for deals, I can’t help it. Back in August, I happen to see a great price for another repositioning cruise like we were on last year. While I sat on the fence about it, Kevin booked flights home forcing me to book the cruise! LOL (but seriously, repo cruises are SUCH a bargain and often cheaper than regular cruises so we would’ve been crazy to have given this up).


Kohl's Black Friday Sales-FREE appliances!

Kohl's Black Friday sales are already live. One of my favorite sales they offer is on some inexpensive appliances. We have a camper so these deals made it handy to stock it with a griddle & crockpot last year. I also bought a second griddle for everyday use as we need 2 for our large family when making pancakes.

Kohl's Black Friday deals

Cauliflower Pizza Crust

Say WHAT?!?! Oh yes I just went there, a totally gluten free pizza that rocks!! Since cauliflower is in season right now and super cheap at the local farm stands, I've been finding myself experimenting with it lately. Cauliflower is becoming more versatile like zucchini.

Cauliflower Pizza Crust

They Keep on Growing Up!

Recently I shared how my firstborn just turned 16 yrs old! Since we left shortly after their birthdays for vacation, we weren't able to get their permits.

Well today, we took the plunge!

After spending over an hour simply waiting, they were each called back to take their test. I would've taken photos but I knew they'd have a cow! Ha!


Fall 2015

Ok, I KNOW I am behind in sharing this upcoming photo. BUT ya'll gotta cut me some slack. We just returned from a 2 week vacation that had us unplugged and out of the country (more on that in up-coming posts, woohoo!) So this left the end of October very busy for us. Between celebrating our twins 16th birthday and getting ready for a major vacation, life has been a bit crazy.

All that to say, while we don't celebrate Halloween, we DO enjoy carving pumpkins for fun and roasting the seeds.

Here is a photo of the pumpkin I personally carved this year. Let me preface this by saying YES I carved it myself and YES I did it free-handed with out any template or stencil. I really do have a love and talent for art but rarely have time to put it to use. Here is a brief glimpse of my talent and *ahem*, upcoming future. . . ;)


Fun-Time Phonics!

Back when I started homeschooling, I didn't have as many choices for curriculum in aiding me to teach my children to read as I do today. Not knowing where to start left me floundering for a bit. My favorite types of curriculum to use in the younger years are those where the directions are simply laid out for me to instruct my children and all the prep work is done. So I was excited to recently review Fun-Time Phonics! from The Critical Thinking Co.



The Critical Thinking Company produces award winning curriculum for preschoolers all the way to 12th grade in a variety of subjects. Their goal is not to teach just repetition or memorization but rather teach the student to analyze what they are learning and to help hone their critical thinking skills, making children better problem-solvers.

Fun-Time Phonics! is a systematic phonics program geared towards preschoolers through 2nd grade. Using listening, speaking, reading and thinking activities, students are introduced to the concept that spoken words are made up of individual sounds. The idea behind this program is not to teach reading "rules" but to help the child understand how individual letter sounds form words so they can then learn how to see that reading is a pattern based activity.

This book is a 314 page paperback book that contains 100 colorful activities designed to teach phonetic and alphabetic skills that lay a strong foundation to reading. They use a "spiraled" approach to teaching meaning that each lesson builds off the previous one so it's important that the child understands and masters the lesson they are on before moving on to the next activity.

Not only does the student learn to start decoding sounds and words but because pictures of the words are also included in the activities, they start to build up their vocabulary. So they learn to hear, see and say the word which helps solidify the lesson.



The curriculum is self paced and each activity has directions for the parent on how to guide the lesson. The beginning of the book goes over learning beginning and ending sounds by having the parent show the child words and asking them to point to the photos that start with that letter sound. They emphasize that whenever you see a letter between 2 slashes like this /t/, you are to say the sound and not the letter.

The activities then move on to having the child listen to words and pick out those that rhyme with other words. This is to help them learn and recognize that vowel sounds are separate from beginning and ending sounds. Sometimes in doing these lessons, you have to over-emphasize the sounds for the child to hear them better. After the rhyming activities, they move on to echoing vowel sounds activities.

Once these foundation building activities are completed, the lessons move on into working with the individual vowel sounds with many different activities. From there, the activities then move on to having the child actually point to and pick out the letter (from a choice of 3) as you say the word. Finally, the activities move on to combining a consonant sound with a vowel sound, taking each consonant in alphabetical order and pairing it up with all the vowel sounds before moving onto the next consonant.



By the end of the book, the activities have the student filling in a missing letter to the word. By this point, the student should then be able to read the list of almost 200 3-letter words that are in the back of, simply because they learned how to decode sounds and letters.

I used this curriculum with my 4yr old daughter who has been writing her name since age 3 and has been working on her letters and some sounds already. Depending on the length of the activity, we usually just did 1 a day, sometimes a second one if it was short. But we then went over it a few times as she enjoyed picking out the pictures and saying the sounds with me. The book suggested to use paper to block out all the other words on the page except the one you wanted them to focus on which was a big help to keep her from getting distracted. Sometimes she chose to read the letters of the words after we practiced the sound. Once I felt that she had that lesson down, we would then move on.

Once we get further on in the book, I'm sure she will practice writing the words out as well. As of now, she writes about half her alphabet.

I can see how this skills building curriculum can really help break down learning to read into easy steps. I appreciated that this program was simple but yet colorful and still kept my daughters attention. It is one we plan to continue with and I look forward to seeing her reading all those words at the end of the book!

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Pumpkin Pancakes

Ahhh yes that time of year.....apples, pumpkin in many forms (coffee & cappuccino anyone?) as well cool, fall nights. We've been itching to make some goodies using pumpkin and one of our latest creations was pumpkin spice pancakes. These were a hit with everyone. The pumpkin isn't strong tasting for those who don't like an overwhelming taste of it. The hint of spices rounded out this yummy breakfast and it couldn't be complete without the dollop of whipped cream on top!

pumpkin spice pancakes

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes

1¼ cups all-purpose flour (or gluten-free flour blend)
2 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
¾ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
Dash of ground ginger
Dash of ground cloves
1 cup milk
½ cup pumpkin puree
1 large egg
2 tbsp. vegetable oil or melted butter


Directions:
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt and spices and stir with a fork to combine.  Mix together the milk, pumpkin puree, egg and oil or butter in a liquid measuring cup.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk together just until combine.  (The batter may still have a few lumps – that is okay.)

 Heat a greased skillet or griddle over medium heat.  Once the skillet is hot, add a 1/3 cup scoop of batter to the pan.  Let cool until bubbles begin to form on the top surface.  Carefully flip with a spatula and cook the second side until golden brown, a couple minutes more.   Repeat with the rest of the batter until it has all been cooked, regreasing the pan as needed.  Serve with cinnamon sugar, maple syrup, and/or whipped cream.

*note, I doubled this recipe with my family which gave me a few left overs. These also freeze well.

Wordless Wednesday-A Sunset Photo




I love & miss you my precious son!