Saturday, February 27, 2010

Molly Makes $7 Slow Cooker Suppers

image I have a slow cooker that I use occasionally and have wanted to use more, but I really didn’t have many good recipes to use for it. I bought a slow cooker cookbook a couple of months ago and have tried several of the recipes. I have found some good new recipes and have quite a few more that I would like to try. However, many of the recipes are ones that either my family wouldn’t eat or require ingredients that are expensive or that I don’t normally keep stocked in my kitchen. That’s why I was thrilled to have the opportunity to review Molly Makes $7 Slow Cooker Suppers.

First—dinners that cost under $7 to prepare—Great! My budget doesn’t allow for expensive meals. Second—these recipes are ones that my family will eat! These recipes are for basic, family-friendly meals that use ingredients that I have on hand—chicken, beans, potatoes, broth, etc.

These recipes are favorites that were submitted from all over the US and Canada and were tested before inclusion in the book. The testers’ comments and photos are included to the side of each recipe along with the cost to prepare the dish. I love the honest comments! Some testers suggest a change in cooking time or make suggestions for modifications.


The book is loaded with colorful photos and is a delight to browse through. A bonus section at the end of the e-book includes recipes for desserts, breakfasts, and dips, for a total of 140 recipes.

There are several recipes that are very similar—several for macaroni and cheese,  sloppy joes, rice pudding, etc., so one could easily argue that there aren’t really 140 unique recipes. There is still a wide variety, though.

I tried several of the recipes this week and found them all very good—macaroni and cheese, chicken and dumplings, and dump cake.

DSC07939 DSC07940

Molly Makes $7 Slow Cooker Suppers sells for $7.95 at The Old Schoolhouse Store.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. Affiliate links are contained in this post.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Family Mint

As part of the TOS Crew, I was invited to try out and review the Family Mint, an online money management system for kids. Family Mint is a free application. The program will continue to be free, although a “pro” version with more features and a yearly fee will be available soon.
This is how Family Mint works:
1. The parent sets up a family “bank” on the Family Mint site with an account for each child.
2. The child can set up savings categories for himself—college, charity, or categories for anything for which he wants to save, from a toy to a car. When he sets a goal in each category, a bar graph will show him how close he is to achieving his goal.
3. The child can independently log into his account to transfer funds from one category to another or to make a deposit or withdrawal.   Every transaction must be approved from the parent account unless the approval function is disabled.
4. The parent can set interest rates or matching rates in each category. This is a great feature to encourage saving. Goal categories can be “locked” by the parent if desired so that money cannot be removed from a particular category.
5. The Family Mint system allows the parent to set a weekly or monthly allowance. The allowance is automatically credited to the child’s account. No more having to remember each week!
The parent interface looks like this:
The child’s view looks like this:
My Thoughts:
The system sounds complicated, but is extremely simple to set up. Short videos for both parent and child explain the system. After watching them, it took only minutes to implement our family “bank.”
Emily was thrilled by the entire concept. She eagerly set up several goals and started planning ways to earn more money to put toward her goals. I think this is a great idea that will be very useful in our home for teaching money management. Best of all, it is FREE! Try it out for yourself!

Family Mint is a free program. I received no compensation for the writing of this review.
Family Mint

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

College Visits

The past few weeks have been a flurry of college tours and auditions for Katie. Since she plans to major in music, every school requires an audition and/or interview as part of the admissions and scholarship process. This is making for a very busy month!

This past weekend, we made the 7 hour trip to Cincinnati for Katie’s audition at Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. I was blessed to have my friend, Becky, come along to help with the driving and navigation as well as to keep me company while Katie was off “doing her thing.”

DSC07925Being Alabama folk, we loved seeing all the snow. Fortunately, the roads were clear and the weather was actually in the 30’s and 40’s while we were there—similar to what we’ve been having at home.



A few weeks ago, Katie interviewed at Birmingham Southern College. How is this for small school hospitality—her own parking space!


Monday, February 22, 2010

Great Source for Quality Toys


I recently discovered a wonderful source of quality children’s toys and educational items. All Children’s is primarily a kids furniture store, but they sell an amazing variety of toys—over 9000 items. Most of these items are not the TV-show themed, plastic toys you find at your local discount store, but items with a lot of learning value. I love the classic wooden toys and block sets, but what I am really eying are the amazing science kits. We love hand-on activities in our home school and these look like so much fun! I am trying to decide which item I like best!


Watch for an upcoming giveway for a science kit from  All Children’s!
I received no compensation for the writing of this post.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Giveaway—Coconut Oil

image Michelle, at Delighting in the Journey, is sponsoring a giveaway for a 32oz jar of Tropical Traditions Virgin Coconut Oil. I have tried this product and it makes the BEST cookies and smells so good! Michelle has several recipes and photos of foods she has made with coconut oil at her blog. Go check it out!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Homeschooling More than One

image_thumb1For the past several years, I’ve had only one child at home for school. There are certainly advantages to homeschooling an “only” –plenty of individual attention, limited distractions, freedom for Mom to get out during the day—but, I miss having a houseful at home!

I know homeschoolers that have a complete, individual curriculum for each child, typically a text-book based program. That seems to work for them, although it makes me tired to even think about teaching and grading 3, 4, or 5 different levels for each subject!

When I was teaching three at home, I had a different approach. Each child worked at his or her own level in math, spelling, and possibly grammar. We all worked together for history and science, with each child absorbing and doing as much as he or she was able. I loved the atmosphere created by us all sitting in the living room reading and discussing biographies or “living” science books together. The children worked together on science experiments and history projects. They might each write a report on the same subject with me expecting more length and quality from the older ones. A first grader might not have gained as much from the book I was reading aloud, but she was learning (and learning more than most first graders in my opinion). The kids learned from and encouraged each other.

We used curriculums such as Five in a Row, Sonlight, and Diana Waring’s history materials, as well as interest-led studies that I put together myself.

I really think we learned more, enjoyed school more, and actually made life much easier by combining subjects as much as possible. That’s the beauty of homeschooling—We can do whatever works for our families instead of being pinned to a strict scope and sequence put out by some “expert!”

I am participating in The TOS Crew Blog Cruise.

Math Mammoth

image Math Mammoth offers a complete math curriculum for grades 1 to 5.  The company also offers topical worktexts and books of supplementary worksheets. I was given the opportunity to review the Light Blue (complete curriculum) 4th grade and received my copy in e-book form.
The Light Blue Series:
-covers grades 1-5
- is mastery-oriented
-emphasizes conceptual development in a logical sequence
-practically self-teaching—only a little teacher involvement needed
My Thoughts:
I am highly impressed with the Math Mammoth curriculum.  Each lesson begins with clear explanations and worked sample problems for the concept being introduced or practiced. The scope and sequence is broad, and the lessons are varied from day to day. There is a strong emphasis on mental math, word problems are used extensively, and each chapter concludes with a review lesson.
I will mention that we have had quite a few frustrating days and even meltdowns with Math Mammoth. The program does require children to think. You won’t see pages of very similar problems here. Instead, you will find multi-step work problems that are each different and that require children to truly understand what they are doing. Emily found this quite challenging at times, but I think it was good for her.
Also, although review lessons are included, the daily lessons are arranged by topic. If your child requires daily review (like Saxon provides), Math Mammoth may not meet your needs.
I have used many math curriculums over the years with all four children—seven, I think, including this one—and would rate Math Mammoth in the top two.  I really like math programs that teach kids how to think and that teach them different ways to look at problems and this fits the bill.
I think Math Mammoth is a fairly advanced program, so if you are interested in trying it out, be sure to look at the sample lessons on their website and have your child take the placement test. A complete one-year course sells for $29.70 for the download version.  A print version is also available for slightly more. To check out Math Mammoth further, sign up for the “Math Mammoth Tour,” which includes 280 free worksheets and sample pages and a series of seven emails that explain Math Mammoth. Also, read more reviews of Math Mammoth at the TOS Homeschool Crew blog.
I received this fourth grade curriculum free from Math Mammoth in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Graphics Toolbox Creations

I’ve been playing around with a cool new graphics program called Graphics Toolbox that I’m reviewing for the TOS Homeschool Crew—actual review to follow later. Here are few of my “creations.”

Valentine’s Card 

New Banner Ad
games banner

File Folder Game cover:Inventors cover
This was already designed on MS Word, but I changed the existing border, modifying the colors in the border to coordinate better with the existing vines.

Molly’s Money-Saving Digest-February

image I just finished reading the latest issue of Molly’s Digest.  As always, it is packed with tips on living creatively and joyfully while saving money. The “Begin with the Basics” column this month focuses on potatoes—a staple of any frugal diet! Learn all about the types of potatoes, the cost per serving for potatoes, then try out some new recipes, including some for microwave potato soup, twice baked potatoes, potato latkes, and colcannon (an Irish dish). The menu section includes recipes for herb-crusted pork loin, chicken pot pie, homemade fruit pizza, and more. Yum! I will be printing out a lot of these!

Since this is February, and we are all thinking about showing love to each other (we hope!), Molly includes several pages of ideas about how ways to show love to spouse, children, teens, friends, and neighbors.

As always, there is a “frugal testimony,” there are pages to add to your home organizer, decorating tips, and more.

Molly’s Digest sells for $4.95 at The Schoolhouse Store.

I received this issue of Molly’s Digest free for review purposes. No other compensation was provided. Affiliate links are contained in this post.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Noticer by Andy Andrews

image The Noticer is the tale of a small gulf coast town that is visited by a mysterious stranger. Who this man is and where he has come from, no one knows. He to appears and disappears suddenly and seems to know about the lives of everyone in town, often appearing during a crisis. Whomever he interacts with is changed for the better by his probing questions and insightful advice.

This book was an enjoyable piece of fiction with a creative storyline. But more than that, every chapter is potentially life-changing for the reader. The questions that “Jones” asks of each character and the bits of wisdom he shares invite the reader to ponder his own life and relationships.

“What is it about me that other people could change if they could?”

“Whatever you focus upon, increases.”

“A true friend brings out the best in you. Do yours?”

“It’s time to let your history stop controlling your destiny.”

This novel has given me quite a few nuggets to “chew on.” I recommend this book for just the right balance of light fiction and inspiration.

I received this book free as part of the BookSneeze Blogger program. I was not required to write a positive review and these opinions are my own.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Do you want to join the Homeschool Crew?

The TOS Homeschool Crew is now recruiting members for the 2010-2011 school year. If you are selected, you will receive 5 or more homeschool curriculum items to review each month. You then spread the news about the item through blogging or email. This is a big job, but I have had a lot of fun trying out lots of new items and making new friends on the Crew. You can read more about the try-out process here.


Saturday, February 6, 2010

Homeschool Library Builder

Homeschool Library Builder is a Christian family-run book business dedicated to  providing great literature at affordable prices. The company stocks a wide variety of both new and used books. This site is a nice one-stop-shopping source for parents looking to stock their home libraries and purchase curriculum and less than full price.

One feature of the site that I particularly like is the ability for the shopper to “search by curriculum.” If you are looking for books to use with a particular curriculum (Beautiful Feet, Five in a Row, Sonlight, Tapestry of Grace, etc.) it is very easy to see at a glance just what is available.

Homeschool Library Builder is offering 20% off for the entire month of February, so this might be a great time to stock up!

This review was prepared for the TOS Homeschool Crew.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Mouse House! Instant Challenge

We completed another of Michelle  at Delightful Learning’s  “Instant Challenges” yesterday. This time, Emily was able to convince her creative big sister, Katie (17), to help!

The challenge was to create a room for a mouse using the supplied materials (paper clips, cotton balls, paper cups, cloth, can, mailing labels, envelopes, rubber band, paper bag, and paper plate). The time limit was 5 minutes. The girls then had 2 minutes to explain their creation.

The girls worked surprisingly well together. I was ordered to leave the room, but I didn’t hear any squabbling and they ended up with a finished product, so they must have cooperated, right??

They went over the time limit a bit, finishing in about 7 minutes.

Here is the finished bedroom for a mouse:


Here are some views with the roof removed, showing the wardrobe (a disassembled envelope stabilized with a paper clip and mailing label), nightstand, and bed (paper cup with blankets and pillows made from the cotton ball and labels.) Pretty good for a 7 minute project!


DSC07922Thanks to Michelle for another fun idea!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Math Tutor DVD










Having Math Problems? We Can Help! Guaranteed!

This is the claim made on the Math Tutor DVD site. Math Tutor offers an extensive selection of DVDs that provide help in math. Most of the DVDs are aimed at middle to high schoolers and cover subjects such as algebra, calculus, physics, and probability. Several, however, are geared for younger children.

I received copies of “Young Minds—Numbers and Counting”  and “the Basic Word Problem Tutor” to review.  Math Tutor DVD also sells a Basic Math DVD that is aimed at elementary ages.

Young Minds-Numbers and Counting ($19.99)

This DVD for preschoolers is stunning! This colorful video focuses on counting and numbers from 1 to 10, but incorporates other concepts, such as colors, names of animals, fruits, and other objects. The photography is beautiful and the background classical music is lovely and calming. This is sure to be a DVD that a young child will enjoy and that the parent will not be tired of after dozens of plays through!

Basic Word Problem Tutor ($26.99)  includes eight hours of material, arranged by topic. The topics range from adding and subtracting whole numbers to fractions, percents, and ratios. Each 30 minute segment consists of the instructor solving word problems on a white board and explaining the process. Emily commented that the addition and subtraction problems were very easy, which is understandable, since she is in fourth grade. However, by the third segment (multiplication), the problems were becoming more challenging for her. I thought that the problems were very clearly and patiently explained. I did wish at times, though, that the instructor would draw a picture to illustrate the problem before he began to solve it. He explained the problem orally, then used the white board only to do the computation. I also noticed that he used the older terms, “carry” and “borrow” instead of the more current term, “regroup.” That could be confusing to some children. Don’t expect a lot of bells and whistles in this DVD. It contains clear teaching, but is not terribly entertaining. Overall, I think this DVD would be a nice supplement to any math program, especially with a child who struggles with word problems.

I received these two DVDs  free in exchange for my honest review.