Sunday, July 12, 2020

Just How Bad Is Your Vacuum Sweeper?!?

My husband and I have been limping long with the same old, decrepit vacuums since before we moved from VA.  We’ve been here in TX now for over 3 years.  These vacuums both have things wrong with them.  The one we use regularly is missing a wheel (can you imagine how difficult it is to push it?), and we’ve bought lots of replacement filters and belts for it in the last year.  Our compact vacuum is missing the clamp that holds the canister on, so we hold it on with a bungee cord.  Now, mind you, we aren’t poor, but we’re very thrifty, as evidenced by how we’ve made do with these old vacuum cleaners for so long.  We weren’t in a rush to replace them since we only have 2 carpeted bedrooms in the house and 3 area rugs.  But it was in the back of my mind that if I stumbled upon a deal, I should maybe get a new one.

Last weekend, I was shopping at our Ollie’s Bargain Outlet on a day when everything in the store was 15% off.  I always stock up on my husband K-cup coffee pods when I have a coupon like that, so that’s why I was there.  As I was walking around the store trying to think of what else we might need while there was such a good sale going on, I stumbled upon the vacuum cleaner section.  Aha!  Perfect time to purchase a new vacuum.  They had many reconditioned vacuums, and they were super cheap.  They still came with a 6-month warranty, so it seemed like a good option.  I didn’t want to spend a lot since we mostly use a pet broom and dustpan for all the hard floors that we have. 

I wanted to stick with a Bissell since we’ve owned that brand for many, many PowerForce Helix TURBO Rewind | Upright Vacuum Cleaner | BISSELL ...years, and we are familiar with their filters, belts, and how to tackle clogs.  I usually buy one of their pet vacuums since we have 3 dogs who live in the house full-time.  But as I got on my phone and started looking up the various models for reviews, I stumbled upon one that was not a pet vacuum, but it had tons of excellent reviews that said it had incredible suction and was great for pet hair.  With the coupon, it ended up being about $42, so I couldn’t pass it up.  It’s the Bissell Powerforce Helix Turbo Rewind (model 1797).  There was only one in the store with the Rewind feature, and that’s something I really wanted…the ability to draw the cord inside automatically so you’re not left winding and unwinding a cord on the outside of the vacuum.  I had that before and loved it. 

I got it home, and it only took a couple of minutes to assemble…pretty simple, really…no instructions needed.  It came with just a couple of basic accessories.  It’s a no-frills vacuum…pretty basic in design, pretty compact, and very lightweight.  There’s no HEPA filter, but the other filters are all washable, permanent filters, which is great. 

It had been 6 days since my husband had last vacuumed our bedroom carpet, so it was due.  I plugged it in and gave it a whirl. Holy smokes, Batman!  It was amazing!  I could immediately hear what sounded like sand or sediment going into the collection cup, and I could see the dog hair spinning around.  Mind you, I was just vacuuming in front of the door to our patio.  I kept going over and over the same area, as I could hear that sediment sound continuing.  After such a short time, we both noticed the collection cup was already full!  I turned it off and emptied the cup into the trash can, and we were absolutely AMAZED at how much straight dirt and sediment had been sucked up from the underpad of the carpet!  It was like the bedroom had not been vacuumed since we’ve lived here, and it hadn’t even been long since we had shampooed the carpet in there! 

In a bit of a shock, we started up the vacuum again, and let me just tell you that before we were through, we had emptied that collection cup FIVE TIMES in just our bedroom/bathroom suite!  And most of the room is taken up by our extremely heavy wooden bed, so that carpet didn’t even get touched underneath!

I immediately went on to vacuum the other bedroom and had a similar experience in there.  Then my husband took it to the 3 area rugs that notoriously have dog hair clinging to them 5 minutes after you’ve vacuumed, and they looked like new afterwards!  The colors were so vibrant, and it sucked up all the hair that likes to cling to the edges of the wool.  Amazing! 

So I just wanted to share that this little vacuum is quite the powerhouse, and it’s worth every penny!  If you live near an Ollie’s store, you can get it for about half the retail price reconditioned.  But even if you bought it new, it would be worth every penny! 

Saturday, July 11, 2020

FREE Slurpee Day…Don’t Miss Out!!!

Yes, today is, in fact, the infamous July 11th…AKA Free Slurpee Day at 7-ElevenImage result for slurpee stores.  Although 7-Eleven did cancel the traditional celebration where you get a free small Slurpee just for stopping by, they did offer an alternative.  In the app, you can score a FREE medium Slurpee at any time throughout the month of July as a “reward.” 

In the spirit of the absent celebration, my daughter and I stopped by with our refill cups to treat everyone in the family to a Slurpee this afternoon.  To our pleasant surprise, the clerk handed us a voucher for a FREE Slurpee for each of us that’s valid from Monday through early August.  Yay!  So swing by your local 7-Eleven store and get yourself a voucher, too. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

REVIEW: MaxScholar Orton-Gillingham Software by MaxScholar

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

My youngest child doesn’t have any reading difficulties, but I’m providing an informative review of the MaxScholar Orton-Gillingham Software by MaxScholar for you to help you learn more about it and find out if it might be a good fit for your student(s).


Home ScreenThe MaxScholar Orton-Gillingham Software is an online reading intervention program designed to improve reading skills, language, and performance skills in children through a variety of multi-sensory online activities.  It is also aimed at helping children with learning difficulties such as dyslexia.

This software bundles together an assortment of phonics and reading programs.  The program can be accessed on any device, and there are even apps available!

A MaxGuru Pack subscription gives one child twelve months of access and includes MaxPhonics, MaxReading, MaxWords, MaxMusic, MaxPlaces, MaxBios, and MaxVocab for $279/year.  You can try out the program in a 15-day trial for FREE.


In the teacher dashboard, I can view student progress, reports, set up my students, access corresponding materials, and there is a video instruction section that is coming soon.  I actually got to view these videos outside of the website, and users should find them quite helpful.  Many things work by default settings, but there are also many things you can manually adjust as the teacher, such as who takes what placement test, or what grade level to be placed in.  For instance, if you choose PK-2 grade level, the student will only see MaxPhonics and MaxReading.  For grades 3 and up, all of the areas of the program will be visible and accessible to the student.

Teacher Dashboard

MaxPhonics includes four modules:  Pre-K, Alphabet, Blends, and Digraphs.  It also includes games.  A tutorial takes you through how to navigate the program the first time you enter it.


You choose a group of letters to practice, and visual, tactile, and auditory practice options are offered.  You can see the letter, watch it being drawn and trace it with your finger if you choose, and listen to words that may or may not start with the given letter sound and select the correct images on the screen.  This is in module 1, the Pre-K level.  It appears that the modules progress as each activity is completed, so that you would automatically move on to the next level.

In MaxReading, you can choose to read a recommended chapter, or you can directly choose the level that you want to work with from 1-12.  There are also games to play. 


When I selected level 12 and a chapter within that level, it asked me to read the selection and highlight things like the topic, main idea, and important details.  Then the program quickly grades your highlighting and shows you the best answer side-by-side with yours, along with your score.  Next, it walked me through creating an outline from my previous highlighting.  Then it asked me to do my choice of writing activity:  a summary, open-ended question, or general question.  If I chose to do a summary, it allowed me to reference the outline I had just created to write my summary.  The other two options allowed me to reference the full article with my previous highlighting in tact.  The last step had me answer a series of five comprehension questions about the chapter.  Then it gave me a final chapter score and said I’d scored well enough to unlock the games!  It let me choose from Hangman, Definitions, or Word Search.

In MaxWords, you can select from five areas of study:  CLOVER (syllabication), Spelling Rules, Prefixes & Suffixes, Latin Roots, or Greek Roots.


These areas each have a number of activities and quizzes to help you learn and practice within each learning segment.  There’s a lot of material to cover here!

In MaxMusic, you can pick an artist or play a game.  When you choose an artist, you can then select one of their songs.  The lyrics appear on the screen.  You have the opportunity to read the words, and then you’re asked to identify a part of speech like the verbs.  The program grades your responses and shows you the correct responses.  Next, it shows you the lyrics with some missing words, only indicating the part of speech that belongs there.  When you click on the part of speech, a drop-down menu gives you several possible answers for what the missing word(s) might be.  You select all of your responses, and the program grades it for you.  This is a great activity to test both your grammar and memory skills!  I found it to be a lot of fun personally.  It’s an effective way to sharpen your ability to recall details and also practice identifying parts of speech.  What’s more, there are a lot of artists and songs to choose from so the activity appeals to a wide audience.  In the games section of MaxMusic, you can choose from two games:  Pair the Sound (in which you play a memory match game with letter sounds) or MaxGuitar (in which you use a mixture of timing and coordination to strike the corresponding arrow keys as the symbol passes over a timing bar).  The program gives you a rating score at the end of each game.

In MaxVocab, you can use the online dictionary or play games.  In the dictionary, you can choose a level and topic, just like you did with the reading chapters in MaxReading.  The program then gives you a list of related words as you might see them in a dictionary.  You can click on the definition, see the word used in a sentence, or view synonyms and antonyms for the word.


In the games section, you can again play Hangman, Definitions, or Word Search.  The hangman game gives you a definition to help you figure out the word.  The definitions game has you match a set of words with the definitions by clicking and dragging them together.  The word search game has you click on the first and last letter of each of the listed words that you locate in the puzzle in order to highlight them.

In MaxPlaces, you select a city from the map.  Then you are prompted to read an article about that city with the option to highlight important text in various colors.  Next, you are asked a series of comprehension questions, and you only get once chance to get them right.  At the end of the quiz, you are given a grade with a goal of scoring at least 60% correctly before moving on.


In MaxBios, you can choose from seven categories of important and influential figures and read theirl biographies:  Entertainment, Fascinating Men, Old School Musicians, Hip-Hop Artists, Amazing Women, Business, and Star Athletes. 


Once you select a category, you can select a famous person/group from the list.  Then, just like in MaxPlaces, you can highlight important details in the text of the biography before being asked to answer comprehension questions in a single attempt.

Wow!  What I learned by going through the various areas of this program myself is that there is no specific targeted age range persay, because there is material here for all ages.  The program is so rich with content and potential benefit to students that really any student would find benefit for using the program!  I honestly think that even an adult or college-aged student would benefit from the skills practice with word roots, reading comprehension, finding key details in a reading selection, writing an outline, and summarizing a reading selection as a writing assignment.  These are skills that anyone would benefit from practicing.  I feel like this is not a program that just touches the surface of usefulness, but instead, can deeply enhance reading/writing skills of users of all ages.  There is truly a vast amount of content available in the program, and the learning opportunities abound.  When I initially explored the website before signing up for review, I really did not get a nearly adequate impression of all the site has to offer.  For that reason, I would highly encourage you to give the 15-day free trial some consideration so you can try it out for yourself and get a chance to see all of the valuable and extensive content it offers for your student(s).

Check out what other Crew members have to say about this program by clicking the banner below.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

FREE Chalupa Cravings Box from Taco Bell TODAY!!!

Chalupa Cravings Deal | Build Yours! Taco Bell

If you have the Taco Bell app, you can pre-order a Chalupa Cravings Box for FREE and pick up through the drive-thru today only!!! 

This is a $5 value meal that includes a chalupa supreme, a beefy 5-Layer burrito, a crunchy taco, cinnamon twists, and a medium drink! 

Now that’s a freebie!

*** Be aware that the extra site traffic on both the website and the app have caused both to crash.  Many customers are reporting they can’t utilize the deal, as you must be able to order in the app.  So double check the functionality before heading out the door.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

My Square Foot Garden Success

In my first year here in TX, I picked up a cheap Aerogarden Ultra at a local overstock store.  It was cheap because it didn’t have a box or instructions and had intermittent electronic issues, but mostly, it worked fine.  I bought the special seed pods that create miniature plants and had myself a little salad garden with lettuce and tomatoes in my kitchen.  But what I really wanted was a full-blown square foot garden like I’d always had in VA.

So last year, which was 2 years into living here, we came up with a solid plan for a garden and spent our Mother’s Day building it as a family.  The20200429_130628 irrigation system was the key to success.  I had a great harvest last summer and fall, so I knew we’d implemented a great setup.  In fact, this summer, I’m still harvesting strawberries and kale from last year’s crop, which is still going strong!  I cut back the dinosaur kale, and it quickly grew monstrously large and abundant all over again.  My strawberries are way more productive this second season than in the first, also.

This year, I wanted to use seeds to start my own garden plants indoors instead of picking up plants from the local nursery, so I ordered a seed starter tray that overlays the top of my Aerogarden.  It turned my 7-pod system into a 50-pod seed starter!  The early part of the year was really chaotic at my house, so I got my seeds started a bit late.  But germination is so fast and easy with the Aerogarden system that I quickly made up for lost time.  I planted in late March, and 27 days later, I had already begun transplanting into the garden and still had this left growing in my Aerogarden.

The tomato plants quickly got so tall that I could no longer raise up the light hood, which meant they, too, were ready for transplant! 

It’s been 3 months, and I just transplanted the final 2 pepper plants into the garden.  They were so lush and green and already had peppers and many blooms growing on them!  Taking them from a hydroponic environment into soil in the scorching TX sun is always a big shock to the plants, so I make sure I turn on the irrigation system right away to give them a good soaking.  This really helps with the transition.

So here is what my garden looks like today.  I’ve got squash, zucchini, strawberries, bell peppers of all kinds, green beans, three kinds of tomatoes (cherry, Roma, and 4th of July hybrid), kale, cucumbers, lettuce, and the herbs I planted last year (rosemary, Italian flat-leaf parsley, and chives).  It’s going strong!  We just make sure we water it for half an hour every day.  Again, the irrigation system was the key to success!


I’m very pleased with how well my square foot garden has worked out here in TX.  My neighbors warned me that it was difficult to grow much, and that while plants might be green, they don’t produce because of the harsh sun.  But we seem to have overcome that obstacle!  I’m looking forward to a great harvest this year.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Exclusive Digital Sale @ WriteShop!!!

WriteShop offers incredible writing programs suitable for your homeschooled children of all ages from elementary through high school.  Choose from the WriteShop Primary, Junior, or the original series to best suit your children’s needs and skill levels.

My middle schooler with ADHD was delayed in beginning formal writing instruction, so the WriteShop Junior series is perfect for him.  We completed WriteShop Junior Level D for 6th (read a previous review I wrote), and we’re starting Level E on Monday for 7th grade.  We’ll wrap up middle school with Level F next year for 8th grade, and then I believe he’ll have a strong foundation and the confidence to begin writing in public high school.

As an affiliate of WriteShop, I have an exclusive sale promo code for my readers that you can only get from me.  Get 25% off ALL DIGITAL DOWNLOAD products at with code QUARTEROFF throughout the month of June.  That’s right!  This code will expire on June 30th, so shop now!

Saturday, June 13, 2020

The Return of Bountiful Baskets

Bountiful Baskets Food Co-op - Home | Facebook

Have you ever tried out Bountiful Baskets?  It’s a produce co-op where you can order locally grown fruits and vegetables each week and pick them up on the Saturday delivery day.  You can order on Mondays or Tuesdays for pickup that same Saturday.  There’s no obligation whatsoever, so you can choose to order or not order each week, as seldom or as often as you’d like!

They have been expanding to various states, and a lot of site locations have been added.  I used to participate in it at a site that was conveniently just about 15 minutes away from me.  I quit for a while when I was following a specific nutrition plan and needed a particular list of items for my meal plans, and when I tried to order again months later, my pickup site had been eliminated!  There wasn’t a participating site close enough to me for quite a while.  Periodically, I checked the site location list to see what new sites were being added.  This week, low and behold, I noticed a new pickup site just 20 minutes away from me, so I decided to order again.

Each order starts with a “Conventional Box,” which consists of about 50% vegetables and 50% fruit.  Now what exactly comes in each box is a bit of a surprise.  It’s all seasonal items, so you generally get whatever is in season in the region where you live.  I usually check their Facebook page for recent photos posted by customers of what they actually received in order to get a good idea of what might be coming the next week.  Many states have their own state-specific Bountiful Baskets Facebook page, so search for that if you want local updates and posts.  (If you live in TX, here is our Facebook page so you can see photos and comments by local customers).

Then there are a number of special “add-on” boxes available that you have the option to add to your basic order.  The cost is always listed for each add-on box, and they also give a basic description of what types of things they hope to include in that box.  It’s usually pretty close to what you actually get, so you can get a good idea of what to expect by reading the description before you order.  You can’t order an add-on box without ordering a conventional box, though…the conventional box is the basic requirement before you add on any specialty boxes.

The very first time you order, you have to pay a $3 basket fee.  But once you’ve paid that, you never have to pay it again.  That’s because under normal circumstances, they sort the produce into baskets that the site manager has to maintain for the distribution day.  The fee ensures there are enough baskets for all the customers who use the site.  You would select the appropriate baskets and transfer the items to your own container, leaving the baskets behind for your next order.  But due to the pandemic, they are practicing contactless pickup.  Now, you drive up into a line of vehicles to wait your turn, and someone loads your order into your vehicle in produce boxes. 

This week, I got the conventional box plus the “Summer Snack Pack” add-on box, which is mostly fruits and a couple of snacking veggies for my kids to enjoy. There’s also a small processing fee of $1.50 on every order.  All told, my 2 boxes of goodies cost me $33.50. Here’s what I got!

Conventional Box $18Conventional Box $18

Summer Snack Pack $14Summer Snack Pack $14

Everything was fresh and delicious.  I was really pleased!  With 3 heads of loose leaf lettuce, we decided we’d better have a salad bar for dinner tonight, so we did.  Yum!  Those carrots were huge, and my youngest son and I snacked on one of those right away.  They were very good.  I was happy to see so many fresh green beans (I love to roast them with garlic and olive oil) and 2 bags of sugar snap peas (my kids love to dip them in ranch dressing)!  There were 2 whole bags of apples plus a couple of loose ones, so maybe there’s an apple pie in our future…sounds good to me!

If you haven’t give Bountiful Baskets a try, go ahead and check their site and see if they have a pickup location near you.  If they are in your state already but aren’t quite close enough to you yet, keep checking back regularly, because new sites are added all the time.

Since it’s a co-op, everyone who works at the distribution site is a volunteer.  They request that customers sign up to take a turn now and then at manning the distribution site.  That’s what keeps it going!  And spread the word to your friends and neighbors.  Sufficient orders and cheerful volunteers are what keep each site on the list of participating locations.

Here’s to eating more healthy, fresh, local produce!

Bountiful Baskets ~ Texas - Home | Facebook