Saturday, December 31, 2016

Christmas 2016

Since Christmas fell on Sunday this year, we had a spur-of-the-moment idea on Saturday morning to celebrate that day instead but drag it out by letting the kids open just one present every hour until all the presents were gone.  That way, the excitement would continue all day long, and we wouldn’t be rushed trying to get everybody done and out the door for church on Sunday morning.


It went so well that I think we may do Christmas the same way every year from now on!  Spreading it out throughout the day was way more fun and far more relaxing than the frenzy of opening everything at once.  Not only was it easier to control the mess, but the kids had a chance to enjoy each gift for a whole hour before coming back for the next surprise.  There was a buzz in the air every hour as they watched the clock and dutifully appeared miraculously on time!  LOL


It was really a lot of fun.  At the end of the day, Steve and I looked at each other and wondered aloud why we hadn’t thought of this before.  It was brilliant!  I think we have now established a new tradition in the Burgess household!

So then instead of taking the kids out to look at Christmas lights on Christmas Eve as I’ve always done in the past, we just went out on Christmas night instead.  No one was around, so it was easy to visit even the most popular locations without a big crowd or lots of traffic.  That was nice.


Overall, we had a wonderful holiday weekend.  We enjoyed it very much.  I even made a whole spread just like at Thanksgiving for our Christmas Eve dinner with rolls baked from scratch and made plenty of extra mashed potatoes so we could have my mom’s famous “fry-up” for breakfast before church on Christmas morning.  That was a great way to start the day!  After church, I made a huge batch of fruit salad, too, and my kids loved getting to have that again (we usually only have it at Thanksgiving).  Steve got to take a bowl of it with his lunch every day early in the week, and he was happy to have that little extra treat, too.


This was the last Christmas where all of my kids are still kids.  By next Christmas, Hayden will officially be an adult, Haylee will be a teenager, and Holden will be turning double digits.  That’s so hard to believe!  I truly must be getting old.  LOL

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, everyone!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

My Favorite Recipes This Week

Breakfast Pick:  High Octane Pancakes

This was the thinnest pancake batter I’ve ever used, and I probably made it more High-Octane Pancakes Recipeso by substituting unsweetened applesauce for the small amount of oil that was supposed to be in it, but once I adjusted the temperature just right on my griddle, it became easy to work with.  Let me just say that these were some of the tastiest homemade pancakes I’ve ever made, and they are a real nutritional powerhouse!  They were not bitter at all, and they contained a fair amount of wheat germ and whole grain oats.  I added even more protein by using nonfat plain Greek yogurt.  Delicious!  They were surprisingly sweet and only required a small amount of syrup, which for me, was sugar-free by choice.  My kids really liked these.  I quadrupled this recipe to make 16 pancakes (8 servings) to feed my family of 5 and have some to put up in the freezer for easy weekday breakfasts for my hubby before he leaves for work.  Definitely give these a try!

Lunch Pick:  Turkey Vegetable Soup

On these cold winter days, I love to warm my belly with a good hot soup at lunchtime.  I really enjoyed this hearty soup!  It made so much that it fed us for Vegetable Turkey Soup Recipeseveral days, and I even had a little bit left over to put in the freezer for a quick lunch when it’s just me.  Even my kids liked this soup, because I used shredded carrots instead of slicing them so that they would disappear (my daughter dislikes cooked carrots).  I cut up all of the veggies so small that they were not very noticeable, and that passes her finicky texture test.  It was a delicious and filling soup, and I never got tired of it.  I served it with a whole wheat roll with light butter and a little bit of shredded 2% sharp cheddar cheese on top.  Yum!  I actually made this in my electric pressure cooker to make it super easy.  After I sautéed the meat in the bottom, I added all of the other ingredients at once and set it on “soup” for 10 minutes.  Done! 

Dinner Pick:  Gingered Pepper Steak

This was a downright amazing stir fry dish!  My whole family agrGingered Pepper Steak Recipeeed that the sauce was just right.  It had just the right amount of ginger and rich, Asian flavor…enough flavor to make serving it over rice a nice balance and not bland at all.  My kids really loved this, but so did the adults!  The beef was surprisingly tender, and the marinade really kicked it up a notch.  I actually didn’t marinate it ahead of time.  I really just let the meat set in the bag with the sauce while I was preparing the other parts of the dish, and the meat basically soaked up all of the sauce in a short amount of time so that there wasn’t much of anything to drain off.  I used a London Broil and sliced it into thin strips.  It was fabulous!

Dessert Pick:  Strawberry Custard Tart

This recipe is actually for a Raspberry Custard Tart, but I have one child who doesn’t like raspberries so I adjusted it to use fresh strawberries and Raspberry Custard Tart Recipestrawberry spreadable fruit instead of raspberry.  It was so yummy!  The homemade almond egg custard layer was so delicious.  My teenage son really enjoyed it.  In fact, he said it was one of the best desserts he’s ever had.  It was a light, refreshing treat.  The only thing about it is that it gets soggy from the cut fresh fruit overnight, so it’s definitely best to serve it immediately.  If you don’t think you and your guests can finish it at one meal, then you should probably reduce the recipe by half and make a smaller version of it.  Also, I used a ceramic fluted quiche/pie plate, and the crust really wanted to stick to it.  Next time, I’d probably use a non-stick true pie plate or disposable tin so it would be easy to serve up the slices without breaking the crust.  But it really was a tasty treat!  It would be so easy to change up the fruit flavor to whatever suits you best…it’s a very versatile recipe!

And while I’m on the topic of cooking, you’ve gotta love the electric pressure cooker!  It’s my favorite and most used kitchen appliance, and believe me when I say that I have a lot of small kitchen appliances.  I’m sort of a collector, you might say.  I just treated myself to a new and bigger pressure cooker for Christmas, and I love it!  If you are in the market for one, I highly recommend investing in a Go Wise for the best value.  It comes with a stainless steel inner pot, which is essential for easy cleaning and even heating.  It also comes with a stainless steel handled steam rack and a handled steamer basket.  That’s an awesome accessory I didn’t have before, and I’ve already used it so much!  I got the Go Wise 8 qt., and it was only $80.  That’s an incredible value for all it came with, and it has a ton of preset buttons for anything you’d want to make (including yogurt!), along with manual adjustments for time and pressure.  It’s awesome!  I can cook a whole 5 pound bag of potatoes for mashing in 10 minutes and still have room to spare.  I really needed the bigger size for my large family, because we like to have leftovers sometimes! 

That’s it for now!  I hope you enjoy trying some of this week’s delicious recipes from my Taste of Home Comfort Food Diet plan cookbooks.  We continue to try new things every day and enjoy delicious comfort foods that are healthy and have a reasonable amount of calories. 

I hope you have a Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Looking Ahead to 8th Grade

We will start our new school year in June, and it will be my daughter’s last year as a homeschooler.  She’ll be attending the local high school after that.  This year has gone pretty well so far overall, and now I’m already looking ahead to what curriculum we’ll want to use for her 8th grade year.

She’s using BookShark this year, and she’s pretty happy with the amount of reading as compared with Sonlight, so we’ll continue with that.  They just came out with BookShark 8, but the history topic is the History of Science.  That doesn’t especially interest her, so I think we’ll just use the books from the old Sonlight Core 100, but order the BookShark instructor’s guide for that core and use it for 8th grade (BookShark uses that core for 9th grade).  That covers American History in depth, and I think that will better prepare her for entry into public school the following year.  We like the 4-day schedule from BookShark, and I’ve already purchased Apologia Who Is God? curriculum for our bible study.

For math, she’s using Unlock Math Pre-Algebra this year, and she has improved so much!  It’s working wonderfully for her, and I wish we could continue it, but I just can’t afford the $250 for the Algebra program.  It’s an online curriculum, so I can’t even pass it on to the next kid.  So I’ve decided to use Teaching Textbooks Algebra for her next year.  My son has been using that program this year, and he likes it well enough.

For language arts, I’m still investigating my options.  I’m not focused on that part right now.  That’ll be next on my mind for consideration.

For science, that’s my big thought process right now.  She’s currently using BookShark Science 7, and it’s been a really success for her.  She loves the weekly experiments so much, and she enjoys the variety of books and topics.  She really wanted the same kind of program for next year, but BookShark tells me that they just won’t have Science 8 ready in time for us to use it next year.  So that leaves me with a big dilemma.  She really likes the hands-on stuff, and she also likes the 4-day scheduling.  I have hunted around for a physical science curriculum over the last week or so, and I stumbled upon something I’d never even heard of before.  It’s called Exploration Education’s Physical Science program.  It looks awesome!

There are several levels available of the curriculum.  I think I’ve settled on getting this, but I’m unsure whether to get the standard version (recommended for grades 4-6) or the advanced version (recommended for grades 7-10).  She falls in the advanced level for grade 8, but it’s a 5-day curriculum.  I don’t think I could convince her to do 5 days’ worth in 4, and I know she doesn’t want to have school on Fridays when we have gym class.  So I’m leaning towards the standard version because it is a 3-day curriculum.  The only thing about that is that there are three additional building projects in the advanced, and they look like the coolest projects of all!  It includes a large glider, a mini-house with electrical lighting, and a working steamboat.  That sounds like fun!  I love that this curriculum is computer based.  The student reads through the lesson on the computer with lots of pictures and sometimes videos, enters their answers, and if they get it wrong, it sends them back to the lesson to find the correct answer before continuing.  Once they have the correct answer, they record that information in the printed workbook so they have all the correct information in one place to use as a study guide.  They also fill out lab reports on all of their experiments.  It seems right up her alley, and I love that it’s self-grading!

If you have any experience with this curriculum, please share your thoughts on it.  It’s got a fairly hefty price tag, as everything is consumable except for the CD-ROM, and it’s either $123 or $145, depending upon which level you get.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Healthy Recipes to Share

I’m having so much success and enjoyment using healthy recipes from the Comfort Food Diet cookbooks from Taste of Home that I’ve decided I’d like to periodically share with you some of my favorite recipes from recent weeks.

I love using my electric pressure cooker to prepare meals, because it’s so easy, really requires little to no prep work, and it saves SO much time in slaving over the stove and in actual cooking time.  I often throw frozen ingredients or dry pasta or rice in there, and it cooks beautifully while everything else cooks at thePot  Roast with Vegetables Recipe same time.

Here’s my favorite pot roast recipe so far that I adapted for my pressure cooker:  Pot Roast with Vegetables
I cut the roast into slabs to ensure it cooked all the way through in the pressure cooker and used the meat setting for 40 minutes.  It was total perfection!  I think next time, I’ll substitute beef broth for the water for even more flavor.  I’ll never make pot roast any other way again!  It was so good.

Hot Berries 'n' Brownie Ice Cream Cake RecipeWe also had an *amazing* dessert:  Hot Berries 'n' Brownie Ice Cream Cake
Now this looks to have some odd ingredients in the sauce, but don’t let it throw you off from trying it.  Be sure to make it exactly as it says.  I never imagined mixing balsamic vinegar and cayenne pepper with fruit, but this is “the bomb!”  My husband even agreed that this dessert was really something special, and it’s the berry sauce that really put it over the top.  You’ve gotta try it!  It makes a lot of portions, too, so it’s great for a crowd.  I made just half of the berry sauce the first night so I could make a fresh batch halfway through (since berries are delicate and don’t keep for long).

Here’s a delicious recipe for pancakes…my favorite one so far:  Blueberry Oat Blueberry Oat Pancakes RecipePancakes
I used fat-free sour cream and white whole wheat flour for extra lightness, and the fresh blueberries made these absolutely amazing!  They were so full of flavor, and partially grinding the oats into oat flour gave them a more traditional texture for all the whole grains that was in them.  I will be making these many times in the future!  My daughter isn’t a fan of blueberries, so I may try them with apples and cinnamon next time.

Slow-Cooked Pork Tacos RecipeI first made these for lunch, but later made them again for dinner…they were that good:  Slow-Cooked Pork Tacos 
I think the salsa verde is what gave these such a great flavor.  I’d never really cooked with it before.  This is amazing served with Spanish rice and refried beans on the side, along with traditional toppings like lettuce, tomato, cheese, and sour cream.

So now I’ve shared with you a great breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert recipe.  If you like this kind of post, please leave me a comment, and I’ll put together some more of my favorites for next time.

Enjoy your healthy and satisfying comfort foods!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Thanksgiving 2016

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  I was obviously out of sorts this year, because I did not take a single photo of the event!  Our guests called an hour before the meal to say they couldn’t make it, and we spent our very first Thanksgiving with just our own family in probably over a decade! 

We had such a lovely meal.  I made so much food, and it’s clear that my kids have grown, because we managed to finish off the leftovers in record time, despite having a whole turkey instead of just a breast!  The homemade dinner rolls were the best I’ve ever made.  We had pumpkin pie, pumpkin gingerbread trifle, and fruit salad for dessert.  And my kids polished off 3 bottles of sparkling cider! 

By 5:45 PM, Hayden and I were headed out the door for our Black Friday shopping adventures.  We started with Walmart, where we got right in line for a new tv for my living room.  Then we picked up a few things for him…he got a new tablet because his would no longer charge, and he got his first real cell phone with the understanding that he could activate it when he gets a job next summer and can pay his own bill. 

Next, we headed off to Target.  We didn’t get much there, but at least we could get some popcorn and an Icee to hold us over! 

Then we were off to Kohl’s.  We found plenty of things there!  In fact, with the promise of Kohl’s cash to inspire us, we spent quite a bit of time splitting up our stuff in such a way that we could order half at the kiosk and half in the store so we’d get 2 rounds of Kohl’s cash (some items were not available in-store).  We spent forever in there, but it was worth the effort.

We got home so late and satisfied our hunger with leftovers on a homemade roll before heading off to bed.  The next day, I realized that in all the excitement, I’d forgotten to get a tv wall mount!  I even looked at them in Walmart.  Of course, all the area stores were sold out by Friday.  I found an even better deal at Amazon, though, and it arrived on Monday.  Saved by Prime shipping (even though it was delayed one day)!  They added an extra month to my Prime membership for the delay.  We moved the existing living room tv up to our master bedroom and mounted it on the wall.  Boy, is that ever nice!  We’ve always had a tiny tv sitting up high on top of my dresser hutch, and my old eyes were getting too bad to see words on the screen.  Now I just have to rearrange some furniture in our room, and we’ll be all set.

Other than the tv, our list consisted mostly of things people needed rather than wanted.  Even Hayden’s tablet and phone were necessities, as he will be getting his permanent license in April, and he uses Android apps on the tablet in class.  I have to say my kids don’t really want a lot of things any more…no one asked for toys at all.  They are getting older and are starting to see how great it is to get things you need instead.  Money is a lot tighter than usual, so crossing things off the “need” list works out as a win-win for all.

What great deals did you get this year? 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Ready for Thanksgiving?

Target was out of the $1.39/lb. turkey breasts and was actually out of turkey in general.  They said it would be after Thanksgiving before any more came in, if then.  I was shocked by that, since I went on Sunday!  It seems they were ill-prepared for the holiday.

So on Monday, while I was doing my regular grocery shopping, I figured I’d just go ahead and grab a turkey breast there, regardless of price, and get it over with.  It was $1.59/lb. there.  But then I saw signs saying you could get a Honeysuckle White whole turkey or just 59 cents/lb. with an additional $35 grocery purchase!  I was definitely spending that already, so after comparing the two, I realized it would cost much more to buy an 8 lb. breast vs. under $8 for a 13-lb. whole turkey!  So I got the whole turkey.  Now I personally only eat white meat, but I figured between our dinner guests and my kids, they could probably polish off the dark meat, too.

The only downside is that getting a 13-lb. turkey means I can’t cook it in my Ronco Compact Rotisserie as I normally do, because it has a 10-lb. limit.  That’s a bummer, because it’s nice to put it in there, set the timer for 3 hours, and keep both my oven and my stovetop free for other things while the vegetables simmer in a special pan made for the top of the rotisserie.  Too bad.  Now I’ll have to juggle the timing of everything else, but there’s nothing to be done about that now.

I can still cook my potatoes in the electric pressure cooker, and I will do the stuffing at the end.  I’ll have to time my homemade dinner rolls so that they can go in after the turkey comes out.  That will be a challenge, because if they sit out too long after they’ve risen, they can end up falling or drying out.  After all that work, that would really be a shame!  And I’ll have to probably bake my pumpkin pie tonight and warm it tomorrow, as well as bake the gingerbread cake for the dessert tonight so it can cool and be ready to crumble for the trifle.  It’s gonna be a late night!

Sigh.  Best laid plans!

Here’s my menu:

  • turkey
  • ham
  • mashed potatoes
  • turkey stuffing
  • gravy
  • whole cranberry sauce
  • organic cut green beans
  • organic sweet corn
  • fruit salad
  • pumpkin trifle
  • pumpkin pie
  • 3 flavors of sparkling cider
  • warm spiced cider

I also got my Christmas tree and decorations down from the attic today.  My son had to go to physical therapy, though, so I didn’t have time to get to it today.  It’ll have to wait for Friday, I think. 

How are your preparations coming?  I hope you all have a safe and happy Thanksgiving with your family and friends!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Get Your Online Shopping Coupons from Groupon!!!

Disclaimer:  This is a sponsored post, and all opinions stated here are mine.

Image result for groupon logo

I think we’re all familiar with Groupon by now and their awesome discounted offers for local dining, activities, and events.  And last week, I talked about all the great merchandise available to you through Groupon Goods.  But did you know that you can also shop online at many of your favorite merchants using amazing coupons from Groupon Coupons?!?

Everybody who knows me knows I’m the coupon queen.  Friends at church even call me Shopping Girl!  Seriously, if there’s a deal to be had, I’m the one to find it.  So imagine how excited I was to discover this great cache of coupons at Groupon Coupons

Let’s look at a couple of examples.  With the holidays coming up, and so many people in your life who are inevitably hard to buy for, how about something personalized from Things Remembered?  I remember one year, I wanted to do something extra special for a milestone anniversary for my parents.  My mom had always wanted a clock with a pendulum, so my siblings and I went in together to her one.  To make it extra special, I went to Things Remembered and had them engrave a special gold plate marking their 35 years together.  It attached with adhesive to the front of the clock we’d purchased, and my mom treasured it for so many years, and it was always on the wall by her chair.  My parents have both passed on, and that clock is now on the wall beside my own chair.  It’s that personalization from Things Remembered that made it such a special keepsake. 

Logo Alternative Text

Things Remembered has such a variety of items to choose from, and they even carry NFL and MLB items for the special man in your life!  They also have beautiful frames for graduation pictures that can be personalized!  Pick out the perfect gift and take advantage of Groupon’s awesome coupons like 20% off and free shipping on personalized gifts!  How awesome is that?  And that’s just one of 32 coupons for this vendor currently listed on Groupon Coupons.


And everybody needs shoes, right?  And women like to look great wearing them, .  With the cold weather coming on, I inevitably turn to specialty stores like Naturalizer where I can buy narrow shoes for my slender feet.  I have a thing for booties in the fall and winter, and I know I can count on Naturalizer for quality.  I’ll never forget the first birthday I celebrated with my husband about two months after I got married.  I’d had my eye on a pair of booties at Naturalizer but didn’t think I could afford them.  My husband surprised me that year with those very shoes and a matching leather jacket!  I was so surprised and so happy, anNaturalizer Ashley Bootd I can tell you that I still have those shoes and wear them to this day, and it’s been 22 years!  I must admit that I’ve just about worn out the soles, so you can bet I checked for a great coupon at Groupon before looking at the selections available at Naturalizer.  Check these booties out…how cute are they?

And Groupon has a great coupon for 25% off any order and free shipping at Naturalizer!  Where else have you seen such amazing coupons?  And that’s just one of 25 coupons for this vendor currently listed on Groupon Coupons.

Groupon Coupons are definitely something you want to check out while you’re doing your shopping this holiday season. 

Happy shopping!

P.S.  Want to keep up with Groupon and all their latest offers?  Check them out on Facebook and Twitter!

#GrouponCoupons #ad

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Meat Deals for Thanksgiving

It’s always a challenge each year to find reasonable prices for a good sliced ham and a turkey breast for our Thanksgiving meal.  It seems the prices go up significantly every year! 

Most years, I usually find that Target ends up with the best deal on a Market Pantry Turkey Breast.  I just eat white meat, and I cook it in a rotisserie with a 10-lb.Image result for market pantry turkey breast weight limit, so just the breast works out great for me.  I try to get as close to the limit as possible.  In several past years, I’ve waited until the week of Thanksgiving and found the turkey breast for 99 cents/lb. at Target.  So far this year, I haven’t seen any prices anywhere near that in any of the sale ads.  Target still has the cheapest price I’ve seen for a turkey breast, but it’s $1.39./lb. this year.  I’m thinking of holding off until Sunday to see if they come out with a better price in the new sale ad, but I also hesitate to wait until we’re so close to the big day!  Have you seen any better price?  If so, please share!

In the past, I’ve usually just bought my quarter sliced ham at Wal-mart, which seems to have the best price on ham in general.  But this year, I stumbled upon an awesome price at my Kroger Marketplace!  The sign said the Private Selection Image result for private selection quarter sliced hamquarter sliced ham was on sale for $3.99/lb., but when I picked up the honey double-smoked variety, all of those were marked at $1.99/lb.!  I must have stood there looking at it for quite some time in shock and disbelief, and then my son said “well, you should probably get it then!”  So I plopped in a quarter sliced ham for $4.25, and low and behold, they had mailed me a coupon at home for another $2 off, making my final price $2.25!  Now that had to be the deal of the century!  I’m sure I’ll never get so lucky as that again!  I was shopping there this morning and noticed there were none on the shelf, so I’m thinking everyone who noticed it swiped one, too, while the gettin’ was good!

I have to admit that other than that, I haven’t done any shopping for Thanksgiving as of yet.  I’m so busy shopping every other day with a list of what I need for my 3 from-scratch meals every day on my Comfort Food Diet Plan that I haven’t really thought about it that much.  I guess I’d better step up my shopping, huh?  I suspect all the basics will start disappearing from the store shelves by this weekend.

I usually make rotisserie turkey breast, sliced ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes, homemade dinner rolls, gravy, whole cranberry sauce, and a couple of different vegetables.  Then I make fruit salad and usually pumpkin trifle for dessert.  I might change up dessert this year, but I haven’t decided yet.  We shall see.  The fruit salad will never leave the menu, though.  It’s my childhood favorite, and my mom always made it for us.  It was the only time of year that we got to have it!

What do you have planned for your Thanksgiving menu this year?

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Kwik Stix Review and Holiday Gift Recommendation

Disclaimer:  This is a sponsored post, and all opinions are mine.  I received two packs of Kwik Stix to try in exchange for my honest review.

Earlier in the year, I had a chance to review the standard colors in the Kwik Stix 12 pk by The Pencil Grip, Inc.  My middle school-aged daughter loved them so much that she jumped at the opportunity to check out two new sets of colors that have come out just in time for the holidays!

Check out these Metalix and Neons!


Haylee dove right in as soon as the box arrived!


These are available for just $5.99 per six-pack!  I wish my photos could do the colors justice.  They are so vibrant and vivid!  Haylee had so much fun getting to work on her creations with these great solid acrylic paint sticks.  And I continue to love that they make absolutely no mess at all.  The last time she painted with regular acrylic paints, she failed to wash her brushes in a timely manner, and they were totally ruined!  So was anything she got the paint on accidentally, so I’m practically in love with these no-mess Kwik Stix!

Her first creation was made using the Neons.


Next, she did a picture with half Neons and half Metalix colors so you could see the contrast and the shimmery appearance of the beautiful Metalix!


And with the holidays coming, she decided to use the Neons to draw a Christmas tree and the shiny Metalix to do the tinsel and other decorations.


The Kwik Stix sets continue to be a favorite art supply for Haylee.  They work well on paper, cardboard, poster board, wood, and canvas!  They store conveniently in their original packaging with a form-fitted tray inside the outer box.  What’s more, your child’s creations dry in just 90 seconds, so there’s no need to hang them up to dry!

They are affordably priced and would make a great holiday gift for the artist in your household!  Pick up a few sets in a variety of colors and let your child’s imagination take over!  They are sure to be a favorite in your home, too.

Monday, November 7, 2016

It’s Time to Holiday Shop Once Again!

Disclaimer:  This is a sponsored post, and all opinions stated here are mine.

Image result for groupon goods

Now that Halloween is behind us, we’re all faced with that task of shopping and preparing for the holiday season.  I don’t know about you, but every year, I find myself completely challenged in coming up with gifts for the men in my life.  I’m telling it like it is…kids are easy to buy for in comparison!

This year, I have my husband and a 17-year old son on that list.  Man, that’s tough!  My husband never wants anything, and my son is not one to ask for anything.  Getting ideas out of either one of them is like pulling teeth!

That’s where Groupon Goods comes in.  Most everyone, I think, knows about Groupon with its offers for discounted visits to restaurants and things to do.  You might even be aware of the travel deals from Groupon Getaways.  But are you aware of Groupon Goods and all that it has to offer? 

image for Beats by Dr. Dre Solo2 On-Ear Headphones—Refurbished

At Groupon Goods, you can find all kinds of merchandise, from small appliances to fancy headphones, electronics to housewares, and bedding to clothing.  The possibilities are endless, and the selection changes all the time!  That makes it a great place to start looking for the perfect gift for that hard-to-satisfy friend or family member on your list.

In truth, I even shop for myself there!  My most recent purchase was an awesome food dehydrator.  I’d been wanting one for quite some time, and I’d shopped around a great deal trying to find the features I wanted at a price I could afford.  Then one day, a Groupon Goods deal showed up in my inbox, and there it was!  It even included the accessories that I expected to have to purchase separately.  And the best part…the price was just right!  I am very pleased.

Ronco 5-Tray EZ-Store Turbo Dehydrator with Leather and Herb Screens: Ronco 5-Tray EZ-Store Turbo Dehydrator with Leather and Herb Screens

So check out the selection and start crossing those gifts off your list without even heading out the door to fight the crowds!

The best way to stay informed is to sign up for emails.  If nothing else, it reminds you to go to the site and check out what’s newly available.  You can also check them out on Facebook and Twitter

Happy shopping!

REVIEW: Language Smarts™ Level E by The Critical Thinking Co.™

I was really excited to review Language Smarts™ Level E by The Critical Thinking Co.™ with my 8-year old son, Holden.



Language Smarts™ Level E is a colorful 392-page comprehensive workbook that covers a wide range of language arts lessons for students in 4th grade.  It includes concepts in reading, writing, grammar, and punctuation skills.  It even helps students develop 5th grade skills in critical thinking, vocabulary, and more! 

No lesson preparation is required by the teacher, and the simple, straight-forward lessons are presented in a concise manner before several pages of practice and skill development are provided for each concept.

This workbook can be used as a full language arts curriculum or as additional practice alongside another textbook.  With 258 individual assignments, there’s enough content to provide the student with up to 2 assignments per school day to be completed over the course of the entire school year.  Its colorful presentation and simple layout are designed with visual learners in mind.

This product is available for just $42.99, and you can choose between either print or e-book formats. This series is offered in levels B-E for grades 1-4.



Let me just say that I was impressed with this workbook from the moment it arrived.  It was much larger than I had pictured in my mind, and as I thumbed through it, I was immediately drawn to the large and spacious font that was so easy on my tired old eyes, as well as the colorful highlighting in the lessons.

There is a table of contents that helps you locate just the topic you might want to work on at any given time.  In addition, there is a colorful chart that lays out the standards of learning, grouped in colored boxes by topic.  These features make it easy to navigate to a specific skill or concept.  There’s also an easy-to-use answer key located at the back of the book.DSCF4750

Each lesson begins with a red bordered box that explains the concept and includes green highlighting for examples.  I loved that instructions for every lesson are highlighted in yellow, making it easy for students to spot just what they are expected to do.  My son often rushes through and fails to read complete instructions on worksheets, so I felt that was a useful feature to gain his attention to the necessary details of each assignment.

Every page includes plenty of practice in applying the concept and demonstrating understanding, and there are varied activities for each concept to be practiced over a period of time.

Because Holden is only in 3rd grade this year, I decided to slow the pace to just oneDSCF4751 assignment per day to be spread out over this school year and next.  I felt he was capable of understanding the concepts, but I slowed down the pace just a bit so he doesn’t run into more advanced concepts too early.  So far, it seems to be just fine for him!  I helped him out by doing a lot of the writing for him as he answered orally and by assisting him with word searches by giving him hints on where to look.  This worked out great for him!  He thought the assignments were fun, and he liked the way the format varied from day to day.

During the review period, we covered 5 exercises on syllables, 8 exercises on prefixes, and 3 of the 8 assignments on suffixes.  He did tasks like breaking up words into syllables, deciding which syllable to accent, demonstrating understanding of how a prefix or a suffix changes a word’s meaning, choosing correct prefixes and suffixes to make new words to be used in context, unscrambling words with prefixes and suffixes that we’d used in previous lessons, finding words we’d used in word search puzzles, organizing words into groups based on their prefixes and suffixes, and creating sentences using those words.









In later lessons, we’ll cover topics like these:

  • word relationships (synonyms, antonyms, anagrams, analogies, palindromes
  • spelling
  • editing
  • using reference materials (dictionary, thesaurus, online resources, nonfiction books)DSCF4755
  • reading comprehension
  • parts of speech (nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, injections)
  • sentences (types, subject/verb agreement, clauses, etc.)
  • capitalization and punctuation
  • using words correctly (homophones, misused words, homographs)
  • reading and writing skills (context clues, similes and metaphors, idioms, proverbs, genres of literature, point of view, inferences, characters, theme, etc.)
  • writing (the writing process, personal narratives, opinion writing, and informative writing)

As you can see, the contents are quite thorough and comprehensive.  I am especially pleased to see that by the end of our 4th grade year, we will have begun to address the writing process, and Holden will have had the opportunity to use the steps in the writing process to create three types of writing samples of his own. 

Language Smarts™ Level E truly is a complete language arts program, and I’d be completely comfortable with using it exclusively for grammar and writing instruction, adding in only vocabulary, spelling, and handwriting to accompany it.  Take a look at the sample pages and try it out for yourself!

With the importance of preschool academics, you might also want to check out their Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic Before Kindergarten! software bundle if you have younger children in your household.

Check out what other Crew members have to say about this and many other products from The Critical Thinking Co.™ by clicking the banner below.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

This Week’s Freebies!

This is a busy week.  I suspect Super Tuesday will be full of long lines and people waiting on pins and needles to see what’s next for the leadership of our country.

Sometimes, local spots will offer freebies like FREE coffee or doughnuts for displaying your “I Voted” sticker, so watch local ads and listen to your your local radio stations for any special offers on election day.

For instance, you can get a FREE doughnut of your choice at Krispy KremeImage result for krispy kreme for showing your “I Voted” sticker, and you can get a FREE coffee at 7-Eleven stores through your rewards app.  So watch out for these kinds of offers, which will surely be talked about all day on Tuesday!

Friday is Veteran’s Day, so here are some of the many freebies for all the veterans out there!


At IHOP, show your proof of active duty or veteran status to receive FREE red, white, and blue pancakes!  This includes a stack of 3 buttermilk pancakes topped with glazed strawberries, blueberry compote, and whipped topping!  This offer is valid on Friday from 7 AM to 7 PM.

At select locations, they’re even offering a FREE combo of two eggs, hashbrowns, or your choice of 2 bacon strips or pork sausage links for retired and active duty personnel.  Check with your local restaurant for details.


You can also snag a FREE meal at Applebee’s on Veteran’s Day, any time from open to close.  There are seven meals to choose from…proof of service required.

  • Butcher’s Meat and PotatoesImage result for applebees
  • Oriental Chicken Salad
  • Fiesta Lime Chicken
  • Chicken Tenders Platter
  • Double Crunch Shrimp
  • American Standard All-In Burger
  • Three-Cheese Chicken Cavatappi


Select locations of Chili’s are offering a FREE meal to veterans and active duty members on Veteran’s Day.  You get your choice of five meals…proof of service required.Image result for chilis

  • Old-timer with Cheese
  • Soup & Salad
  • Chicken Crispers
  • Chipotle Chicken
  • Margherita Flatbread

********************Image result for red robin

Red Robin’s is offering a FREE Tavern Double Burger and Bottomless Fries to veterans with proof of service on Friday at participating locations.


Additional FREE meals are offered at places like Olive Garden, Golden Corral, Texas Roadhouse, etc.  FREE appetizers or desserts are also offered at a whole host of additional restaurants.  See the full list of freebies for veterans at this link!

With a list that long, there’s got to be something for every veteran out there!  So take your pick and enjoy a free meal…you deserve it!  Thank you for your service.

Enjoy your week!