Sunday, July 30, 2017

Happy National Cheesecake Day!!!

In celebration of National Cheesecake Day, you’ll want to take advantage of this special offer. 

Today and tomorrow only, July 30-31st, you can stop by your local Cheesecake Factory and enjoy any slice of cheesecake for HALF PRICE!  This is for dine-in only, and a limit of one slice per customer. 



Friday, July 28, 2017

Our Housewarming Surprise

Well, we’ve been at our new home in Texas for just over a month now.  But I must say that we got off to a rough start.  On our very first day here, we had Spectrum Communications come out to install Charter Internet service.  They came the night we arrived and said they couldn’t do it and left, saying someone else would be out the next day.  So that first full day, a new person showed up.  I told my husband that he seemed nice enough but reminded me of Forrest Gump, and I wasn’t sure what we were going to get.

He tried two places in the house to set it up and said it wouldn’t work at either location. Then he came up with a third spot and said he thought he could make that work.  So he disappeared into the attic.  At that point, our moving truck had not arrived, so we had no fridge and no furniture of any kind.  The kids and I had run out to grab some food, and the kids and I were sitting on the windowsills eating when we heard a big crash.  I thought the guy had dropped some tools out of the attic access in the garage.  After a little while, the guy comes in and calmly says he just wanted us to know that he fell through the attic and that a manager would be coming out.  I said okay.  I thought he meant in the garage.  Next thing I know, my son drags me by the hand and says I have to come see this…the guy was gone (turns out he took himself to the hospital to get checked out), and there was a giant gaping hole in my rec room ceiling with insulation everywhere!

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Can you imagine the shock I felt?  The manager came out, along with a third but competent technician this time, and he was extremely apologetic and assured me that the damage would all be taken care of (and miraculously, the third technician was able to put the internet cables right where we wanted them the first time).  Of course, we then had to shut off that room and were unable to use it because of the extreme heat pouring into the room from the attic, but eventually, Steve was able to tape up the ceiling so we could use the room until we could get it all resolved.  We went back and forth with Spectrum, and they finally said we would have to coordinate getting an estimate from a professional contractor, and then they’d consider it and send us a check.  So we did that, and everything was approved to repair the drywall ceiling, matching the texture, and painting the ceiling.  We finally got the check in the mail today, so I’ve scheduled the repair for next Tuesday morning.  Yay!

Our next ordeal has been the pool, but I’ll save that for another post.  In any case, I’m glad we’re almost to the resolution on this unexpected surprise!

Monday, July 24, 2017

REVIEW: Rigid Wrap and CelluClay Quik-Sculpting Kit by ACTÍVA Products

My 12-year old daughter was excited to get to review the Rigid Wrap and CelluClay Quik-Sculpting Kit by ACTÍVA Products.


The Rigid Wrap and CelluClay Quik-Sculpting Kit is a creativity pack that includes two 4 inch x 5 yard rolls of Rigid Wrap, one 8-oz. bag of CelluClay Instant Paper Mache, and access to complete instructions for twelve different projects.

This package is sure to inspire hours of creativity and fun in your children!  With so much material included in this one box, your child can makes lots of different projects and still have plenty of supplies left for future projects as they come up with their own ideas or use the ones included.  This kit is available for just $11.90!

You can have your FREE ebook called ACTÍVA Products' Favorite Sculpture KIDS CRAFTS delivered right to your inbox with the full instructions for those twelve craft projects.  It’s full of additional ideas for sculpting projects your kids can enjoy using both the Rigid Wrap and the CelluClay from the kit!


Haylee loves any kind of art, and she likes to explore different kinds of materials, too.  She’s used other Activa products in the past, such as the Color Plus Clay and the Rigid Wrap Plaster Cloth (which was a recommended supply item for the art curriculum we were using), and she has always enjoyed them.  Activa offers a variety of materials, but this Quik-Sculpting Kit was neat because it included a combination of both the Rigid Wrap and the CelluClay!  They can be used separately or together, so the possibilities are endless!  You are only limited by your own imagination.

DSCF4876Haylee was really impressed with the amount of both products that were included in this kit.  For under $12, we felt it was a great value.  She created four different projects during the review period, and she still had one full roll and most of the second roll of Rigid Wrap left, and she barely used any of the powder material for mixing the CelluClay.  She mixed a container full to make a smiley face, and I could hardly tell she had opened the bag!  So it will go a long way towards any projects you might have in mind.

DSCF4873Using the free ebook that I mentioned above, Haylee selected three projects that she wanted to try.  First, she made a variety of beads for the “bold beads” project using the Rigid Wrap material.  She cut the Rigid Wrap into strips, dipped them into a tub of water, and wrapped them around the ends of some straws.  Then she molded each one into the shape of beads that she wanted to make.  She allowed the beads to air dry on the straws for about half an hour and then painted them with acrylic paint for decoration.  Once the paint was dry, she removed them from the straws.  Very simple!  She’ll be able to string them easily (we just moved cross-country, and our elastic beading string is still packed).DSCF4871

For her second project, she used the included printable pattern from the ebook to make the “beautiful butterfly.” She used the pattern to cut out the butterfly shape from a piece of thick cardboard.  Then she wrapped it in wet strips of the Rigid Wrap.  She made sure the surface was nice and smooth.  She used a strip to make the shape of the head and body and applied it to the body.  When it was dry, she painted it.  It turned out so cute!

For her thirDSCF4872d project, she made the “piece of cake” from the idea book.  She started with two even blocks of Styrofoam to make the layers of the cake stacked together.  She wrapped the whole thing in wet strips of the Rigid Wrap material and allowed it to air dry before she painted it.  It was so lightweight when it was finished!  It looked neat.

Next, she started a fourth project of her own design.  She wanted to make a simple smiley face plaque out of the CelluClay material.  She mixed up a small batch using the powdered material and water by simply blending it in a container with her hands.  It’s easy to adjust the texture of the paper mache.  If you need to make it thicker, just add more powder.  If you need it thinner, just add more water until you reach the desired consistency.  She shaped it by hand and left it to air dry.  To speed up the drying process, you can bake it on the lowest setting of your oven with the door slightly ajar.  Her smiley face wasn’t quite dry enough paint yet, so I’m not including a picture just yet.  She said the material was easy to blend and shape.  You can mold it with your hands, with tools when it starts to harden slightly, or by putting it into a plastic mold.  You can even dip stamps in water and make impressions with them!

These materials are so versatile.  I’m sure your kids will come up with lots of creations using them!  The free ebook includes project instructions for things like an erupting volcano, an Egyptian sarcophagus, a mummy, a totem pole, a Mardi Gras mask, or a holiday candy bowl!  So you can make projects related to your homeschool studies or just for fun.  Just think of all the possibilities!  I know Haylee will be having fun with this kit for at least the rest of the summer.  It’s a great boredom buster!

Take a look at what other Crew members have to say about this kit by clicking the banner below.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Get Ready for 59-Cent Short Stack Pancakes @ IHOP!!!

Tomorrow, Tuesday, July 17th, is the 59th anniversary of IHOP.  What that means for you is that between 7 AM and 7 PM, you can get a short stack of pancakes for just 59 cents!!!

iHop Logo

59¢ anniversary PANCAKES

This is a treat my kids always look forward to. We find the best time to go is around 9 AM when everyone’s already gone to work and things quiet down again.  I always take my own syrup in my purse, because I use sugar-free and prefer Aunt Jemima’s over the Cary’s brand of sugar-free syrup that they offer at IHOP.  My kids, on the other hand, always enjoy experimenting with the many flavors of syrup supplied on the tables!  Whatever your preference, they have plenty to choose from.

See you there!

REVIEW: Trust Fund by Mapelle Films

I really enjoyed watching and reviewing the movie Trust Fund by Mapelle Films.


Trust Fund is a film that portrays a modern prodigal daughter story.  The main character, Reese Donahue, is the wealthy daughter of a successful publisher, and she makes a lot of bad decisions in haste and squanders a portion of the family fortune.

Mapelle Films offers a fresh look at an age-old bible story with which I think we’re all familiar.  There’s something special about this film, and I can’t wait to share why it pricked my heart in a new way!

Produced by Isaac Alongi, who was himself homeschooled through graduation, this film provides a wonderful opportunity to talk to your kids about the character issues that each person faces in this familiar story.  In fact, they offer a free downloadable study guide you can use in conjunction with the film for families and small group study.

In addition, you can purchase the companion book, Love Was Near, which takes you into the mind of Reese Donahue, what she was thinking, and what she realized on her journey from the lost daughter to the daughter that became what her father knew she could be.  It’s intended for girls ages 12 and up to read and discuss after watching the movie.


I have to admit that although I’ve been a Christian for over 20 years, I’ve always struggled with the story of the prodigal son.  It’s so easy to relate to the feelings of the older brother, who did right all the while that his younger brother was squandering the family’s riches.  It’s the same with the daughters in this film.  As humans, we can completely relate to how the older sibling feels.

Even more, though, I think I struggled with how the father could welcome the prodigal child home with celebration. Of course, he’s glad his lost child has returned to the fold and is contrite and sees the err in his ways.  And so it is with this film.  As a parent myself, I think I would have seen the need to punish the daughter for the purpose of correction…at least to express some words of disappointment.  I have no doubt I would have those kinds of thoughts to share with my child in this situation.  But the ending of this film totally blew me away.  The younger daughter, Reese Donahue, makes a speech that brought me to tears instantly.  It was her speech that made me finally understand the reason her father showed her nothing but love and gave her no harsh words.  It’s what was needed for her to see the light, understand the mistakes she’d made, and make the decision to turn her life around.  It was the love in his actions that taught her the most.

And so it is with Jesus.  Aren’t we amazed that He forgives us?  Aren’t we amazed that He loves us, despite our sinful natures?  Don’t we try to do right but often make the wrong choices?  Yet He gives us the opportunity to repent and come back into the fold.  And He does so with open arms.  And we love Him all the more because He loves us anyway.  All that hit me like a ton of bricks as Reese made her speech at the end.  And finally, once and for all, I understood the story of the prodigal son more fully and why the father acted as he did.

This is a powerful film…more powerful, certainly, than I expected.  And it inspired me to go and sit down with my teenage son and my husband and spill out what I’d learned…that light bulb moment I had at the conclusion of the film.  I would really recommend this film for family viewing, and I think it could be used in conjunction with the study guide as the basis for a group bible study of the prodigal son parable.  And now I wish I’d requested the book, as well!

Check out what other Crew members had to say about this unique film by clicking the banner below.

Monday, July 10, 2017

REVIEW: Make-a-State Activity by Home School in the Woods

With our recent cross-country move from VA to TX, we felt so lucky to get to review the Make-a-State Activity by Home School in the Woods.  It was perfect timing for us!


The Make-a-State Activity is the latest addition to the Activity Paks series from Home School in the Woods, which also includes other titles such as The Old Testament, The New Testament, Composers, and Artists.  Home School in the Woods is a company well-known for its vast variety of hands-on history products.  Some of the other series include Time Traveler American (I’ve purchased Industrial Revolution Through Great Depression), Timeline, Lap-Paks (I’ve previously reviewed U.S. Elections and 20th Century in America), and Project Passport (I’ve previously reviewed Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece).

This newest activity pak includes 20 projects that compile a finished lapbook that can be used for any state!  That means you can use the product over and over again as part of a whole 50-state study (plus Washington, D.C.!), or you can use it for an individual state you might be studying at the time.  This pak is generic enough to be used again and again for different states, yet it also includes some state-specific items like maps, quarters, symbols, flags, vocabulary words, and a recipe representing each state.  There’s also a “State Page” that gives a brief overview of facts about each state. 

It also includes suggested resources to help you find out more information about each state you choose to study, and of course, the internet is a great place to find basic facts to help you complete the lapbook elements.  There’s also a file folder game included to add some fun and reinforcement in recognizing each state and its capital, as well as the order and year it entered the union.

This is a digital product, and it’s available for download for just $18.95, or on CD for just $19.95.  It’s designed for children in grades 3-8.


I’ve been homeschooling my kids for over 14 years, and all of it was in the state of VA.  I was planning to do an introductory VA state study with Holden for 4th grade this year, but then my husband took a job in TX, and we moved about 2 weeks ago!  That threw a wrench in my plans since we already owned thDSCF4857e textbooks we needed to study VA.  Suddenly, I had a need to learn for myself about TX history so I could teach it to my children!  My middle-schooler will go to public high school in another year, so she now has to study TX history in preparation for that, too, in addition to Holden.  I was already on a hunt for something digital that I could put together quickly and have ready for our arrival here in TX, and that’s when the Make-a-State Activity came up for review!  The timing couldn’t have been any better, and it turned out to be just what we needed!

Right away, I was able to access the materials and get everything printed up on paper anDSCF4858d cardstock before I had to pack up my printer supplies for the move.  That was key.  I organized it all in a binder so we could continue working on it even when our belongings were no longer accessible to us!  I dropped it into a small travel tub to take on our trip so we could continue to work on it even after we arrived and were waiting for our household goods to follow after us.  Because everything fit into one binder, that made it easy to take along and access whenever and wherever we needed it.  All I needed then, was markers or colored pencils, scissors, and a glue stick.  That was easy!DSCF4859

Since we had a lot going on and we intended to spread out our study over the course of our school year, I went with the pace of completing one project per week.  It would be easy to do one every day, or to sit and complete several in one sitting if you had the time.  But it lends itself well to being combined with other resources and spread out for a more extensive study, as well.  So I gathered up my collection of fun books on the 50 states to add to our learning.  There’s also a page included with suggested resources that includes books, websites, and videos.

Here are the activities included in the pak:

  1. Key State Facts
  2. Origin of State Name
  3. State Motto
  4. State Symbols
  5. State Song
  6. State Industry/Agriculture/Climate
  7. State Wildlife
  8. Regions
  9. State Geography
  10. State Government
  11. State Seal & Flag
  12. State History
  13. Famous People From…
  14. Native Tribes
  15. State Landmarks
  16. Sports Teams
  17. State Quarter
  18. Recipes
  19. State Vocabulary
  20. State Timeline
  • BONUS 1:  State Pages
  • BONUS 2: “Name That State!” File Folder Game

Our first project was the Key State Facts.  I loved that most of the information we needed to be found with a quick internet search.  We were wowed right from the start when we learned that the anticipated 2017 population of TX is nearly 28 million!  And it’s over 268 thousand square miles…so large that it spans two time zones!DSCF4860

Our second project was the Origin of State Name.  We learned that it came from the Caddo and Hasinais Indian word “tejas,” meaning “friends” or “allies.”


Our third project was the State Motto, which we learned was “Friendship.”


Our fourth project was the State Symbols.  The pak included a printed picture of the state bird, the mockingbird, and the state flower, the bluebonnet.  Haylee researched over 20 other state symbols, and she drew the state bird, state dog breed, and state flag inside the booklet.  We didn’t even realize that states designated so many state symbols!

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Our fifth project was the State Song.  We learned that the song is Oh, Texas, Our Texas by William Marsh and was written in 1924.  Haylee wrote out the first stanza and the chorus inside the booklet, which we glued onto a cool dimensional “music stand.” That was neat and interactive!

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Our sixth and final project was the State Industry/Agriculture/Climate.  We learned that the major industries here are cattle, cotton, and lumber.  The major agriculture is livestock, cotton, greenhouse and nursery products, chicken eggs, and hogs.  A significant climate element to note is that Texas ranks first in occurrences of tornadoes with an average of 139 tornadoes per year!  Haylee was a bit surprised to learn that, but it explained all the warning siren tests we’ve heard ever since we arrived here!  This lapbook element was also interactive with 3 flaps you could lift to reveal the facts in each category.  Inside each flap, a symbol of the category popped out in 3-D, which was cool.

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We’ve been really pleased with all that we’ve learned so far, and we look forward to continuing with this study for 20 weeks while we add in our other books and resources as we go.  Haylee is in 8th grade, so she is doing the writing and coloring of the elements, and we’re researching and discussing the facts together.  Once the lapbook is completed, I plan to use the completed project as a teaching tool with Holden for the last half of our school year when he and I can sit together and study on his level.

I really love that a one-time purchase of this product allows a family to use its materials repeatedly if they choose to study other states along the way.  That’s a great investment!

If you’ve tried other products from Home School in the Woods such as the Time Traveler series, you may have found the sheer amount of projects a little overwhelming, or you may have found that your children favored certain types of projects over others in a product line.  In that case, you’ll be happy to know that they just opened an “a la carte” store where you can now purchase individual projects rather than a complete product.  Your child might love the newspapers, or they might love the file folder games, or they might enjoy the crafts.  Whichever elements they enjoy most, you can now purchase a selection of those items individually.  Be sure to check out what’s available!  And in honor of the 200th anniversary of the Erie Canal, you can enter code “alacarte” at checkout to download the Erie Canal project for FREE

Take a look at what other Crew members have to say about a variety of the wonderful hands-on history products from Home School in the Woods by clicking on the banner below.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Big Food Freebie Week!

For my family, this is the most significant food freebie week of the whole year!  That’s because this Tuesday, July 11th, is both Cow Appreciation Day at Chick-Fil-A and Free Slurpee Day at 7-Eleven stores!  That’s a home run for us!

I wasn’t sure how things would play out for us being in a new city, but I sat down this morning to look at Google Maps to see how close those store locations are to our new home.  I’m happy to report that there are eleven Chick-Fil-A stores within 8 miles of my house, and there are twenty 7-Eleven stores within 6 miles of my house!  So I guess you know what we’ll be doing this Tuesday…


Just remember to dress like a cow so you can score a free entree between opening time and 7 PM!  Here’s the rundown on your choices:

    Breakfast Entrée includes:

    • Egg White Grill Cow Appreciation Day
    • Chick-fil-A® Chicken Biscuit
    • Chick-fil-A® Spicy Chicken Biscuit
    • Sausage Biscuit
    • Chick-n-Minis™ (3 or 4-count)
    • Chicken or Sausage Breakfast Burrito
    • Chicken or Sausage, Egg, and Cheese Bagel
    • Bacon or Sausage, Egg, and Cheese Biscuit
    • Greek Yogurt Parfait
    • Fruit Cup (any size)

    Lunch/Dinner Entrée includes:

    • Smokehouse BBQ Bacon Sandwich
    • Chick-fil-A® Chicken Sandwich
    • Chick-fil-A® Chicken Deluxe Sandwich
    • Chick-fil-A® Spicy Chicken Sandwich
    • Chick-fil-A® Spicy Chicken Deluxe Sandwich
    • Grilled Chicken Sandwich
    • Grilled Chicken Club Sandwich
    • Grilled Chicken Cool Wrap®
    • Chick-fil-A® Nuggets (8 or 12-count)
    • Chick-fil-A® Grilled Nuggets (8- or 12-count)
    • Chicken Salad Sandwich; Chick-n-Strips™ (3 or 4-count)
    • Small hand-spun milkshake (Operator discretion), Small Iced Coffee, Small Frosted Coffee or Small Frosted Lemonade

    Kid’s Meal:

    • Chick-n-Strips (1 or 2-count) Kid’s Meal
    • Chick-fil-A® Nuggets (4 or 6-count) Kid’s Meal
    • Grilled Nugget (4 or 6-count) Kid’s Meal


Image result for 7-eleven day

And don’t forget to visit your 7-Eleven stores from 11 AM to 7 PM to get your FREE small Slurpee (while supplies last)!


Enjoy your goodies!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Hayden’s Graduation

Amid the craziness of moving and disconnecting everything at home, I never did post about Hayden’s high school graduation.  It was a momentous occasion, after all!  The graduation of my firstborn…and one of the members of the first graduating class of the all-new charter school, Green Run Collegiate School.

Unfortunately, Steve had to miss this graduation since he was already working in TX and was not yet eligible for time off, so I wanted to make it an extra special day.  Our house was mostly packed up, though, so there was no party or anything like that.  A gathering of our closest friends came out to celebrate the event, though, and we all went out to dinner at Applebee’s afterwards.  I was so thankful they were there to share it with us!

Here’s my Hayden, graduating with honors, a member of National Honor Society, and an IB diploma candidate accepting an Advanced Studies Diploma.  Not bad for a kid who was homeschooled until high school.  Way to go, Hayden!  I’m so proud of him and the wonderful young man he’s become.  Smile

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And as you can see, he lost his tassel when he threw his cap in the air.  He picked it up and put it back on, but it fell off again.  Too bad!  People were dropping them everywhere…they just didn’t stay on very well!  Oh, well.