Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Kwik Stix Thin Stix Now at BJ’s Wholesale Club!!!

I’m sure you’ve seen a number of reviews I’ve posed for Kwik Stix and their new Thin Stix products by The Pencil Grip, because my daughter absolutely loves them! 

REVIEW: Kwik Stix 12 pk by The Pencil Grip, Inc.
REVIEW: Thin Stix 6pk of Neon Colors by The Pencil Grip, Inc.
REVIEW: Kwik Stix Thin Stix 12-Pk by The Pencil Grip
Kwik Stix Review and Holiday Gift Recommendation

If you’re not familiar, they are silky, solid tempera paint sticks that glide onto surfaces like a soft crayon, only with the most brilliant colors you’ve ever seen! 

The original Kwik Stix are great for younger children with their wide tips that work well for filling in large spaces.  The Thin Stix are my 13-year old daughter’s favorite, because their thinner tips allow for more precise control and coloring/drawing in finer detail.

Up until now, you had to order them from online retailers like Amazon or the vendor’s website.  But now, the 24-pack of Thin Stix is available for the value price of just $19.99 at your local BJ’s Wholesale Club or the website!

The package includes 12 Classic colors, 6 Neon colors, and 6 Metalix colors.  That’s an awesome variety for the artist in your family, so check it out!  The holidays will be here before you know it.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Another Animal Added to the Clan?!?

A couple of weeks ago, I talked about all the wonderful pets we have…we have quite a jungle going around here!

Well, as if that weren’t quite enough, we found out the city of Fort Worth animal shelters were participating in the national Clear the Shelters adoption campaign!  So for one day (Saturday, August 19th), all animal adoptions were FREE OF CHARGE! 

The kids really wanted to go and look at the animals, and they were convinced they wanted to bring home a 3rd dog.  I really just wanted to go see the animals but not necessarily adopt another one, mainly because I was concerned about an additional dog in our “pack” not being accepted by our alpha female, Lilly.  But my husband was sure to tell me the night before that he was not against another dog and that if I brought one home, he would not be opposed. 

So off we went to see the animals!  They brought them from all the area shelters to several adoption sites…the main animal care and shelter facility as well as two area Pet Smart stores.  We decided to go directly to the shelter, which has been overcrowded all summer.

I was totally overwhelmed by the sheer number of dogs without forever homes.  Stray animals are a serious problem in this city.  The lady at the shelter told me that they get more puppies than anything, because people make feeble attempts at breeding and then turn the animals loose when the puppies don’t come out like they wanted.  Very sad!

There was an enormous amount of large dogs, mostly pit bulls mixes, and so many of them had red marks on their charts indicating that they were highly aggressive, had bitten, or had even killed the owner’s other dog!  Crazy stuff.  I steered clear of the big dogs, though I did find one that was really sweet.

And of course, there were plenty of senior dogs that no one wanted.  That was heartbreaking, too.  At one point, I just sat on the floor and cried into a pile of tissues!  It made me truly sad.  My soft heart just couldn’t leave without rescuing one of these sweet, precious pets!

So in the end, we narrowed it down to two whose cages were side by side.  One was a shepherd mix (supposedly, but we think sh20170819_130141e is a border collie), and the other was a blue heeler mix.  Both were really friendly and pitiful and were starving for attention.  They had such sweet personalities.  But the black and white one really caught the eye of the kids, so we settled on her and named her Pepper.  The kids were so excited after we stood in line for ages and filled out all of the paperwork and then went back to tell her goodbye, only to find an “I’m Adopted…I’m Going Home” sign on her cage!  Yes!  She really was going home with us!  We had to wait a day, though.  They scheduled her for spay surgery first thing Sunday morning.  We couldn’t pick her up until late Sunday afternoon.

She was barely awake when we took her home.  She was still very groggy and sedated, and she was on a heavy dose of pain medication that would last about 12 hours.  We introduced 20170820_171921the dogs together outside.  We were hoping to take them for a walk, but poor Pepper was literally falling sleep standing up!  So we let her sleep away the anesthesia on her new bed.  The poor thing is rail thing!  When we brought her home, you could see every rib, and even her hip bones were sticking out!  She must have been loose for a while before they picked her up.  I’ve made it my mission to fatten her up.  She’s eating a mixture of Purina Puppy Chow and some canned Purina Alpo high protein wet dog food.

Pepper is super sweet.  It’s a good thing we were off school last week, because it took all my time and attention to babysit the dogs’ interactions those first few days.  Lilly did a lot of growling and following her around barking at her.  It was really disruptive, because loud sounds echo through my house with all the hard floors!  By the weekend, though, they were even laying on the same couch together!

Lilly is still pretty guarded when I’m cooking in the kitchen.  She had a spat with Pepper just a couple of nights ago, so we find it’s best to keep Pepper out of the kitchen when I’m cooking.  There was another spat today when Pepper put her paws up on Lilly’s back when we were outside and they were looking out the door.  Lilly wasn’t standing for that!

The bad thing is that it seems Pepper must have gotten exposed to canine flu at the shelter!  She was a stray until 5 days before we brought her home.  We brought her home on Sunday night, and by Friday, Teenie was suddenly not interested in eating.  She had a runny nose and was sneezing.  Teenie was super sick on Saturday, and she had a fever all day.  She’s been very lethargic and sleeping most of the time.  I’ve been hand feeding her whatever kind of dog food or treats I can get her to eat, but it’s getting tougher each day.  Today, she’s only had a few bites.  I read that the canine flu is contagious for 4 days before any symptoms show and for up to 10 days after.  So it’s possible that Pepper was exposed at the kennel and then spread it to the other dogs.  It just affected Teenie more because she is small.

By the time Sunday rolled around, it was clear that ALL of the dogs were sick, though not nearly as bad as poor Teenie.  They are coughing, sneezing, dripping from the nose, and any time Pepper has an empty stomach, she is yacking up mucous.  I went online over the weekend and ordered some homeopathic drops for nasal symptoms from Amazon.  They arrived this morning.  I dosed all of them in their mouths, and it wasn’t long before the sneezing and blowing out of the nose had mostly subsided!  I was so glad to be able to bring them all some much needed relief.  Poor Teenie, though…if only I could get her to eat today.  She has to keep her strength up.  She’s the smallest of the dogs and is 5.5 years old.  She is the one I’m most worried about.  She seems so congested, and I know canine flu can cause secondary infections like pneumonia, which can be life-threatening.  If she isn’t better tomorrow, I’ll have to find a vet here and take her in.  In the meantime, I’m going to follow the protocol for a severe case and dose her with the drops 4 times today and see if that helps her.

Pepper already has her first vet exam next week, so hopefully, the vet can help if she is still coughing by then.  The shelter’s free adoption included free spaying, free microchip, and a free first vet visit.  I can tell that she has already put on some weight, so that’s good.  She was only 30 pounds when we got her.  I’ll be she should be closer to 40.

I will you posted on how they’re all doing!  We’re now at the local limit of 3 dogs per household, so there’s no chance of adding any more.  Three is plenty!

Monday, August 28, 2017

REVIEW: An Overview of the 20th Century by A Journey Through Learning Lapbooks

We very much enjoyed our opportunity to review An Overview of the 20th Century by A Journey Through Learning Lapbooks.


An Overview of the 20th Century is a very easy-to-use printable (or pre-printed) lapbook pack from A Journey Through Learning Lapbooks that is intended for grades 2-7.  I used it with my 4th and 8th graders.

The topics covered include the Wright brothers, Henry Ford, the Panama Canal, World Wars I & II, women’s suffrage, the roaring twenties, Charles Lindbergh, the Great Depression, the Hoover Dam, propaganda posters, the Cold War, the 1950’s, the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement, John F. Kennedy, the lunar landing, the boom of technology, the Persian Gulf War, and the Y2K scare.  That’s 20 different topics that give an excellent synopsis of the 20th century!

It’s available for download for just $8, or if you prefer a printed version, it’s $18.00.


Right away, I was impressed with how easy this project was to set up.  My kids don’t particularly enjoy the assembly part of lapbooks…the cutting out and gluing are not their favorite things to do.  So I decided to try a different approach and pre-assemble the entire lapbook before we began.  It actually worked for us quite well and probably led to a greater level of enjoyment for them!  It certainly made using it easier for me, as well, since it was always ready-to-go whenever we wanted to work on it.  And it really didn’t take me that long to print it out and get the whole thing assembled.  I sat down one evening and got the whole thing ready by myself.  The whole project gets printed on regular paper, so that makes it easy to print up and prepare, too.  No colored paper or cardstock is required.


The kit contains full instructions for the layout and assembly of your lapbook, so even if you have never made a lapbook before, you could easily follow the instructions and be successful if this were your first attempt.  Personally, I have never liked traditional lapbooks made from file folders, so I made mine from sheets of colored cardstock taped together into a book.  It makes it less awkward and unwieldy for me, and it’s easier to store.  So after I made my lapbook, I stored it in the clear cover of a binder so that it acted as a label for the binder.  Then I put all of the study guide pages and instructions for completing each lapbook piece inside the binder all whole-punched and in order.  So whenever we wanted to work on it, all I had to do was grab the binder, and everything we needed was right there.  Doing it this way made this the easiest lapbook we’ve ever completed, so I would definitely take this approach again!


One of the things I like most about these lapbooks from A Journey Through Learning Lapbooks is that all the materials are very straight-forward and easy to follow.  Each topic had a one-page summary that I read aloud to the kids.  The summaries were very concise yet informative.  Even I learned a few things!  There were lots of interesting and fascinating facts included to peak everyone’s interest.  I found myself sharing tidbits with even my husband and adult son!  Needless to say, we enjoyed this very much.  And once we read the study guide topic, I just turned the page to the instructions for completing that particular lapbook element, and one of the kids would complete it.  It included activities like labeling the parts of a plane, completing a crossword puzzle or a word search, defining related terms, coloring flags or pictures, recording an interesting fact, or noting why someone was a significant historic figure.  Maps were also used to show routes or boundaries, we listed countries on each side of a war.  For the Great Depression, there were even a few recipes that we could try! 


And even though my daughter just started 8th grade, this was still a great review activity for her, and I’m pretty sure she learned a thing or two, as well!  She did most of the writing, and I plan to go through these with my 4th grader once the lapbook is finished so I can use the completed project as a teaching tool for him as we study the various topics going forward.  It makes a lovely keepsake, and the interactive elements will make it a fun way for my younger son to learn!  I plan to keep the binder in tact with the study guides and the completed lapbook inside the clear cover where it will be protected. 


We were able to complete 16 of the 20 topics during the review period.  I really liked the way we went about it, because it made it easy to do as much or as little at a sitting as we wanted.  The study guides also included a few extra activities, like finding a picture of the first Ford Delivery Truck or pictures of toys from the 50’s and pasting them onto the study guide pages.  That was fun!  The only critique I came up with was a couple of editing errors that were missed, but that was only in the study guides and not in the lapbook itself, so the teacher would be the only one to notice them.


I thought this was a great little study, and I would definitely feel comfortable using other lapbooks from this company.  Some lapbooks we’ve used are far more involved and require a greater investment of time, and I’ve found we tend not to finish them once we’ve started.  But this was a great supplement to our studies, very easy to use and implement into our school days, and I would recommend that you give this a try!

Take a look at what other Crew members have to say about this and other lapbooks from A Journey Through Learning Lapbooks by clicking the banner below.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

My Firstborn is 18!!!

In my mind, I tried to put off this moment for the last several years.  Su2rely my baby boy, the treasure of my heart, my firstborn, was NOT becoming an ADULT!  How could this possibly be happening?!?  Where did the years go?!?  Wasn’t it just yesterday that we were on the floor playing with dinosaurs and Rescue Heroes?  Weren’t we snuggling in the overstuffed chair every night reading piles and piles of his favorite bedtime stories?!?

I just can’t fathom that 18 years have flown by in what seems like an instant.  How I treasure this child!  He’s my son, yes…but he’s also my friend, my companion, and my partner in crime.  We’re alike in so many ways, yet so different in many others.  He has the best parts of me and Steve.  He has Steve’s sense of humor and desire to make others laugh, and he has my sense of adventure and spontaneity.  I love him for his heart of compassion for others, his willingness to try new things, and his fun but caring personality. 

I love that we can talk about anything.  And even when we fight or disagree, we eventually make up and end it with a hug and an “I love you.”  He is near and dear to my heart, and it has been both a challenge and an immeasurable joy to be his mother…a privilege given to20170812_225321 me by God and immensely appreciated.  I am so unworthy in so many ways, yet he shows me the unconditional love that children inevitably have for their parents. 

I’m so thankful that we have a special bond that can never be broken.  We’ll always look out for each other.  Watching the years go by and knowing he needed me less and less was a painful process, but we have such a good relationship that I was able to accept it as part of God’s plan to watch him evolve into this gradually more independent young man.  I got to watch him blossom and grow into a good person who has had a positive impression on those around him in the world.  He has let his light shine so that others might see.  What more could I ask for?

We celebrated his 18th birthday with his requested birthday lunch of shrimp cocktail and dinner of ribs and mashed potatoes, and we ended the day with his favorite pineapple upside down cupcakes, which are a real labor of love.  He got an Xbox One game he was really looking forward to getting for his birthday, and he received a couple of cards in the mail.  And on the next business day, we headed to the public safety office to get him a real, full-fledged TX driver’s license!  He was so happy when it finally came in the mail this week.  And he also received his selective service notice, so even the government knows he’s Growing Heart on Messenger 1.0now an adult!  He also headed out to turn in his very first job application this week. 

Times are changing in the Burgess household! 

I hope you had the happiest of birthdays, my dear boy!  I love you dearly.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

REVIEW: Everyday Cooking by Everyday Homemaking

I was delighted to find out I was going to get to review the brand new, updated edition of Everyday Cooking by Everyday Homemaking!


Everyday Cooking is a practical cookbook and guide to cooking that meets your everyday household needs.  The recipes take a “from scratch” approach to cooking but without a lot of unusual ingredients.  It gives a more natural ingredient list but still suggests ways to complete the recipes with more common healthy ingredients (like honey vs. sucanat). 

It also gives you basic recipes for items that are typically prepared food ingredients, like “cream of” soups or seasoning blends, so you have the option to go a step further with preparing things from scratch, or sub in the prepared item if you’re in a pinch.  Either way, this cookbook makes it easy!

I previously reviewed the first edition of this cookbook back in 2012, but to my pleasure, many more recipes have been added in this latest edition that’s now available in a printed, bound cookbook for just $19.99, or you can opt for the downloadable e-book version for just $15.99!  I had the e-book before, and I must say that I really enjoyed the hard copy this time around, which is nicely printed with a full-color cover and is spiral-bound…my favorite style of cookbook so it can easily lay open on my stand!


I have fond memories of the recipes I made out of the first edition of this cookbook, and I wanted to start off by making one of my favorites.  It was really hard to choose, because I really loved Mom’s Roast, as well as Becky’s Mystery Cake.  But I decided to make Mom’s Roast for dinner one night.  I hadn’t made it for a while, but it popped into my head when I found out I was getting the updated version of this cookbook for review, and my family “ooh-ed” and “aah-ed” over the results, just as they did several years ago. 

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I loved that I could throw it all in the crockpot and then come back to something so wonderfully tender and moist, with a delicious gravy to boot!  I served it with some roasted potatoes, green beans, and crusty French dinner rolls.  Yum!

I was really pleased with the variety of recipes available in this edition.  There’s truly something for everyone and every occasion!  I also love that the author included the option to prepare many of the recipes in an electric pressure cooker!  In recent years, I’ve really fallen in love with the ease of my appliance, and I often adapt recipes to be cooked in that way. So it was a pleasant surprise that she gave alternate preparation instructions for some of the recipes using the pressure cooker.  It took out the guesswork!

The next recipe I picked out was the Tortilla Soup, which was one that had pressure cooker instructions provided.  I happened to have all of the ingredients on hand (which was true of a lot of the recipes…I love it when that happens), so I set to work gathering everything together and had it ready in no time!

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I was really short on time, so I used some pre-cooked grilled chicken strips and subbed out some ready-to-eat tri-color tortilla strips to serve on top. It was all ready in just 10 minutes of cook-time!

And of course, I had to try out a dessert!  I so enjoyed Becky’s Mystery Cake from the previous edition of this cookbook, which I had made for my son’s birthday that year.  It was almost his birthday again, so I let him have the honors of choosing which dessert to make this time around.  He picked the Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies!  I had everything except the Hershey’s Kisses, so I sent him off to the store for those while I gathered up the ingredients.

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I must say that they were quite a hit!  The ovens in my new house are quite small, so I had to cook them in batches (this recipe yielded 4 dozen cookies).  But these delightful cookies disappeared almost as fast as they came out of the oven!  Personally, I’m not that fond of peanut butter cookies, but these didn’t have an overpowering peanut butter flavor, and I really enjoyed them a lot!  My kids who do love peanut butter cookies said they would have liked the peanut butter flavor to be more predominant, but they were tremendously enjoyed by all!  We ate a whole platter of them and still had enough to fill up the cookie jar for the next day.  They didn’t last long!  I even sent some as a treat in my husband’s lunch.

Back in Virginia, I often hosted cookie exchanges with my friends (any excuse of an occasion would do!), and I kept thinking how great these would be for a cookie exchange!  The recipe makes more than enough to share, and they were so cute, too.  They cooled really fast, so they were ready in a flash.

And if you’ve ever wanted to try your hand at bread-making, this cookbook offers many recipes for basic bread with a host of variations, plus rolls, muffins, and fruit breads.  It includes step-by-step instructions with full-color photographs to help you get the basics of it right.

This cookbook also offers practical tips for using a pressure cooker, preparing a buffet station, meal planning and shopping hints, and quick ideas for getting breakfast on the table when you’re family is too busy to sit down together.  And for the student and future homemaker in your home, there’s even a mini-unit on food and nutrition, information about basic kitchen accessories, and a checklist of basic cooking skills.  Everyday Cooking has it all!

I have my eye on so many of these recipes that I plan to make soon.  The Belgian Waffle recipe is at the top of my list, along with the homemade Spiced Apples to put on top.  And I can’t wait to try the pressure cooker version of Lasagna!

I’m sure you’ll be thoroughly delighted with the repertoire of recipes and resources in this lovely cookbook.  There’s just so much to choose from, and I can feel good about preparing my family’s meals with natural ingredients and not a lot of junk.  Yet at the same time, the recipes are realistic and not too over-the-top “different” for the average family.  Give it a try, and add some belly-pleasing recipes to your family’s meal planning!

If you decide you’d like to purchase either the e-book version or the printed version of the cookbook, or if you’d like to purchase The Everyday Family Chore System (be sure to read the Crew reviews), Everyday Homemaking would like to offer you a special 10% discount through September 5th!  Just add the items to your cart (as many copies as you’d like), and then apply code TOS10books at checkout.

Check out what other Crew members had to say about these products from Everyday Homemaking by clicking the banner below.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Bring-Your-Own-Cup Days at 7-Eleven!!!

This Friday and Saturday, August 18th-19th, 11 AM – 7 PM, you can bring your own cup to 7-Eleven and fill it with Slurpee for just $1.50!!!  Here are the details:


Step 1


Bring your custom cup into 7-Eleven on Aug 18 + Aug 19 from 11am -  7pm

Step 2


Fill your cup with as much Slurpee drink as you want for just $1.50

Step 3


Share a pic of your cup creation with #BYOCupDay


Cup must fit upright within 10” hole

Cup must be food-safe clean

Cup must be watertight

One cup per person, on BYO Cup Day, please

Available at participating locations
(Not available in Cook County, Illinois).

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Our Fort Worth Animals…and Haylee’s 13th Birthday!

So when we moved to Fort Worth in late June, we brought with us our two dogs, our three turtles, and a portable tank with two fish in it.  We almost brought one hamster along, but as I mentioned a few weeks ago, our dogs killed him on our last night in VA.  Sad smile

Since we’ve been here, we’ve expanded our animal collection just a bit.  After all, it wouldn’t feel much like home if we weren’t surrounded with our animal friends!

So we started off by getting Haylee a baby hamster for her 13th birthday.  We drove all over tarnation to pick it up.  She had her heart set on a baby teddy bear hamster that she found on Craigslist.  It was in a really unsavory part of town, so I took a picture of the house before we went inside and texted it to my husband in case we were never heard from again, LOL.  Alas, it was quite adorable, but they literally probably had 100 baby hamsters in that house…just a chain of cages that lined a room, and it smelled like, too.  Ugh!  Haylee named her Penny, and she’s growing like a weed.  So adorable, isn’t she?  She keeps doing cute things like flipping over her food bowl to sleep inside for protection.

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And of course, then I had to go out the next day and replace my own beloved Cookie with another long-haired Syrian hamster, who I named Cocoa.  He’s so beautiful!  He was a bit jumpy at first…not really accustomed to human interaction just yet…but over the last few weeks, he has gradually gotten used to me and will come and let me hand-feed him treats and rub his back while he eats them.  We’re the best of friends now, and I love my Cocoa!


As a side note, my sister thinks it’s extremely odd that I always name my hamsters with food names.  Peaches…Cookie…Cocoa.  Is there something significant in that?  I’ll leave that up to you to decide.  hehe.  Smile

Then I had the task of setting up our three fish tanks rather than just the one in the kitchen.  Hayden has one for his room, and Haylee has one for her room.  There was a local place on the corner outside of our neighborhood called Fish Paradise, so we stopped in there and selected some fish.  It was a really messy, overcrowded store.  That should have been my first clue…that I could barely pass down the aisles.  Before long, the five Neon Tetras I bought for my tank not only died within a few days, but whatever was wrong with them killed the fish I brought from VA, as well…all within about a 24-hour period.  Very sad.  I’d had my Platys so long at the other house, and then they survived that 3-day drive in a portable tank in the hot weather, and they’d lived here for about a month, thriving.  Now they’re all dead.  The handful of fish Haylee has picked out also died, all at once, in her tank.  Only Hayden’s two fish survived, and they seem to be fine.  I definitely won’t be going back to that store again! 

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My water tested perfect, and so did Haylee’s, so it wasn’t that.  I let both tanks sit empty for a couple of weeks and added some stabilizer.  I wanted to let whatever contamination there was die off.  Then we ventured out and bought all new fish at a different pet store a bit further away.  This place seemed like a more professional aquarium, and they seemed to know their business.  They were familiar with Fish Paradise and said I should steer clear of there.  Clearly, that was the truth!  This new store was more expensive, but everything seemed well cared for.  So we picked out quite a variety of new fish, and they’ve all done well in both tanks.  I even got a golden mystery snail, and it cleaned up my tank in no time!

So now we have two dogs, three turtles, two hamsters, ten fish, and two snails.  That’s a lot of pets!


Monday of last week was Haylee’s 13th birthday.  Wow!  Now I have two teenagers in the house.  To think she began life as such a tiny, fragile little preemie, and now she’s entered the final stage before adulthood!  That’s so hard to believe.

She requested my homemade Mexican bean dip with tortilla chips for her birthday dinner, and a Funfetti cake with strawberry frosting as her birthday cake.

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Happy Birthday, baby girl!