Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sweet Tea Sunday and Seed Babies

Today's theme was Seed Babies. 

We are on the chapter titled Peanuts, so of course we had to have some peanuts to snack on while we enjoyed out tea.

Today's tea was very special. We created the flavor ourselves. First we mixed up some orange peel, cinnamon, cloves, fresh grated ginger, and tea leaves in my food processor.  We added the mix into Natural Tea Bags which we received as a free sample.

I steeped the tea for a while to get a richer flavor. This tea tasted fantastic and had a super warm aroma. I never even realized that tea bags have a paper taste until I didn't taste it.  Packing the natural tea bags was very easy to do and it functions just as a normal paper tea bag would.

Now, I I'll admit I was wondering how different the tea bags would be from using my tea strainer.

The difference: I don't have to clean out that tiny little inside. I just throw the natural tea bag away. Easy peasy.

You can request your free sample of natural tea bags here.  I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Okay, one more thing . . .see that adorable figurine? She is "Sugar Pie Fairie" from the My Little Kitchen Fairies Collection. I think they are just adorable. This one a friend bought me because it resembles my daughter, Nevie. You can see the full collection here

My favorites are Little Kitchen Fairies Egg Check Fairie #106964, and My Little Kitchen Fairies - Kitchen Clock Fairie.  I wish they made one with challah. Oh well, maybe someday.

Time to share your Sweet Tea Sunday Snack with me.

I'm leaving off the linky tool still since I'm not seeing any participation in my weekly 
meme yet. If you are interested in playing along please add your link in the comments. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Silly Mommy, Failure is a Strong Word

If Charlotte were here she'd laugh herself silly at me. She'd watch my dumbfounded expression of shock and amazement as the children proved that their Nature lesson was anything but failure.

Here's how it went . . .

Oldest Child: (direct narration)
"My tree is a Pecan tree. The bark is really bumpy. I think spiders would like to live on this tree because of all the cracks and crevasses to hide in.  I think birds and squirrels would like it because there is food. I saw a woodpecker pecking there once.  The tree is definitely alive. In areas where the bark was pealed I noticed a spongy kind of stuff (good description!). It was a white, creamy color. I think there was mossy stuff, yeah, I think moss, growing around on the tree. It grew mostly higher up, near the middle where I like to climb. It was thin like a dark green, sort of turquoise paper. I think it is under 30 years old because I can hug it and have about a 1/2 inch of extra space left.  That's all I really observed. Just spider webs and a few feathers caught on branches. There were a few insects crawling around it. I remember how the leaves smelled funny in summer. They are a grayish color when they die in the fall and winter. Most leaves fall at the end of fall or the very beginning of winter.  I chose my tree because it's cool. I like climbing it and the mossy stuff got me interested."

Second Child: (direct narration)
"My tree is, umm. It's bark feels like the crust on burnt toast (How poetic!). It's leaves are oak leaves. They're brown. My tree's color is gray and I'm thinking it might have squirrels and cardinals and robins. That's what I discovered about my tree. I saw a squirrel jump onto the branch and climb up. I think it's a hundred feet tall. (hesitant pause) Well, I don't know how tall trees are, but this tree is super big! I'm thinking the leaves were a lot but not too much are there now. Some fell off. Maybe 60 leaves were still on my tree. I chose my tree because squirrels like it and I saw a squirrel nest there once. I didn't see one there today, but a clump of leaves where one might have been. I call my tree a boy. Are trees boys or girls?"

Third Child: (direct narration)
"My tree had soft bark on one side and hard bumpy bark on the other side. It had shell shaped leaves. My tree flowers in spring. Today I saw a bird in the tree. It has a nest there way up high, but I can climb there. The bird had a red belly and black feathers. I could see its chicks. They were cute. Their eyes weren't open yet. I saw a caterpillar worm thingy. It climbed onto my arm. It was thin and small and green. It had a hole in the bottom of the tree, like a knot kind of. I could easily hug around it. It's pretty skinny. The smooth side is where we climb. Maybe it's smooth because our shoes slide against it. (Good guess). It is right next to a rose bush."

Fourth Child: (direct narration)
"Okay. It was bumpy and there's this kind of, ugh, (thinking) grayish brown and umm, leaves with five pointy sides. There were little seeds on the leaves right near the middle under part. I didn't see anything on my tree today, but I saw a squirrel run up it once, trying to get away from a dog. My tree is big and too fat to hug. There were nutty things that look like nuts falling from the tree. It was little and had a cover on the top like a little hat with a stem (she's describing an acorn!). I think the tree has pretty leaves. There were still some leaves on the tree. There was a nest way at the top where there were no leaves. That's all I know about my tree . . . .and Mommy, it was really cold outside."


"Children should be made early intimate with the trees, too; should pick out half a dozen trees, oak, elm, ash, beech, in their winter nakedness, and take these to be their year-long friends."
~ Charlotte Mason Vol 1, II, Out-Of-Door Life For The Children, p.52

As for the cold. Well, consider what Charlotte says about rain:

"But what about the wet days? The fact is, that rain, unless of the heaviest, does the children no harm at all if they are suitably clothed."
~ Charlotte Mason Vol 1, II, Out-Of-Door Life For The Children

I'm thinking a pleasant 60 degree, dry January day is perfectly harmless too. ;)

A Failed Attempt at Nature Study: What Would Charlotte Say?

We operate our homeschool in the Charlotte Mason method. Right now we are studying trees. After reading our selection about trees from our awesome living book, Trees and Shrubs by Arabella B.Buckley, I give an assignment.

The Assignment:
1. Put on your socks, shoes and a coat. Choose a warm one because you will be outside for 30 minutes.
2. Go outside and choose a tree.
3. Study this tree thoroughly (Were does it grow? How big is it? Do animals live in it? Are there leaves? How many branches? What color bark? Does it have sap? What shape are its leaves? etc.)
4. When I call you, come in and give me a thorough report about your tree. I will write down your statement, recording it in the family nature journal.

Here's what happened:
Minute 1- Child 1 and 3 fighting over the favored tree. I make child 3 choose another tree.
Minute 3- Pounding on the door and shouts of "We already know everything!" To which I reply "I don't think so, keep looking."
Minute 4- Youngest two "We're cold" they yell through the door. Yup, you guessed it. No coats. I instruct them to come in and get on a warm coat.
Minute 5- Insanely loud pounding on the door and shouts of "We're freezing!" to which I reply "It is January 24th and 60 degrees outside. I am sure you will live fifteen more minutes."
Minute 10- Second child has to pee. Doesn't return from the bathroom until minute 16.
Minute 15- Screaming noted in the side yard directed to a neighbor who is watching my house like the crazies live in it and wondering what kind of torture I'm performing on my pour innocent children. I hear "Mom is freezing us and won't let us inside."
Minute 16- Neighbor in my yard coaxing my distraught children. REALLY?
Minute 16!- I'm on porch calling children into the house and sending them to their beds.  Mommy needs to cool down.
Minute 31- Lesson a complete disaster! Son tore up bedroom, bullied and injured the youngest and threatened the frog all while in time out. I am in tears.

This, my friends, is supposed to be RELAXED homeschooling. Please, tell me what I'm doing wrong.

What would Charlotte say if she were here to coach me through my sudden desire to throw my little ingrates onto the yellow Shark (we call buses sharks) and whisk them off to Public School?

I believe in Charlotte's methods, study them. I believe that homeschool is the best choice for my family. I live by these values.
However, it just isn't as easy as following a curriculum, system, idea, or method. Children are human, free thinking individuals with minds of their own and plans that often differ (greatly) from ours. We, as homeschooling parents, are working with uncontrolled variables that can alter the outcome of our perfect lesson plans dramatically. Education (or the process of obtaining it) are not concrete. This is my dilemma. What would Charlotte say?

Monday, January 21, 2013

We're Going on a T.R.I.P

We are going on a TRIP. We're packing our thinking caps and heading for the reading rainbow. 

Are you confused? Let me explain.
T.R.I.P stands for Targeted Reading Improvement Program. It's a clever reading program created by Walter Waid and Jordan Price with the goal of bringing children over the hump of reading difficulties like ADD, ADHD, Dyslexia and other special needs effecting reading.

I'm trying this program in our homeschool because, of my four children, three are struggling readers.

Child #1 is a fantastic reader who devours books like chocolate and always has her nose buried in a new story. No TRIP for her, she's already chilling on the reading rainbow.

Child #2 has ADHD, OCD, Oppositional Defiance Disorder and Sensory Processing Disorder affecting his focus, comprehension and auditory and vestibular skills. He's a challenge. He struggles to write and avoids reading whenever possible (though I know he is able). Reading just isn't enjoyable for him mainly because it requires so much work and effort. Due to the OCD he is a demanding perfectionist. He expects the best from himself. In cases like reading, where he struggles to master the skill, frustration can turn to aggression very quickly as he internalizes his perceived failures. He REALLY needs this trip.

Child #3 has ADHD. She could read a sentence and forget she read it in a second. I swear I wonder sometimes if she has amnesia. Her memory and recall negatively impact her success in reading and her fluency is stunted. She is very smart, but reading is not her strength. She has the imagination for reading but lack the patience. She needs bite sized reading material and can only seem to read and digest short sentences at a time. She begins to guess at words early on. Maybe it's boredom or laziness. I'm not really sure with her. She also commonly writes words and numbers backwards. I suspect dyslexia.

Child #4 has the brain of Child #1 and will get there, but she is little. Reading is a fairly new skill for her and watching 2 out of the four whine and complain about reading has made her apprehensive. She has a good concept of her letters and phonetic sounds, but doubts herself more than anything. Her writing is pretty neat for her age but isn't always directionally correct. She consistently makes 5's and S's backwards. I'm watching this.

So on our trip . . .

First step: 20 confidence building reading lessons.

These are available on a DVD-Rom that I can download or open via the DVD-Rom drive.  Each lesson contains three parts including:

Word lists, Flashing practice and a Story card.

Second Step: Practice

Third Step: Success

I'm excited about sharing T.R.I.P with my children and I will be recording our Journey with T.R.I.P here. Watch for future posts on our progress and learn how this reading program may be of benefit to your struggling readers.

I am a member of The CWA Review Crew. I received my copy of TRIP free in exchange for my fair and honest review.

The Sweet Taste of NuNaturals

Recently I have had the delicious pleasure of trying out a few of NuStevia's products.

I received: 

Pure Liquid™ Lemon NuStevia™Alcohol Free Glass Bottle 2 oz

I am a busy mom. Honestly, I understand the importance of eating healthy and finding sugar free alternatives, I'm just not that great about taking the steps toward accomplishing that goal in my home. That's why this little experiment was a stretch, albeit an exciting one, for my family.

Maybe you remember our Sweet Tea Sunday entry when we whipped up these healthy variations on pudding:
 Both contained a Pure Liquid flavor and healthy ingredients that made a refreshing and satisfying snack.

I tried the Lemon and Orange flavors in water, just a few drops to add some taste. I really hate water and this is a low calorie way to get me hydrated. This thirst quencher is a much healthier alternative than koolaid, gatoraid and various sports drinks. There is no bitter aftertaste which is wonderful.  Just be careful to only drop a tiny amount in. Too much is just yucky in water.  Add some fruit to the water too and it is fantastic.

Now, I know that NuNaturals will probably shake their head in disappointment at me, but I also found an unhealthy, but practical party drink for special occasions. On birthdays I have been known to offer the kids soda pop. Their favorite is orange pop. Now imagine four energetic and often clumsy kids with glasses of orange soda and you'll quickly see the problem I run into. Orange pop stains. Okay, but drop a few drops of orange flavored stevia liquid into your sprite and instant invisible orange pop.  Like I said, not healthy, but all the crazy moms like me out there are understanding the miracle in this.

Alright, seriously, NuNaturals products are smart and tasty alternatives for those of us who suffer with a sweet tooth (or twenty). You get a non-bitter sugar-free sweetness with no added calories, no cancer risks, no alcohol or other commonly sensitive chemicals and NO GUILT.

For my tastes the peppermint was a little too strong. The smell was intense. I'm not really a peppermint person though. I preferred the orange and lemon which smell identical to the fruit and taste mild but balanced.   

Vanilla is great for cooking! 

The white stevia powder was pretty good in iced tea. I actually couldn't taste a difference between this and regular sugar sweet tea. That's saying something.

NuNaturals supports it's customers by supplying tons of delicious recipes featuring their products. Sort through all the delectable recipes Here.

My favorite product by far was the PreBiotic Blend. This product uses Tagatose as a natural sweetner that is produced from milk. It doesn't have any affect on blood sugar so diabetics and hypaglocymic individuals can enjoy it without consequences. I actually loved the flavor more than sugar.

During my trial of NuNaturals products I discovered my new favorite snack: Homemade Graham Crackers. The recipe uses agave nectar, the PreBiotic and flax seed, not exactly ingredients I thought I'd swoon for, however, the smell is pure heaven and the taste magnificent.

Want something extra yummy? Empty a can or jar of sugar free pie filling into a pan. Mix up the Graham crackers and crumble it over top of pie filling and bake. You'll have a super yummy sugar-free cobbler in minutes.

The kids eat it up. That was the most surprising and satisfying discovery. My children love healthy foods when laced with NuNatural's scrumptiously sweet flavors. They ate an avacado pudding for Pete's sake!  

NuNaturals get's high acclaim in my house and I'm sure it will in yours too. Stop by their website to order yours.

And . . .watch for new flavors. NuNaturals isn't content with their massive product line, they are always developing something new to outdo themselves. For example, their Pure Liquid™ Chocolate NuStevia™
I would also love to try their Cinnamon Powder. I'm sort of a cinnamon nut.

Their Extra Energy Supplement looks worth trying too.

There you have it. You are now "in the know". Busy moms let's do better and offer our children the sweetness of health with NuNatural's products.

As a member of the CWA Review Crew, I received my NuNatural's products for free in exchange for my fair and honest review.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Bad Miss Bennet

The Bad Miss Bennet adds onto the life of Austen's famously wild, Lydia Bennet.

I have a few thoughts on this book:

First, I want to say that I am a big fan of Jane Austen. I enjoy most fan fiction sprouted up by fellow Austen fans, however, I prefer the story to reflect the original author's draft of the character.

I enjoyed this story, but I would have enjoyed it so much more had the author not clung to her fan fiction goal.

As a story based on Lydia Bennet I felt it was weak. Operating in an attempt to continue in Jane Austen's voice, The Bad Miss Bennet was horribly flawed, but as an independent story in it's own right it would have been wonderful.

To me it was a disappointing read not because the author lacked talent, but because she seemed to lack the confidence to publish a book without the fan fare of using an Austen character.

I would consider reading other titles by this author, but would like to see what she does in her own right.

As a sequel to Pride and Prejudice the bar is set higher. I want to fall into that world, to bask in the rich brilliance of Jane's subtle storytelling. That just didn't happen for me.

In my opinion The Bad Miss Bennet is a good story, but it's just not Austen enough.

I received this book as a free review copy through Net Galley.

Amazing Love

Who says love isn't a roller coaster ride?
K. Dawn Byrd masterfully stirs frustration in her readers as they partake of the romantic journey of Dee and Gabe.

Constructed as a modern day telling of Hosea and Gomer this story seems almost doomed from the start.

Gabe, a small town Pastor, follows God's direction and jumps into a marriage with a high priced call girl.  If that isn't risky I don't know what is.

Dee is an exceptionally relatable and horribly flawed character. The reader is sure to root for her, and certain to slap their heads in frustration as she breaks Gabe's heart again and again.

This story has a very confusing element to me. It was pleasant and yet disturbing at the same time. I wanted Dee to get her head on straight, to appreciate the deep unyielding love of Gabe and accept his offer for a fresh start.  It was almost exhausting to read further when she falls for the lies of fear, shame and doubt over and over again.

It's like a twisted soap opera. You find yourself actually asking out loud "Gabe! Really couldn't you do better?"

Then it dawns on you that Gabe (as a modern day Hosea) is a picture of God and Dee, with all her shortcomings is exactly like you. Ouch!

In that way Amazing Love is a story that is painful and depressing, but all too real.  The happy ending is completely up to us.

I found K. Dawn Byrd's writing to be exceptional. I will be checking out other books by her in the future.

Amazing Love is a wonderful witnessing tool. Share it with a romance reader who needs a grasp on how much God loves us (even when we are a miserable lover who stomps on his heart).

Don't be God's unrequited love. Fall for his Amazing Love.

You can purchase your copy of Amazing Love on Amazon.

As a member of The CWA Review Crew, I received this book free in exchange for my fair and honest review.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Yay! FREEBIES- Chapstick Purse Templates

Anyone who know me in "real life" has seen my passion for red lipstick. It just makes me smile. The redder the better.

However, underneath that bold popping color is always a lip balm of some kind.  My personal favorite lip balm is Tuti Fruti by Kid Acres Soap Shoppe. As far as I can tell they do not have a website, but you can probably email her ( to order.  My grandma picked me up a bunch of lip balm from her in various flavors.   Each flavor or scent is very subtle and super soft on the lips. This is important to me as scents can trigger migraine very quickly for me, especially on my face or close to my nose. Kid Acres Lip Balm is just right. The tubes last a long time too.

Are you wondering yet why I am mentioning lip balm on this blog? Especially when this isn't even a review product. No, I haven't lost my marbles.

I have a freebie to share! Woot!

As a Share The Memories Affiliate I get sent random goodies to share with my followers.  What could be more fun, right?

This month we have super cute chapstick purses.
They suggest using them for valentines, party favors or a little girl's purse. I assure you that my creativity will not stop there.

What about using them as a per-hospital gift for a mom-to be?
Sucking ice during labor chaps up lips so quickly, a simple tube of chapstick tucked in this little purse make a thoughtful gift.  You could tuck a few tissues in there too.

You could use it to hold a solid perfume, a small lotion sample or even a travel size shampoo.

To nervous to hand a tube of chapstick to your little girl? Me too. Stray chap sticks have ruined many of my favorite articles of clothing as they've melted in the dryer.  There is no telling what a creative 2 year old could accomplish with 2 minutes alone with a tube of the stuff!

In that case consider using a wooden clothes pin to make a dolly for the little girl to carry in her purse instead. Google clothespin dolls and you will be full of adorable ideas for a hands on project with your little one.

With a little extra crafting you could attach a little note book inside and use the chapstick space for a small chubby pen. I love my pens chubby.

Okay . . .enough chit chat. Here they are:


The FREE online tutorial can be found at
These are only available free until January 28th so don't wait!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

What Matters In Jane Austen?

What Matters In Jane Austen? is a scholarly and authoritative analysis of the contents of Jane Austen's fiction.

John Mullen tackles the edgier questions of Austen's work in a very meaningful way. 

This is a book for anyone who's ever wondered how Austen handled issues like sisterhood, age, sex, money, illness, death, holidays, accidents, weather, marriage proposals, appropriate conversation and loads more. 

This work proves itself with thorough research and multiple references.

I appreciated how this book not only covered the questions of what Austen included in her fiction, but also the brilliance of why she included it. You cannot walk away from this book without a greater respect for Austen's thoughtful approach to the emotion of story, the art and craft of writing, and the complexity of the human condition.

What Matters in Jane Austen? will give you fresh eyes through which to view Austen's writing. It will whet your appetite for her world and build a stronger basis for her ongoing acclaim.

To Austen everything had a meaning. Every silence spoke volumes, every change of weather proved significant. She didn't build a simple world in which her characters could exist, but a multifaceted, authentic environment with subtle depth and beautiful emotion. In What Matters In Jane Austen? John Mullen proves the worth of her studying her writing. 

I highly recommend this book to anyone who either respects or challenges the significance of Jane Austen's writing. 

This book will be released on January 29th, 2013. You can pre-order your copy of What Matters in Jane Austen?: Twenty Crucial Puzzles Solved on Amazon.

I received a free copy of this book from Bloomsbury USA in exchange for my honest review.

Sweet Tea Sunday: Simply Sweet

We're back . . .

Today my family enjoyed a pairing of  Pomegranate White Tea by The Tea Nation and my own Raisin Flax Muffins (see the recipe below).

The Tea Nation claims they "have flavored (their) Pure Ceylon high grown teas with the most pleasant pomegranate flavor so that you can enjoy it any time of the day." That claim is certainly accurate. My oldest daughter said it was "the perfect balance of fruity and sweet".  This was a surprising review since she doesn't even like pomegranate.  I think I may be raising a tea connoisseur. The pot is empty it was that delicious! 

Sorry that my pictures are not the best today. Hopefully I can come back and tweak it (and add more) later this week. I'm having some issues with my computer at the moment.

Raisin Flax Muffins

3/4 cups flax seed
1 cup quick cooking oats
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 cup milk
1 large egg
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup raisins

Mix together flax seed and milk, egg, oil, honey, raisins and brown sugar in a medium sized bowl.  In a larger bowl, mix dry ingredients. Make a well in the center of your dry ingredients and add in your liquid mixture. Mix well. Spoon the mixture into a greased muffin tin or wrappers (I use muffin wrappers for faster clean up). Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. 
Yields: 12 super moist and yummy muffins.

Side note: The Tea Nation has definitely earned my repeat business. Check out their site to see their wonderful selection of scrumptious flavors. They've even combined my two favorite flavors in their pineapple ginger white tea. I must try this! 

I'm leaving off the linky tool today since I'm not seeing any participation in my weekly meme yet. If you are interested in playing along please add your link in the comments.