Thursday, May 18, 2017

Let's Be Real by Natasha Bure -- my REVIEW

I wanted to like this book.  I really did.  I have a daughter who is almost 17 and one who is almost 13.  I thought that this would be a great book for them to read and learn from.  My expectations were high.'s the thing.  I don't really like to write negative reviews.  I mean, look at this girl on the front of the book!  She's so cute...and her mom is Candace Cameron!  

Okay, enough dragging my's my review.  

This book is a kind of "self-help" book for girls, full of ideas of how to overcome different challenges that teen girls face.  Different topics are addressed such as dating, style, makeup, skin care, friendships, faith, parents, communication, and more.  The author fills the book with stories of how she met these challenges head on and overcame them. Not much rhyme or reason as to how the topics are organized that I could discover, but they do cover a vast swath of teenaged life. 

So -- what did I like?  I liked the message to be real, be yourself, be the person God made you to be.  I liked her positive outlook and tone.

What didn't I like?  She's just out of high school.  And sounds like it. Remember all of those valedictorian speeches?  The ones that sound like they have just about got the world conquered?  Yeah, this is like that.  

Does that sound shallow to you?  Take it in the same vein as not wanting to take parenting advice from someone who has no children or a 1 year old. 

I thought maybe I was being too hard on the book, so I had my daughter read it as well.  She noted some different things that she wasn't a fan of...such as the author seems to give all kinds of advice, but not really back it up with Scripture, so it was just pretty much her own life stories, suggestions, and ideas.  My daughter also said that she would rather take advice from someone who has more life experience.

I applaud this young woman for her sincerity in wanting to help others, that is a great heart attitude.  The book is nicely made, with a nice dust-jacket.  If you are a young person who likes to get advice from a peer or near-peer, this would be a great book for you!  

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Captain Absolutely -- my REVIEW

Absolute Truth. Do you talk about this with your family? I recently overheard one of my teens say to a younger friend, "You know that when they (the club they are a part of) talk about morals and integrity that ours are different, right?" I asked him what he meant by that and he said that the definition for integrity that they gave at the meeting was "doing what you think is right" and he followed that by telling the slightly younger boy, "You know what I mean, we shouldn't just do what we think is right, but what God says is right." Ah, yes! :) Glad that he has assimilated that into his own life. So much of what we are told today is to do what is right for that circumstance, or what you feel like is the best thing to do. People who follow Christ and the Bible hold to a higher standard of truth, absolute truth which finds its origin in God and the Bible.

A great tool for introducing the idea of absolute truth is this new graphic novel (aka bound comic-book style book!) produced by Focus On The Family called Captain Absolutely. Captain Absolutely is a super hero who uses Scriptural truth and some special powers that he gained through a big explosion in the library where he worked which threw him into a big set of Bibles plus a slow leak from the city's radioactive core. His arch nemesis is Dr. Relative (who used to be his friend in the library but in the same explosion he was thrown into the philosophy section...) Captain Absolutely works hard to fight against (no pictures of scene explains, "...but we shouldn't glorify violence, even when God asks us to fight for the truth") Dr Relative, the fear chemist, and a handful of other bad guys (a part of the "Legion of Bad Guys").

"Captain Absolutely: Defending Truth, Justice, and Lots More Truuuth!" :)

 Captain Absolutely

My 12-year old daughter has been a long-time subscriber to Clubhouse Magazine (another product of Focus On The Family) and as such already knew who Captain Absolutely was (the comic is in serial-form in the magazine, so she has read a section every month in the magazine).  She was excited to receive this book to read.  She's not a big fan of regular superheroes, but this one is more her speed :) .  I asked her to write a bit of a review on the book for this posting, here's what she gave me:

I liked this book because it gave the perspective that being a Christian isn't always easy but you have the Ultimate Truth.  I think one of my favorite characters is Hana's mom, because she loved her daughter so much that she took the responsibility (when police found the hidden Bibles.)

My daughter, at 12 years old, is definitely at the top end of the intended ages for this book.  My 15-year old son who loves superheroes read it as well (at my request) and confirmed that it was for kids younger than him :)  He did enjoy some of the humor, but it was definitely not something he would've read had I not asked him.

As a parent I really liked the range of topics that this book touched on.  Things like music and how the lyrics can lead into feelings of isolation; things like hygeine (haha!! yes, not only mom wants you to be clean!), other things such as laziness, grudges, confusion, FEAR, and more!  At the end of the comic was a little lineup of all the characters with their characteristics and Bible verses relating to each of them.  There is also a questions section at the end.

I think that this book would be a really great way for families to talk through different topics that relate to God's absolute truth.  Going section at a time might be an effective way--reading and discussing.

Captain Absolutely is a bright, eye-catching, action-filled book :)  Its pages are sturdy, this is a book that I imagine most kids in the target audience age will read without being prompted.  It'd make a great discussion book for you and your child or a great gift!  I recommend it!

You can read more reviews of this book here:
Captain Absolutely {Focus On The Family Review}

Crew Disclaimer

Monday, May 15, 2017

Dandelion Jelly :) Again!

I know I wrote a post about dandelion jelly years ago (here!) but here we go again!  :)  I really like dandelions in my yard -- the yellow interspersed with the green just looks so cheery!  My husband, on the other hand, sees them as a sign that it's time to mow again haha :)

This time of the year, when no fruits or veggies are really growing yet, is a perfect time to make dandelion jelly!  What?  You've never had dandelion jelly?  It's very tasty!  I think it tastes like honey, actually.  If your yard looks like mine:

then you are all ready to make a batch for yourself! The recipe I have used for years is from Prairieland Herbs. It's easy to follow and so easy to make! I have actually doubled and tripled this recipe successfully.

Basically all you do is pick the yellow parts of the dandelions (just the yellows! We cut them right off the flower into a bowl so that the green parts get left behind) -- we usually aim for about 6 cups of the yellow stuff (I have 3 kids, so with four of us doing this it doesn't take too long). You make kind of a tea or infusion with these and then strain and use the liquid just like in any other jelly.

I don't add any extra color and after canning it looks pretty good!

It's a delicious light flavor and makes a great gift too!  It's a great way to kick off your canning season as well!

Q is for our quest to rid our garden of thistles!

Last year we had some thistles in our garden, but this year, when the new greenery appeared, our garden is about 1/4 full of thistles!!!!!  Ahhhhhhhhh!!!!  No good!  So what to do?  Some internet and book research seems to show that the thistles are awfully hard to get rid of...and we didn't want to throw a bunch of herbicides in our garden.  Several authors suggest removing the green parts above ground (four or more times, as they keep springing up!) in order to deny the root any products of photosynthesis (and hopefully eventually to kill the plant).  
The culprit, our enemy!

Wow, that sounds like a large undertaking, especially since a pretty large portion of our garden (maybe 1/4) is covered in this green monster.  
See all of this green!  Most is thistle (a little dandelion thrown in,)

We dove right in and did the first cutting session, cutting off the green parts where they emerge from the ground.  With gloves, of course!

Ouch, so many prickers!! (our gloves are only rubber on the fronts and mesh on the backs, so we got a lot of pokes on the backs of our hands!)

A couple of hours outside (in thankfully very nice cool dry weather!) and my daughter and I ended up taking out five 5-gallon buckets full plus five large bowls full.  Hopefully we'll only have to do this 3 or so more times to rid our garden of this pest!!!

A Net In Time Schooling

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

High School Essay Intensive by Institute for Excellence in Writing -- my REVIEW

As a parent homeschooling high schoolers, there is so much to do.  So many different subjects, and of course we want our students to excel!  Writing is one of those things that seems to come naturally to some students and a little more difficult to others.  So many different subjects rely on the student communicating what they have learned through writing, whether it be a paragraph, an essay, or a report.

This wonderful product, High School Essay Intensive which is produced by the Institute for Excellence in Writing  is a great tool for preparing your students for communicating in writing.  I had heard of others using products by IEW (Institute for Excellence in Writing) before, but I had never used or seen their products, so I was anxious to see what this was all about!

Institute for Excellence in Writing High School Essay Intensive

This "kit" is a box with five dvd's (you can actually also use this streaming if you'd rather!) in a nice little case, a "portable wall" which is covered with highlights from the lecture material, and a 26-page packet of papers to use in accompaniment to the videos.  This is all housed in a sturdy big box.

I will admit that at the beginning of our review period, when I first told my kids that we had this dvd product to watch and learn about writing they were not too interested.  My students are an 11th grade daughter, a 9th grade son, and a 7th grade daughter.  I decided to have all three of them give this program a try, so we started in on the first video.  

What is this program?  It is basically a recorded lecture by Andrew Pudewa of the Institute for Excellence in Writing; a lecture that he presented to a group of high school students to teach them how to do an excellent job at writing in different settings for different purposes.  Does this sound boring to you?  It is DEFINITELY not!

Just a few minutes into the lecture and my 15-year old son was smiling as he watched, with a few spurts of laughter from all three of them.  They were pausing the dvd and filling in information on their worksheets and commenting to each other a bit.  That first day we stopped the video after about half an hour and the kids were still enjoying it!  We began again the next day and the kids leapt right in!  In subsequent days I never got any complaints about watching more of the lesson.

Through participating in this High School Essay Intensive they learned alot of great information about writing, from the basics and "nuts and bolts" to things such as choosing topics and varying sentence style.  They learned some different "structures" of essays and how they are organized.  They learned how to write an excellent paragraph and how to write a great essay.  As appreciated by my more "structured" writer, they learned the TRIAC principle for writing an effective paragraph.  

The course is separated into different sections.  Part one is "General Strategies for Essay Writing" which is basically what it sounds like :)  This is filled with all kinds of information of how to communicate effectively through writing for many different applications.  I think it was about 3 hours.  Part two is how to write a great essay for the ACT essay section; part three is how to write a great essay for the SAT essay test.  Part Four teaches strategies for the "personal essay" as necessary for some things such as college applications or scholarship applications.  

My kids and I watched both discs of part one as well as disc 5, which is the personal essay.  They used the included worksheets for note taking and practice.   Every so often they were asked to pause the disc and write.  We were all very impressed with this writing method!  

this was my son's "page 217 from my 300 page autobiography"  ;)

So what did my children think of it?

My 11th grade daughter wrote:
It was very useful to learn tips and tricks for my writing.  It helped a lot with coming up with ideas for writing, and how to make a basic essay, it covered what is expected from various essays, it was very helpful all around.  The teacher was very fun, he made it super interesting.  He made it seem like something that is easy to do, which it is now! :)  The teacher was very good at holding our attention.  I would totally recommend this for anyone.  Regardless of whether or not you like writing, he makes it fun! :) 

My 9th grade son wrote:
The writing class was very helpful for me personally.  He clearly explained all of his topics and ingrained it into my memory.  Also, he was funny, which made the experience more enjoyable than all writing classes I have ever done.

My 7th grade daughter wrote:
I found these videos very informational, useful, and even funny!

I have actually already seen what they learned reflected in other writing they have done recently.  I think the biggest take away that they have all focused on was using different sentence patterns to make their writing more interesting.  I look forward to seeing how they utilize this and other methods!

We have found the High School Essay Intensive  to be a very enjoyable lecture workshop which is easy to listen to and learn from.  The teacher has great relatability and authority.  I would definitely recommend this program!

You can read others' thoughts about this product here:

High School Essay Intensive {Institute for Excellence in Writing Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Dress modification

My children attend a ballroom dance class and at the end of each session they have a semi-formal dance. My daughters are all about wearing something pretty that, more importantly, is nice and twirly when they spin :)

My 16 yr old was very excited to find this dress at a rummage sale for 25 cents (the price was right!) but unfortunately it was strapless ... and short. However, it had that twirl factor, so we took it on as a project. The length was easy to correct...just wear capri leggings under it (good cover for when in full twirl also!) and then we just had to add straps.

SO here's the before...with a tank top underneath :) Definitely couldn't wear it like that!

Next we took a trip to the fabric store to find a PERFECTLY coordinating fabric -- (haha, said a bit tongue-in-cheek because it's pretty hard to find a perfect match!) We couldn't find an exact match, so we settled for two fabrics and a ribbon that kind of coordinated :) Here's what we came up with...

First step was to wash the dress, and wash the fabrics to make sure any shrinking would occur before we made the straps! Next step was to measure and see how long the straps needed to be.

It was then pretty easy.  I decided how thick I wanted the straps to be, cut out strips of each color fabric, and sewed right sides together in a straight line down the edge.

Next I turned them inside out and ironed them with the seam in the middle (so it would be covered by the successive layers.

It was easy to then just layer the different finished fabric strips and then sew them together--

...and then decide on placement and pin them in place (well, we found that it worked better to do one and then measure the second side so that you place them symmetrically.)

Sew them on, try it on, adjust a little...and voila!  A dress ready for the big dance :)

And here it is in mid-twirl!  Comfortable, modest, and a lot of fun! :)  

So the moral of the story is don't be afraid to alter a dress that doesn't work perfectly for you...especially if you get it for a tiny price ;)  It doesn't have to be hard or even elegant or complicated and you may end up with a favorite piece!

Teenage sons... never know what to expect!! :) Here's what I found when I went to make dinner...

I love that kid!

Saturday, May 6, 2017

P is for pretty

Do you ever buy things just because they are pretty? We are on a very tight budget and it doesn't have much room for "extras" so what we purchase is usually driven by a practical need. There are, however, a few times that I have just really really really wanted something because I thought it was pretty and then saved to buy it or used grocery money to buy it :) (a few stretched meals in those weeks!) It's not often, but when I do, they are usually things that will give me joy just to see them.

Here's one example:

When I saw these drinking glasses I just thought they were so beautiful~~and several years later they still make me smile. There's just something about them that resonates with me. Definitely worth the $3 apiece they were.

Here's a more recent one. I really had to think about this one, since we had a perfectly usable teakettle already, just a metal one, but it gets a lot of use.

Oohhh, this one is just so much prettier and makes me smile as well :) It works great too (though my husband burned his hand on the steam somehow when we first got it -- I think he was pouring it at too steep an angle).

So...yes, even pragmatic people like me can be swayed by prettiness sometimes :) Sounds shallow, right? Oh well. It's not a pattern though. Honestly, though, if they were not "useful" items I might not have purchased them :)

A Net In Time Schooling

Monday, May 1, 2017

The Maggie Bright by Tracy Groot -- my REVIEW

The book The Maggie Bright by Tracy Groot is a book I received for reviewing purposes. When I first got the book I looked at it and, though the cover was attractive, I really thought I would not like it at all. It has several strikes against it in my taste for books-- #1 it is about a war and much of it is the story/stories of a soldier/soldiers, #2 it flips back and forth between different characters who are seemingly unrelated in the beginning of the book, #3 it is about a British group of people--not in my comfort zone.

Since it was a book that I needed to write a review of I went ahead and dove in -- and surprised myself by LOVING the book! It is an amazing book, it elicits strong emotions, and leaves the reader sad but in awe.

The book begins with a woman (Clare) who has inherited a boat and is using it as a bed and breakfast. She has an interesting housemate (boatmate?) and they have just come through a strange burglary, in which nothing was taken but the "robber" was caught thanks to the housemate's savvy use of a teakettle. This man who was put in jail is found to be a minister who Clare and Mrs Shrewsbury nickname BV (the Burglar Vicar). Clare wants to visit the BV to find out what he was looking for, but as she attempts a visit her path intersects with an artist who has come to see the same man. Meanwhile in another part of the story, a British soldier somewhere in France is given a command to deliver a heavily injured Captain, the lone survivor of his company but who heroically rescued a large group of other soldiers (and also lost his mental capacities it seems) to Dunkirk to have his wounds taken care of and to return to England to recover.

There are many little sub-stories in this book and I do not want to delve into them for fear of giving away too much information. Suffice it to say that topics encountered include such things as the British Forces and their horrific struggles in France, new-found information about a birth and an adoption, the horrors of war, the horrors of Hitler's regime, missing papers, documents that need to get to the safety of the US, friendships, a little romance, a little faith, prayers, death, wanton death and destruction, injury, boats, loyalty, and so much more.

The climax of this book comes when soldiers are stranded at Dunkirk and civilian boats and crews become a part of the salvation of so many soldiers, as well as a part of the casualties of war. (this is a really interesting thing that I don't believe I had ever heard of before, probably since I live in the US).

It is sad and dramatic and heart-wrenching in so many ways. I kind of felt like some of the parts of it didn't have a conclusion (such as...what happened to the "packet" -- did it get to where it was supposed to go and what repercussions or actions did that cause?) and much of it leaves you looking for more answers or something more conclusive.

All in all, I surprised myself by how much I liked this book. My husband it itching to read it next, and I think my teens might as well. I do really recommend this book.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher, Tyndale House. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”