Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Online Drawing Program by Creating a Masterpiece -- my REVIEW

My youngest daughter, who is now in 10th grade, enjoys creating art. I am not super-talented in the areas of painting/drawing, so she was thrilled to have the opportunity to use the one-year subscription to the Drawing Program by Creating a Masterpiece and I am happy to share my thoughts about the program in this review! We had used a different online product from Creating a Masterpiece in the past, so she anticipated enjoying these drawing lessons--and yes, she certinly did!

Maybe if you have a long memory, you might remember my previous review of an art program from Creating a Masterpiece (here). This program is similar, but different!

The Drawing Program is a series of four different levels of instruction in drawing projects, from beginner to level 3.  The instructor, Sharon Hofer, introduces the lesson (and finished product) to the students and then walks them through how they can replicate the piece of art, one step at a time. She is very smooth and pleasant to listen to, and she gives the instructions at a very do-able rate, talking as she performs the drawings/smudgings/etc. so that the student can follow her words as well as her movements.

Students may begin at any level, but for our family (with very little drawing experience!) it made sense to begin at the beginners' level. There are five different projects which you can work on, some of them are working in pencil, others are with charcoal.  

Similarly to the last time we used the Creating a Masterpiece program, our initial thought, upon viewing the artwork we were to learn to make, was along the lines of, "No way, I can't do that!"  My daughter actually was a bit intimidated, thinking that she couldn't make something like what was shown (before she started) -- but she went ahead and started out with the lessons...

Miss Sharon's clear instructions about how to create the "Hoot Owl"...

were followed and this amazing drawing of an owl emerged!

Another one of the beginner lessons that she completed was the "Angling for Trout." {{{Side note: my husband rasies trout for a living, so just take this into account!}}}  We were all amazed to see her make this drawing:
 You'll notice that she is working on her second version of this picture, because her first didn't have the correct dimensions of an actual trout (see side note above, haha!) so she went through the directions a second time--and she actually plans to do another time as well! (This is another great part of the program--you are not limited to only using the directions once! You can perfect your following of her instructions time and time again!)

One of the things that we like about Miss Sharon's instructions are her likeability and normal-ness.  She speaks to the student just like she is having a conversation, and like she is a friend. She is upbeat, not rushed, and very encouraging!

So...can I show off a few more of the drawings that she has made thus far? :) 

This one was in the midst of the Alaskan Wilderness drawing...

And here's the finished work of the Alaskan Wilderness (this was a Level 1 charcoal drawing).  My husband has already claimed this for his office at work. :)
This was the lesson on drawing a still life with shadowing of an egg :) 

And she's mid-way through the Level 2 project "Dawdling Duck" (I love this one, who would've imagined that my 15-year old could draw this?!)

She is completely thrilled to have access to these drawing lessons for a year, and I anticipate seeing lots of iterations of each of these drawings (or at least of her favorites). It is nice to be able to go over the same lessons (I know I said this before, but it bears repeating) as the student has become semi-comfortable to the tools and the techniques, and it's then easier to make changes.

The program itself is very easy to use. The website is very natural to navigate without frustration, and the lessons that you have purchased (have access to) are easy to find. For each lessons there is an accompanying list of materials, so you won't be surprised mid-project, and there is even a link where you could purchase the supplies if you don't already have a favorite vendor of these items.

The lessons are broken up into chunks, as well, so that if you don't have the time to devote to the entire project you can easily return later to pick up where you left off. 

All in all, we REALLY enjoy these online art lessons/online drawing program by Creating a Masterpiece. The student can learn some techniques, but I think it's more of a "finished work" creation-type program. Some of the techniques they learn can be carried over into other independent projects. I'd describe this program as more of an online "Paint and Sip" type program, easy to turn out a really nice finished product.

Here are a couple of thoughts from my 10th grade daughter who used the program these past few months: I LOVE creating a masterpiece! I am not a very artsy person, but I'm able to draw really cool and good things with this! The lessons are easy to follow along, and she is very clear about what you should do. She also says to sometimes copy her picture, but its really ok if yours looks different from hers.

Well, as you have probably inferred already, I definitely recommend the Online Drawing Program by Creating a Masterpiece!  If you'd like to read the thoughts of other families who have used this product, please check out their reviews by clicking on the link below!

Learning to Draw {Creating a Masterpiece Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

Saturday, October 19, 2019


There's something soul-soothing about being by the water!

Thank you Lord for the blessings of a beautiful day :)

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Fun Family Chess by Brain Blox -- my REVIEW!

In my family, we love to play games--card games, board games, word games (well, only some of us like those!)--for whatever reason, although my kids are now high school aged, we have never played chess with them! I don't really know why, maybe just because we didn't have a chess board...(I think I'm making excuses). The kids were thrilled that we got to review this awesome product by Brain Blox called Fun Family Chess.  

This chess set is not your usual chess set (board plus pieces) -- it has some extra parts which definitely make it easier for a beginner to learn to play! It is a very nice quality set--the wooden board folds up into a box to hold the pieces and the dice (read on!) and the instructions and the move guide; the pieces each have their own little fabric pouch to keep the colors separate.  

As soon as this set arrived, my daughter opened it right up and set it up to begin playing! The board has the diagram of the icons of the pieces right on it so that you know where the different pieces go, which is very helpful for a beginner. (If you have an eye for details, you'll notice that she set it up on the wrong sides of the board--till I noticed and shared with her what I knew--I had told her what I had learned as a child, to always match the queen's "outfit" to her square--but the way she had it set up, according to the diagram on the board it was not matching--see the pictures below :) She had just put them on the opposite sides of the playing field, I guess because she had been in a hurry to set it up and get started :) Well, it is actually quite easy to set it up correctly, just match the color of the pieces with the side of the board which has the coordinating colored pictures :) White on the outlined side, darks on the filled in side. When she realized that, it was much easier to set it up correctly and continue on!

(you'll notice on these and some other pics that she has them set up on the wrong side of the board--this was in the beginnnig of her learning...now she always sets them up on the correct side!)

Since my kids are in high school (10th and 12th grades), I basically just received the package and gave them the box to play around with and try out. I had anticipated playing it together as a family, using the methods in the kit, but my daughter beat me to it, read how to play, and before I knew it she had learned to play chess by herself--well enough that she could beat me! I mean, like within an hour or maybe slightly longer she had it figured out!

Let me tell you a little about what makes this set different--and so much less intimidating than learning to play using just a regular board/pieces. Do you see the dice (chess cube) and reference card in the picture above? Well, the way that you play this game, you roll the dice and then match the color to the reference card to see what moves you can make with which pieces.  It basically gives you a smaller number of options for your moves and shows you where you can move. Game play progresses as you each roll the die and move your pieces accordingly.  My daughter actually played both sides of the board, she just rolled and moved the accompanying colored side, taking turns--I think this is how she learned so quickly!

Check out this video which gives a little introduction to this method of learning to play chess: 

My son (12th grade) got into the act and he and my daughter have had some fun chess games...and they've both beaten me! I'm no chess pro, but I have known how to play for lots of years...well, they've obviously caught on to it!

Don't be afraid that if you learn to use this that you won't be able to play "regular" chess -- there are instructions in the instruction booklet that help you transition to regular chess--or there are also videos which Brain Blox has made that help you switch over to playing "normal" chess. 
These videos are very helpful, short, to the point, entertaining, and easy to understand/follow.  (There are actually several videos that cover how to play the game as well--if you learn more easily via video than by reading the instruction booklet, you'll be all set also!)

I really like this chess set. I think that learning to play chess might sound like an intimidating thing, but this Fun Family Chess set makes it very friendly and easy to learn :) My husband is actually thinking of trying it out, now that he has seen the kids learn it so quickly!  The way that we used it, with the kids learning it on their own, may not work for your family, especially if you have younger kids, but if you play it with them, or get them started, they ought to be able to follow right through and learn it as well as you or even better!   I definitely think this is a valuable set, it would make a great gift, too, for anyone you know! Seriously, it's not too juvenile for adults, but not too "adultish" for kids.  I'd recommend it for all ages!  

You can purchase it on their website or even on Amazon! (here's the link to their product on there). 

If you'd like to read what other reviewers thought about this great chess learning set, please click on the box below: 
Fun Family Chess {Brain Blox Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Friday, October 11, 2019


I am gaining a new appreciation for calculus, thanks to my homeschooled senior :)

I took calculus in college a million years ago, but without having taken the pre-calc, I was pretty much confused and mystified the entire semester.

Now I have a son who wants to learn calculus...so I'm learning right alongside him!  Well, two days ahead of him haha! :) So far, so good!

I love algebra, and this seems to be falling logically right there too!  Hopefully it will continue as the schoolyear continues!

I am, however, not used to having "homework" every day, haha! I wait till he's done with his work and then take the book to use (in all of my spare time--haha!! :) just kidding, I have no spare time...but carve out times!)  Lately my "go to" time for calculus has been when I'm in the car, waiting for one or two of the kids at an activity they're attending.

Would you sit in a car with a book light, learning to do calculus for your child?! :)

****Side note--I have been using Saxon Math books for my children since they were in 4th grade, and now that I'm using one myself, I really still say that I love the Saxon method. The repetition of concepts is really what cements them into the mind.  Yay Saxon! :)

Friday, October 4, 2019

Best broccoli

I'm not a huge fan of broccoli (unless it is super fresh--i.e. we grew it in our garden) BUT that yummy broccoli salad that you've probably had at potlucks will always have me piling it on my plate!

I don't have a recipe, but have figured out how to replicate it. 

I just cut up clean (wash it!!) broccoli, about 4 cups,  mix in 1 cup of raisins,  1 large purple onion (cut into tiny pieces), and about 1/2 cup of crumbled bacon. For the dressing I make up a coleslaw-type dressing of mayonnaise (maybe 1 cup?) and sugar (1/2 cup or so) and vinegar (a little less than 1/4 cup). Whisk that all together and taste bbn it to make sure it tastes how you like it--add more of whatever ingredient you need to). Let the dressing sit for awhile to dissolve the sugar and then mix it into the salad mixture. 

Enjoy! :)