Thursday, January 17, 2019

My succulent (hen & chicks)

Let me begin by saying that I am not much of an indoor houseplant keeper.  I can care for a garden over the summer, but I really don't have much success or experience with indoor plants (or outdoor decorative-type plants, like hostas and such). 

A friend gave me some plants that she was thinning out, and two of them were little bitty hens&chicks.  My grandparents used to have these out by the side of their house where it was rocky -- and that's a great memory for me :) .  I didn't know exactly where to put these plants, so I put them in a bowl and watered them every so often...this was a year and a half ago! 

I kept watering them every so often and lo and behold they stayed alive!  Half a year ago I planted them into some dirt, still unsure of where (outdoors) to plant them...and they're still there, right on the windowsill by my kitchen sink.

This plant looks so funny to me, especially how long and plump it is!  Usually they are so flat and pointy.  I'm guessing that I'm probably overwatering it and the orientation causes it to grow longer toward the light source (window).  But hey, it sure looks interesting!

So--I guess there's no moral to this story, no lesson, no tips.  Just an interesting picture and a long caption to it!

(if you're really looking for info on hens & chicks, you should probably google's one option  )

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Practice Monkeys Family Subscription to Live Violin Classes -- my REVIEW

A year and a half ago, my daughter began taking violin lessons from a gracious friend at church who is an accomplished violinist who kindly offered to teach her how to play.  She enjoys these lessons and enjoys playing the violin.  I had the opportunity to add another element into her learning by getting to try and review the Practice Monkeys program of Family Subscription to Live Violin Classes.


The name might sound a little silly sounding, Practice Monkeys, but the program is not at all silly or light! It is a serious violin program for students learning to play the violin using the Suzuki method, taught by an accomplished violinist/violin teacher who is a mother and a great communicator.

Practice Monkeys Violin Lessons
Hi! I'm Sarah Van Kleeck.  I have taught Suzuki violin for 27 years.
 I’ve been a Suzuki parent for 10 years.

The online program involves both the student and the parent.  The parent begins by watching a lengthy webinar and reading the "Parent Guidebook" which explain the program and the different roles of the student, parent, and instructor.  Some of the things which are included are the concept of listening and delayed reading, which are common in the Suzuki method -- the playing by ear bit. 

Mrs Sarah has programs for varying levels of violin learners, from the very beginners to those with more experience.  She began our program with an assessment of my daughter so that we would be "placed" into a learning/practice group.  Once she was placed, she was given a link to the proper classes (which are held via ZOOM meeting, which makes things very easy to link up with).  

Another aspect of this program is the Treehouse, which is a collection of everything you'd need for lessons.  Really. This has been well thought out and designed to enable the student and family to succeed.  If you don't have a violin or a rest, there are resources suggested (and linked).  There are practice schedules, listening schedules, tips to care for your equipment, suggested resources, and then particular to your level--different goals, habits, and practice links.

These classes are given LIVE, via Zoom, but if you are not able to make a class, they are recorded and are available on a weekly basis for you on your treehouse.  

Students learn and practice things like proper holding techniques (for the violin as well as the bow), scales (different ones), new songs, review songs, and some "for fun" songs as well.  Active listening is a large part of the program as well--becoming familiar with the way the song should sound.

So what are the classes like?  Well, they vary, but always have the teacher, live, interacting with the students who are attending that day.  If you're familiar with the Zoom platform, you know how the meetings are set up, with the one talking in the center and the other attenders shown above in thumbnails.  This is cool, because the students are practicing and working's not just one-on-one.  Until it is--sometimes your student is the only one to login, and then Mrs Sarah has a personal lesson with your student, working on what they need!

So this can be used as a total learning-online violin course.  We used it a bit differently, as my daughter is already taking violin from someone local.  She used it as an incentive to practice and to learn some new songs.  One big takeaway from the lessons is the importance of practicing everyday AND learning how to sound out songs or learn to play more by ear.

Each lesson is interactive, with the teacher asking each of the students to play different bits either on their own or together with the group, then she helps them do it correctly.  One thing I REALLY appreciate about this instructor is that she doesn't just say, "Oh, that's good" or "sounds good" even when it isn't.  She really requires the correct answer or the correct technique and doesn't gloss over errors or improper techniques, but works with the student to correct it.

It's hard to give enough information to clearly reflect the program. I will say that my student learned a lot about playing without relying on the tuner app or the sheet music.  She has gained confidence in this and other areas.  She learned some tips about scale playing as well.  She has formed practice habits which she will carry on.

I think the biggest thing for me that was a difficulty is that our session was 5:20-5:40 pm,  M-Th, which in our home is dinner making time--and so I was not able to sit in with her for each lesson.  It actually was a hard time of day for her to use the lessons as well -- so much happens in that 5-6 pm slot of our lives! The lessons ARE available in recorded form later, on the treehouse, but I really think one of the key points of this product is the personal lessons.

This is a very interesting program, I'm not sure how it works starting from a brand new beginner, never having picked up a violin, but at our stage it is good.  It is an amazingly thorough program, well thought through and implemented.  I think it would also be a good alternative for an adult who wanted to learn to play the violin.  I suggest you check out Practice Monkeys and their Family Subscription to Live Violin Classes and see if it's for you!

There's even a coupon right now, good until February 1, 2019!  If you are interested in subscribing, now is the time to do so!

Practice Monkeys Discount Coupon Offer

To see more reviewers' thoughts about this program, please click on the link below:

Online Music Education for the Violin {Practice Monkeys Reviews}

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Thursday, January 10, 2019

No more burns from the teapot!

Steam burns can be bad!  (Yes, I am speaking from experience!)  One of the weird things that I hurt myself on is steam from the teapot when I fill it up.  Now, maybe I'm alone in doing this, but basically whenever I use all the rest of the water in the teapot, I fill it up so that it will be ready to use the next time.  I usually do this when it's still hot, and the water steams right up, on my hand that's holding the teapot under the spigot.  

HOWEVER!  No more!  :) I've come up with a great way to not get burned (uhhh probably everybody already does this, but it's a lightning bolt moment for me!) 

Ready to hear what it is?

I hold the handle side downward and the spout side up!  Doing it this way the steam goes right up and instead of going onto my hand it goes up (kind of parallel to the water stream in the picture).  So my hand is in the downward quadrant and the steam rises up without burning me.  

Oh, so you already knew that?

Well, I didn't, so it's news to me!  


Tuesday, January 1, 2019

A great verse to start the new year!!

Isaiah 43:16, 18-19

New International Version

This is what the Lord says— he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Meat grinding tip

'Tis the season (deer season) for grinding meat. I wanted to share a little tip with you...maybe it's something that everyone already does, but I didn't know about it and figured it out through years of grinding :)

When you're coming to the end of your meat chunks and have put the last bits into the grinder until the auger has finished pushing out ground meat...and you figure you're done, so take the grinder apart to clean it, you'll often find a good deal of meat left in the machine, unground. 

Here's how I make sure it all gets ground up--after all the meat pieces have been put into the hopper and are grinding, I follow them with a couple handfuls of already-ground meat, until all of the pieces have been ground through...then when I take it apart, the meat left in the auger parts is already ground and able to be added right in with the other ground meat. :)

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women -- my REVIEW

Do you read the Bible daily? What about tools or devotionals to help you as you work this habit into your daily routine?  The most recent review product that our family has received is Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women, published by Zondervan.  My 14-year old daughter was excited to receive this lovely book and she and I have both been reading through it (sometimes reading more than one day's worth!)

This devotional book begins with a strong affirmation that the Bible is not only a "guys'" book (written by men, for men, about men) but that it is for women as well.  The author clearly brings out God's view of the worth of females and also encourages her female readers to dive in and learn what God has to teach us from the Bible and from the "normal" women who are a part of Scripture.

Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women

As you can see from the above picture, this devotional is a very pretty book, hardbacked, with a handy ribbon bookmark.  It's sturdy but pretty, a nice combination!  

The book is set up as a series of 365 devotionals.  I say "series" but I do not mean that it begins at January, rather you may begin on any day of the year...the days are just numbered (like Day 244, Day 245...) so if you miss a day or don't begin in January--no big deal!  When I say "series," I am referring to the say that the segments go.  The devotionals in this book are not sporadic, different topics popcorned in every day--no, rather there are several days (or more than several in some cases!) focusing on different women in the Bible--some well-known (think Rahab or Delilah) and others much lesser-known (ever heard of Zelophehad's daughters?).

Each day's reading begins with a Bible verse or a passage of Scripture.  This is followed by a discussion, dealing with the meaning of the verse, the context, as well as a distinct spelled-out correlation to life today.  Girls reading these devotions will not feel like they are moving through a history book, but rather drawing conclusions from these lives of women that can be applied to their own lives today!

Each day's page also ends with a few lines for those who like to record their thoughts, responses, or questions.

So I think you can guess how we used this devotion book :) My daughter read it independently of me (I read it separately).  I think that 14 is a great age to be developing a habit of personal Bible study.  This book's entries, though short, can definitely help to engender this routine.  She and I both enjoy the book and its topics.

Oh, speaking of topics, what topics does it cover? Oh so many...too many to list here!  Things like kindness and caring, like God's plan, like greed and generosity, like responsibility, morality, relationships, and so much more!  

I really liked the consistency of several days' worth of devotionals focusing on a certain female figure.  Readers will feel more comfortable and better about the context as they learn more than one thing from the story of a woman in the Bible.

So? Basically I liked this book.  I do think that the entries are a little short :) but hopefully will accompany a more thorough Bible reading plan.  The title states that it is for young women (Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women) but frankly, this book is meaningful to thouse outside the 13-18 age range!  

I would recommend this devotional.  It's also pretty, which is a plus--it'd make a nice gift--and what better way to encourage someone to read the Bible than an attractive, easy-to-read guide?

To read more what other reviewers had to say about this Zondervan product, please click the link below:

Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women {Zondervan Review}

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Saturday, December 1, 2018

Meal planning

I really am convinced of the importance of meal planning...both fir financial as well a less-dinnertime-stress reasons :) YET so often I do not. Why????? I say I don't have time, but I really need to prioritize/make time for it!  Working on getting back to it again :) Good luck to me, haha :)