Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Happily Homemaking With A Few Genius Steps

In this blog post I will be sharing a few tips and tricks that have helped me on my homemaking journey. I say "journey" because that is what it is. I started off with just my husband and I. We didn't make too many messes and house work was easier and minimal. After having my first son it became a battle for the laundry. After having two more sons, well, the battle is with the whole house. But, homemaking is not just "house work". It is making a home a home. It is decorating with welcoming beauty, it is tending to your little ones needs, it is giving love to your loved ones.


I recently took an e-course on homemaking. It was free and can be found at The Humbled Homemaker's website HERE. It has changed my life! These are such easy things that can be done and I am just sorry I didn't think of them before. I will share with you today what genius steps I took to get a hold on my homemaking and house work. I hope you go to The Humbled Homemaker's website and take a look at these videos. They are wonderful and absolutely worth the few minutes it take to watch them.

Genius Steps To Make Homemaking Easier And More Efficient:

  1. Unload the dishwasher first thing in the morning- how did I not think of this before? I have started doing this recently and it has made ALL the difference. It take 5 minutes to unload. 5 whole minutes! Then, it is ready to receive all of the dishes for the day. Now, if you have a large family you may have to start it more than once a day or choose to hand wash lunch dishes, etc. But, this genius idea really works. I have been doing it for a while now and in the evenings after dinner, it takes me about 10 minutes to clean up the dishes. It used to be a grueling task that took 30 minutes or more. All of the days dishes were still in the sink and the dishwasher needed to be unloaded and reloaded. Half the time I ended up having to hand wash half of them anyway because I had let them sit there all day. This simple task of unloading first thing in the morning is a life changer. Just remember to load it right after dinner and start it. You will feel so much relief from doing this. 
  2. Do one load of laundry all the way through before starting another load- this is truly a laundry life saver. Start the morning (right after you unload the dishwasher) by putting in one load of laundry. Do that load of laundry all the way through before doing another load. For instance, wash, dry, fold, AND put it away one whole load BEFORE putting another load in to wash. I started doing this and...wow! I have hardly any laundry in my dirty clothes baskets. I know this may not work that great for those with larger families, but it is a great place to start. This task takes a few minutes at a time throughout the process but it is worth it. Instead of having mounds of clean and unfolded laundry laying around, I have clean laundry and clean baskets. 
  3. Menu plan for the whole week- this may sound silly but menu planning saves me so much time and money. I have been doing this since my first son was born almost seven years ago. I couldn't keep up with going back and forth to the store while I had an infant. So, I started menu planning ahead of time. I usually sit down with a pen, calendar (a special one that I write our menu's one), and coupons. I take a look in the freezer and pantry and make a few meals from what I have and write those down on my calendar. Then, I look through my coupons to see if I can make any meals with coupons that I have. I fill in where I need. For my family, we have a breakfast night once a week. We do anything from omelets, breakfast casserole, pancakes, etc. We also have pizza night every other Friday night. So, that makes those days very easy. About once or twice a month I have a "fend for yourself" night. The kids will have cereal and the hubby and I will have leftovers or sandwiches. We don't eat out much so this is much needed so that I can rest once in a while. My hubby loves to grill in the summertime so I plan for him to do so on the weekends. 
  4. Schedule time for just your little ones- I have three sons. They are all still 6 and under. I want them to have fond memories of doing things with their mommy. So, once a month or so I schedule a date night with one of my boys. I take him to the restaurant of his choice (usually they pick Chick-fil-a) and then we go someplace else. Perhaps, the pet store or toy store. We just walk around and have fun. We end the night by going for ice cream. They love and I love it. Hubby and I also do things with our boys a lot together. We take them to state parks for hikes, to the zoo, to the museum. We love making memories with our children. 
  5. Schedule time for your husband- this is a big one ladies. We must make time for our husbands if we expect them to make time for us. Schedule a date night once a month with him. You don't have to leave the house if you are on a tight budget. Just put the kids to bed and light a candle and eat a special dessert together. No matter what you do with him just make it special for just the two of you. Your marriage is so worth it. Your children will see and notice how you act as a married couple and mimic that behavior in the future with their own marriages. When you make time for one another it affects the whole family. Children can sense tension in a marriage. You may not think so but they can. Strive to have a good marriage. 
  6. Make time for God- this is the MOST important thing you can do for your family, home, and yourself. God made us to need Him and depend on Him daily. Get your bible out, dust it off, and open those pages. There is so much love and advice to be saturated from that book. Just reading a Psalm or Proverb a day is worth it. Start off small if you are not used to having a special quiet time with the Lord. Pray and seek His face throughout the day. Surround yourself with His words. This is the best decision you will make for your home. If you are right with God and seeking to do His will in your life, you will know how to handle your home the way He made you to. 
What do you do that has helped you with homemaking? I would love to hear some new and fresh ideas. Don't forget to check out The Humbled Homemaker to get more info about how to have a better and more organized home. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Bread & Butter By: Erin McKenna {Review}


Erin McKenna is the founder of BabyCakes NYC in New York. She founded BabyCakes because of a gluten sensitivity. She wanted more options for her family and that is what her shop has done. It has brought gluten-free baking to a whole new level in the baking industry.

I was chosen to receive this book and am glad for it. I have been trying to eat better and gain knowledge about the things that go into my body. I have a huge sweet tooth and also crave bread regularly. There are not many healthy choices at the grocery store for breads and cakes. Erin McKenna has reinvented the bagel, transformed the English muffin, and totally re-done the pancake.

Instead of using the traditional white, bleached flour, Erin uses garbanzo-fava bean flour, gluten-free flour, oat flour, potato starch, millet flour, and teff flour. The difference in these types of flours is that they are all great for gluten-free baking and cooking. She goes into detail about each of these flours in the "Ingredient Assistance" section of the book. She gives you information about each one and tells you what foods you can prepare the best with each ingredient.

Some other ingredients that she uses that are not "traditional" are: arrowroot, xanthan gum, chia seeds, vegan sugar, coconut sugar, agave nectar, coconut oil, and walnut oil. She also gives you a guide for swapping out different ingredients in case you don't have something on-hand. Most of these ingredients can be found at a regular grocery store now-a-days but some may have to be purchased at specialty stores like Trader Joe's, etc.

I learned a lot about the different flours, sugars, and oils just by reading the front of the book. The pictures are adorable as well. She and her staff are featured in the photos and they look so delighted and delightful.

Erin McKenna gives new recipes for breakfast foods, bread, pizza, kid-friendly snacks, puff pastry, and desserts. Here are a few of my favorite recipes:

  • Strawberry-lemon zest bagels (p.28)
  • Croissants (p.31)
  • English muffins (p.39)
  • Brown bread (p.44)
  • The smashed grilled cheese (p.63)
  • Roasted vegetable pizza (p.73)
  • Butter crackers (p.87)
  • Sweet corn and cilantro empanadas (p.99)
  • Potato leek tart (p.113)
  • Banana-toffee pudding (p.148)
I appreciated this gluten-free, vegan approach to baking for my family. I absolutely adored Erin McKenna's sweet and simple style of baking. She makes this style of baking sound very approachable to the everyday person. The gluten-free, vegan lifestyle is becoming more and more prevalent. I believe this book was written so that many people could benefit from her knowledge of the gluten-free diet. Just because you are gluten-free or vegan doesn't mean you have to miss out on all of the wonderful foods you used to eat. 

I recommend this book to those who are looking for new and creative, yet simple, ideas for a gluten-free diet. 

Please visit Erin McKenna's webiste HERE. You can also visit her Facebook page HERE.

I received this book from Blogging For Books for review. All opinions expressed here are solely my own.  

The Three Amigos Go To The Living Museum

We have a Living Museum about a half an hour away from our home. Once in a while we get the chance to go and see all of the wonderful animals and exhibits. This past weekend we were able to attend as a family and it was wonderful.

We actually went to the museum because Bear (who is 6) accepted Jesus into his heart on Friday night!!!!! Praise be to God! We are so happy and thrilled and feel blessed beyond measure! God is so good. It is my hearts only desire to see my children walking in the Truth!

After the museum we went out to lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings (Bears choice!) and then took him to Lifeway. We bought him a new devotional so that he can deepen his relationship with Jesus. We celebrated all weekend and will forever!

So here are a few pics of our trip to the museum:







Thanks for stopping by and rejoicing with us for Bear. I can only give thanks and praise to God. I am so grateful for his mercies!

Friday, April 17, 2015

ARTistic Pursuits-The Way They See It {Review}

Doing crafts and art in my house is like breathing air. It is a necessity. My three boys (even the two year old) absolutely love to draw, paint, color, play with play dough (I make my own), and even make their own cards for special occasions for others. What can I say...we LOVE arts and crafts. Did I mention that I have all boys? Yup, boys can love doing art too!

I was chosen to receive a copy of ARTistic Pursuits book for preschoolers The Way They SEE It in exchange for a review of the product. The Way They SEE It is an art curriculum written for preschool aged children who are just learning the different styles of art. I will explain more about that below. But, first let me tell you a little about the company ARTistic Pursuits

ARTistic Pursuits Review

ARTistic Purstuits was developed to give the student/child a love and appreciation for art. Art comes in many different forms and can be a little intimidating to many (uh hum....me!). It gives the child confidence in the little things before moving on the bigger techniques. Each of the lessons/books are age appropriate. For instance, I was given The Way They SEE It because I have all young children who need a foundation in art. If you have older children there are many other resources on their website for many different ages and styles of art.

The Way They SEE It was an awesome curriculum. Well, still is. We have loved using it and plan to continue use. The curriculum covers everything from coloring with crayons (and proper crayon control), sculpting with dough, and using markers to make art. There is a list of materials you will need at the beginning of the book and also on their website. Having little ones in your home, you should already have most of the supplies such as crayons, scissors, and markers. But, you may want to invest in a whole new set of everything just for this curriculum. It's more fun that way!

ARTistic Pursuits Review


How we used The Way They SEE It:


  • When we first started the book I did a little research on the ARTistic Pursuits website to make sure I had all supplies needed to begin. After I was sure I had everything I needed I read the parents section at the beginning of the book to make sure I was properly using the curriculum. 
  • We ended up using it 3 days per week for our art curriculum. Each time we used it, the lesson lasted about 10-30 minutes depending on the project for that day and if my students had any questions about the lesson.
  • Since I had never used an art curriculum before (usually just had them color, etc. on their own), sometimes we felt like we wanted to do more lessons in a day or week. 
  • I would read that days lesson and show the boys the picture for that day. After going over the material we would do the project that went with that lesson. Sometimes it would be coloring a picture and sometimes it would be making impressions of pine cones or leaves. 
Here are some samples of my children's work using The Way They SEE It: 



I had to crop the pictures from their full view because they wrote their names on them. Sorry!! But, you can get the gist of what they look like. 




What we like about The Way They SEE It:


  • I, personally, loved that it eased my students into the world of art. It begins with a lesson on crayons and how to properly hold them. By the end of the book, students should be able to color and draw pictures that are more than stick figures, use scissors properly, and form a scuplture using clay or dough among many other things. 
  • My students loved that they got to do an art project or craft each day. What child doesn't love when you get out the paint set and brushes and actually help them with their artwork? My kids loved it. 
  • The lessons were short enough and simple enough that even my 4 year old could understand them and my 2 year old say through the lessons. 
  • The lessons are not repetitive at all. You don't just use crayons for a month and then markers. My students looked forward to learning a new skill and making something of their own. 
  • Included in the lessons are little bits of art history as well as paintings by famous artists. The history part is interesting because I even learned a few things about some of the artists represented.
  • The pictures of each painting is so beautiful. They are large enough to show the beauty of each piece and to be able to see the brush strokes, etc. I liked to just flip through the book and see what was next for each lesson. 
This art education program is an excellent resource for any homeschool. Since ARTistic Pursuits has designed so many choices of curriculum for all ages it would be suitable for any person at any age. I loved using this art curriculum because it gave my children the foundations they need to grow in their knowledge of art and art history. It gave them a sense of accomplishment to finish and project and to know that they actually made a masterpiece.

You can find out more by about all of the products that ARTistic Pursuits offers by visiting their webiste HERE. They also have a Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/ArtisticPursuitsInc?notif_t=page_user_activity

Please take the time to go and inform yourself about this wonderful company and their many books on art.


ARTistic Pursuits Review

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Dear Rest Of The World {A Letter From A Lonely SAHM}

Dear Rest Of The World,

I know I chose this life of raising babies, doing loads of laundry, and rarely leaving my home. It comes with so much joy and laughter and hugs and kisses. But, it also comes with isolation, loneliness, and exhaustion. Sometimes, it is just plain hard. 

This raising babies thing gets kinda hard sometimes. They need this, they want that, someone pooped on the floor. Yeah, it gets hard. But, what is even harder is the loneliness.

I have friends I haven't heard from in months....years even. I call and text and get no answer. I wait. I long for companionship from another person. I have my husband. I have my children. But, I need female companionship. 

A friend. A friend who understands those hard moments. Those lonely moments. Those moments you just want to cry because you feel like giving up. No matter what you think of stay-at-home-mom's, they work hard. 

Keeping the home is a 24/7 job. I don't get "off" of work. I am always doing, washing, folding, cleaning, cooking, teaching. I homeschool my children on top of being a SAHM. 

God has called me to this place. Sometimes He is the only One with me. Sometimes He is the only One who hears me. My whispers of hope, help, and love. Jesus is my Refuge, Strength, My Sole Purpose For Waking Up Each Morning. He fills in the empty spaces of my heart. He gives me Peace, Protection, Joy.

So, dear fellow earthlings, please keep up SAHM's in your prayers. We have the loneliest jobs on the planet. We only have tiny people to talk to all day. We don't do lunch and shopping. We do peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and spilled milk. We do dinner in the crockpot and breakfast out of a box. 

I only ask that you smile at us when we are at the store with our little ones hanging from the cart and asking for every little thing. Give a smile. Give a compliment. Even just to say how blessed we are with all those little ones. We chose this life. We know we chose it. 

Please, whatever you do, don't look down on us. Don't judge us based on what society says we must do as women. Walk a mile in our shoes. Walk a mile with us. Invite us on a walk with you. Our children can play together and we can laugh together. 

Give us grace. Please give us grace. It is hard and lonely. For those of you who are friends with a SAHM, call them! Call them or text them or email them or send them a letter in the mail. We only want to know that someone else is thinking about us. We think about our friends. We long for them to call. We don't call because the second we sit down to make a phone call someone screams for help or gets stuck in the fridge. 

Ask us to have coffee with you. We WILL go. I love to go for coffee but most of the time I have little ones so I go through the drive-thru. The drive-thru is not as much fun. 

As for my little ones all running around and being busy little people. I love them dearly. That's why I chose this life. That's why I chose to keep them close to me and be with me. They are my best friends at this stage of life. My husband is a great daddy. He is a great provider, confidant, and my very best friend. I am blessed to have him in my life. 

If you want to bless someone, help a SAHM. Smile at her in the store, help her with her bags, tell her that her children are a blessing. Pray for her. Pray for her children to know the Lord. Above all else, give her Grace. 

Sincerely,

A tired, lonely, SAHM who loves her children and just needs a friend

gMovies Review and GIVEAWAY {6 Month Subscription}!

I don't know about you but as a Christian family trying to live a life glorifying God, it is very hard to find good, clean movies. Movies that you aren't embarrassed to have on if your little ones walk into the room. Movies that make you feel good and have a moral purpose. There are many companies that have instant access to movies these days but most of the other companies are not Christian-friendly.

That's when I found gMovies. I was given a subscription to gMovies for the purpose of this review. However, I did not know I was getting such a wonderful website filled with great Christian movies. I was so excited that I couldn't keep away from the website and searching the movies and watching them.

gMovies offers instant access to over 300 faith-friendly movies that are great for the whole family. There are many different genres including comedy, drama, action, and child-friendly. There are also many biblical documentaries and television series available.

gMovies is available on a computer or mobile device(using the gMovies FREE app) at this time. For just $4.99 a month, you can have access to all of these wonderful features. But, with the code "FREETRIAL90" (don't type in the quotation marks) you can access gMovies for free for 2 weeks. The best thing about gMovies is there is NO contract. You can cancel at any time.



gMovies is powered by UP, America's favorite tv channel for uplifting music and family-friendly entertainment. UP has been awarded the "Entertainment Seal Of Approval" twice by the Parents Television Council for being family-friendly. That is a great achievement.

There are so many wonderful movies to choose from but here are a few of my favorites:

  • At Jesus' Side
  • Book Of Ruth
  • The Davey & Goliath Series
  • Friends & Heroes Series
  • Left Behind Series
  • Pahappahooey Island Series
  • The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry
  • The Wager
  • Heaven is Waiting
I love the variety that gMovies offers for families. Not only did I like it, but my kids really liked it. They have so many good movies to choose from now instead of the junk that regular tv offers. My husband even found the documentaries very interesting. I am so thankful to have been a part of this review. 

Now, for the GIVEAWAY 

I will be giving away a 6 MONTH SUBSCRIPTION to gMovies to one person. All you have to do is comment below letting me know what your favorite faith-based or family-friendly movie is. Yup...it's that easy. Just make sure you leave a valid email address so that I can contact you in the event that you win. The giveaway will end on April 22, 2015. I will contact the winner by email and they will have 48 hours to respond. If they do not respond a new winner will be chosen. 

Don't forget to check gMovies out for yourself with the FREE 2-week trial using the code provided above!!


"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
 Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

And The Winner Is........Heather Drinkwater!!! Congrats!!!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Memoria Press~First Start Reading {Review}

Finding the right reading and phonics program has been one of the biggest  challenges for me. My oldest son is six and loves to “read” books. But, he struggles to learn the actual reading part of it. We have tried many other programs with little or no success. I will get into more detail about what worked better in this program later on. I was so glad to have been chosen to receive Memoria Press First Start Reading for my family to use and review. I had never heard of First Start Reading, though I am familiar with Memoria Press. They were VERY generous to my family and gave us the whole program to use.

Memoria Press Review


Memoria Press was founded in 1994 by Cheryl Lowe, a teacher and lover of Latin. She developed and wrote many of the curriculum available on the website. The curriculum on Memoria Press goes from Kindergarten all the way through high school. Since my children are all still very young we were given the First Start Reading program but there are MANY other items available on the website. Memoria Press is more of a classical approach to education (which I love). The items I received are actual, physical books.


Memoria Press Review


For the First Start Reading curriculum we were given the Teacher Guide and Student Books A-D. The Teacher Guide gives the parent the exact information on how to teach each days lesson. The Student Books are written out so that each book moves the student along in the lessons so they get more and more challenging. I really liked how the books were separated into more challenging lessons. This program covers manuscript printing, consonants, short and long vowels, 45 common words, and artist-drawn coloring pages that go along with each lesson.

How We Used First Start Reading:

~Since we had tried other “phonic/reading” curriculum we decided to dive right in with Book A. My son, Bear, would do at least one lesson everyday. Sometimes more if Bear was up to it. The lessons only take about 10 minutes at the most. We chose Book A because it is the first book in the program and we wanted to start at the foundation and work our way up.

~The lessons are short enough that we could really take our time and work on something that may be new or challenging to my student.

~I used the Teacher Guide to explain exactly what needed to be done each day and since it is very detailed I would utilize the Guide more for difficult lessons that Bear didn’t understand. It actually helped me to be able to explain the lessons in a much easier way that Bear could understand.

~During the time of this review (and from now on) we only used First Start Reading as our reading, writing, and phonics lessons.

~We worked our way through Book A and made it to Book B. We are excited about the next two books. We did a few lessons in the other books for review purposes and found them just as delightful as the first two books.

What We Liked About First Start Reading:

~The lessons are short so the student can do a few lessons a day or just one, depending on the difficulty level.

~The lessons were easy to understand and simple enough for a student to do on his own with only guidance from the parent/teacher. For instance, Book A starts off with the letter "M" and the sound it makes. Then, the student learns the letter "A". The next lesson is learning a new word with the letter "M" and "A" in it (i.e. "AM").

~Bear learned a few new reading skills and is becoming more confident in his phonics skills.

~I absolutely love the price of the books for this program. The books are only $7.00 each for the student books and the Teacher Manual is $14.95. You really can’t find many phonics/reading programs that are this great for such a low price.

~I love how the books get more challenging and start you off doing easy lessons so the student gains more confidence. It made Bear feel like he could really read already. When we would get to something more difficult he already had positive thoughts because of the previous lessons guiding him into the more difficult ones.

~The student also learns writing skills as well. Each lesson gives the student some “practice” for writing a new letter, word, or sentence.

Here is a sample of a lesson from Book A:



The reason this program worked so great for us and the reason we will only be using First Start Reading is because of the pace at which the lessons are taught, the order in which they are taught, and my child really liked doing the lessons. The lessons really focused on proper pencil grip, printing words/letters to reinforce phonics, and learning one phonogram at a time. The program uses the more traditional phonogram approach of "vowel-consonant" combined with word families instead of the "consonant-vowel blending" approach. It works better for younger minds.

My MIL is a retired reading specialist and I had her take a look at First Start Reading. Her first reaction was that she thought it was a great program. The lessons were exactly how she taught her students how to learn to read. After looking at the Teacher Guide, she really loved it. Everything is completely laid out for the teacher/parent and all of the lessons are complete.

So, all in all, First Start Reading by Memoria Press is a wonderful reading and phonics program. I highly recommend this curriculum to those who have struggling learners or are just starting out with learning phonics. I plan to use this program with all of my children from now on. I really couldn’t say enough good things about Frist Start Reading. Check it out for yourself. I feel very blessed to have been on this review. This is the one area of homeschooling that we struggle with the most and now it isn’t a struggle. My son loves to get out his reading books and learn new skills.


For More Info On Memoria Press and Their Products Please Visit:

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Memoria Press Review


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