Monday, March 14, 2011

Oy! It's been a month....

I can't believe that it's been a month since I've updated the blog! It's getting creaky... and dusty... and hopefully I haven't lost you in the shuffle.

This month has been a blur of activity and ailments.

Some highlights for ya...

~ My back = achy. Ok, so my back isn't what has me out of joint. It's really my hip that is at the core of the problem but you know how body parts are. Once one starts acting up it's contagious and the others have to start just to get a little attention thrown their way. I'm starting to feel better, but I was positively grumpy for a while. I'm really trying to "choose joy" this year (stolen unapologetically from an online friend lol) and it's hard to do that when you aren't sleeping and are achy. So, I tended to keep my head down low.

~ We have had some sad news about some friends. Actually, several friends. And family. All is good because God is good (all the time!) Weeping lasts for a time because joy comes in the morning, right? Our Lord is in control and will use all things for good. It just takes us a while to get out of our human slump and remember that upon occasion.

~ I started back to school last week! I'll write up a nifty post for you all about my new adventures digging up dead people... uh I mean studying genealogy. :)  I'm on my way towards my goal of becoming a certified genealogist. <raising my glass of ice water> Here's to new adventures!

~ Our plans for homeschooling changed. Again. I'd laugh, but if I laughed every time we made a change people would think that I'm crazy. I'd cry, but where's the fun in that? I was graciously reminded by an unnamed member of my household that my plan didn't include CLEP exams even if it said that it included CLEP exams. So, on a whim I gave the kid a few practice tests. Um. Well. You see... she scored an 80% on the US History I practice exam. So, we're ditching the plan and picking up a new one for this year. Learn to go with the flow is my new motto. (My other one - hold on for dear life and scream - didn't seem to instill a lot of confidence for some reason!) I've been researching and reading any moment I could, and not everything fit on the plate. My beloved little bloggy fell off and landed near the dog bowl (which is now filled with a new food since our dog is now on an ELIMINATION DIET. Who knew a dog needed such a different diet. Again, another story. lol) I've been collecting a lot of titles and links so expect these to start rolling out in the next week or so.

All this to say that I'm back. And happy about it. :)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

It's drawing day! 

Tami Duvall, licensed and accredited Simply Music Instructor at Natural Notes Piano School Online Classroom,  is giving away a month's worth of weekly online piano classes ($70 value)!

I've been struggling with getting the pretty html Random Number Generator to work on the blog, so we're going "old school" with their Random Sequence Generator that appears as simple text. It isn't as pretty, but it does the job! The first number wins!

Random Sequence Generator

Here is your sequence:


Timestamp: 2011-02-19 15:14:14 UTC

And the winner is... JACKIE! 

I'll be forwarding your information to Tami today, and she'll be in touch with you to set up your free classes!

I'm very excited about my daughter taking the classes. Please take a look at the information below and consider enrolling your child in them as well!

Just a reminder about the classes...
The classes will be held LIVE on Tuesdays at 1:00pm CST starting Tuesday, February 22. For more info on the classes check out the following link:

Thanks to everyone who entered! Have a wonderful Saturday!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Book Review: Beneath the Night Tree by Nicole Baart

Title: Beneath the Night Tree
Author: Nicole Baart
Publisher: Tyndale
ISBN: 9781414323237

Summary from Publisher's Website:

Do I have a child? Julia DeSmit knew she would face the question eventually, but she didn’t expect it now. At twenty-four, she is finally content with the way her life has unfolded. A single mother to her son and young brother, she works at the local grocery store while chipping away at a two-year degree. All her free time is spent with her unorthodox family—her boys, her grandmother, and her boyfriend of five years. It’s not perfect, but Julia is happier than ever.

So when she receives the cryptic e-mail from her son’s father, Julia’s world is turned upside down. She hasn’t heard from Parker since he left her in a college parking lot nearly six years ago. But one look at her son—the spitting image of his father—is enough to convince her that, for better or worse, Parker is a part of their story. Faced with this new reality and an unexpected tragedy, Julia begins a tightrope walk between what was and what is, what she hopes for and what will be.

My Review:

This is one book that I couldn't put down! I found myself sneaking moments to read this book. It literally - though not obsessively - consumed my thoughts until I was able to finish it! Big warning however... there will be tears shed if you are prone to tears! Yet, smiles will be in abundance as well.

I like to do a little pre-reading about the author if they are unfamiliar to me before I start a new book or series. It gives me a bit of a foundation if I can glean a touch about their writing style or the subjects that they tend to lean towards. I was immediately disappointed that I had chosen to read a book that was the third in a series! I'm a chronological girl. I love reading things IN ORDER. But, I gave it a go anyway. I have to commend Ms. Baart because not only was this a fascinating story with life-like characters that you find yourself connecting with, but she also wrote Beneath the Night Tree in a way that we, who didn't grow with Julia through her trials, could still follow along without feeling left out of the loop. That, to a chronological girl like myself, is worth its weight in gold.

The characters in this story are completely lovable, believable, triumphant, heartbreaking, hysterical, sad, and kind wrapped into one. Julia is an underdog that you root for with the strength of a champion. Her situations, though vastly different from some that we may experience, are completely real on the page. Perhaps I connected with her because I was a young mother (22 when my daughter was born), or perhaps it was because I had a similar relationship with my grandmother, but for whatever reason I immediately connected with her character. Even if her life choices are foreign from you they are written with remarkable skill and creativity making you wonder how you would handle them if they were your life. She's a strong mother, devoted granddaughter, and woman trying to make the best decisions she can so that her family has the life that they deserve rather than the one that they have been dealt. Her faith and dependence on God is written clearly and shine through as a foundational part of her life. I applaud Ms. Baart for making her beliefs an integral part of the story rather than a footnote.

I've not yet found any indication that there will be a fourth "Julia" book, but I'll be waiting with baited breath if Ms. Baart should decide to release one. And, I'll be reading books one and two as well (and probably three a second time!)

Rating: 5 Stars! Beneath the Night Tree is a fantastic read that will entertain as well as strengthen your faith as her characters remind you of theirs. But, for those that aren't interested in this aspect, it is still a fascinating read that adds layers to its characters without being "preachy." It will definitely go on my shelf but will be loaned out and suggested. In fact, I might even suggest that my mom read this before a few that are on her nightstand!

And for the folks at the FCC:

*Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book through the publisher's blogging program in exchange for my honest review. The thoughts and opinions are all mine!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Reminder! Natural Notes Piano School giveaway is coming up!

This has been a hectic week so I haven't give you a proper update. So here it is...

It's almost time! Enter today!

The Natural Notes Piano School Online Classroom Giveaway is almost among us! Hop over to the original post HERE and comment to be entered into this great giveaway. You could win a free session for your child!

Did you hear that... win... free... session!!!

That means one month's session - 4 weekly classes - free! Not only is this a great program, but it's also a $70 value. Not too shabby. :)

So hop over to the original post, read the details, and enter to win!

The winner will be announced right here on Wild Crickets on Saturday, January 19, 2011.

Good luck!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Photography projects: Ideas and Inspiration for old photos

A family wedding (c 1920)

I only touched on my love for genealogy in yesterday's homeschooling post. I truly have been bitten by the bug again. I can't believe that I let it slip away from me for so many years! With my renewed interest came a renewed determination to do it correctly, accurately, and fully. It's no longer based simply on an interest, but a need to record the life story of the people that we have lost as well as to discover the stories of those forgotten. I don't want my uncle and grandparents to become forgotten along the way.

I'm a visual person. (I'm also a wordy person, but that's another story!) When I think of creating a lasting memory the path at some point will lead me to photography. I was blessed to have photos of my father in law's family when he was a little boy - and even before he existed! - as well as photographs from my grandmother's family for several generations.

My mind is racing... what can I do with these photos to give them the attention that they deserve?

Frames... everyone does frames. (And who has the wall space for all of that?)

Scrapbooks.... maybe, but then I'm still faced with the same problem that I had in the first place. No one would be able to look at them unless they knew where to find them.

I'm still undecided, but I have a few spots of inspiration. I'd love ideas. If you've used old photos in a creative way please share your stories!

Stay tuned to see how I decide to incorporate these pieces of family history into the art that I see hidden behind the curtains. But until then, maybe you'll get some inspiration for your own family photographs from the links below.

*Disclaimer: I am fully aware that original photos should be preserved and maintained in a way that future generations can see them, love them, cherish them. I'll be using copies. I'm creative... not MAD!

Project ideas:

A wall clock. This could definitely be a possibility! Talk about a centerpiece for a room!

Quite a long list of ideas, but I think that I love the idea of holiday cards. I'm thinking note cards would be wonderful...

A photo quilt square! I love this idea! It might be a long-term project, but it would incorporate a few of my favorite things. (And now I'm singing with Julie Andrews...)

Photo magnets (though I can think of an additional way to use these using some recycled jars.)

And, last but not least, Martha. I said then name, and you knew, didn't you? I have to say that I'm not always a fan of the Miss M., but she does have some amazing ideas for photos! (My problem isn't with her specifically, but I would love to see her with a rats nest in her hair and a spill on her shirt every now and again just to make her seem human. he he...)

So tell me, how are you using your photos (and can I steal your ideas?)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Homeschooling + Genealogy = High Interest Learning

So, I'm a girl that posts a lot about art and music. I love it. But, I must admit that I have another love affair of a different sort. History. I can get lost in the sights and sounds of another time period so very quickly. I truly think that my love of history is what sparked my interest in genealogy. Granted, I've taken a long hiatus from my research but I'm back and ready for action. Because I've been working more on it lately it started me thinking... History + Genealogy!

Merriam-Webster's website defines history as:
1. A tale, story
2. a chronological record of significant events (as affecting a nation or institution) often including an explanation of their causes 
3. a branch of knowledge that records and explains past events
4. a: events that form the subject matter of a history; and
    b: events of the past
Let's review these definitions. A story or tale... History isn't a dry bunch of dusty facts. It's a STORY! It's a tale of living people and the EVENTS that happened during their lives. Understanding these stories and learning about these events helps us EXPLAIN past events and even where we are today. (I know how my family ended up in GA. Do you know how your family ended up where they are today, and why you speak with the particular accent you do rather than another?) These events and explanations together build an entire SUBJECT... the HISTORY of our families, our country, and our world.

So back to my original thought: History + Genealogy! What better way to make history come alive! We've always tied our family history into our studies where it was applicable, but in all honestly I could do a better job. American history is steeped with opportunity to focus on our family's history. Every family has a part, whether it is the immigrant story, the adventure of the Gold Rush, the courage of the Civil Rights Movement, or the bravery and heroics of any number of wars. The various wars that involve the United States throughout history are also good places to incorporate world history. Suppose you find out that Great Uncle Louie loved to tinker in the garage with his latest inventions. Wouldn't that be a wonderful way to tie in the greatest minds of the past such as Tesla, Edison, Carver? Think about how real history will seem when you suddenly have a relative to include among the dry facts and dates. It is also much easier to remember facts and data when you have a hook on which to hang the information. Make Great Uncle Louie that hook!

So, how do you get started? Don't forget, Google is your friend. A quick Google search will return many ideas on how to incorporate genealogy into your homeschool. Here are just a few that I particularly liked for the younger to middle set:

A to Z Home's Cool has a great list of links to enjoy under the title Genealogy For Kids.

Easy Fun School also has a fun Genealogy Mini Unit. It's a great little jumping off point with options for both younger and older students.

Homeschool Learning Network has a free unit study available for Grandparent's Day and Family History. (Lessons #1 and #2 are perfect for an intro into genealogy!)

For my high school-aged daughter I simply drag her along for the ride with me. I'm in the process of setting up the Legacy Family Tree free genealogy software, but once I'm up and running she'll help me search through records online and locally. (I'm getting to sift through mountains of notes and papers in order to make sense of it all... and I love it!) I hope to find a few more connections to Jamestown Colony and other events before we study American history next year. While we won't approach it as the beginning for our unit study we will incorporate it as we find information or as we cover particular chapters in history. I will include biographies as well as maps and source documents wherever possible. How better to understand what life was like during the 1700s in Virginia than to read the letters and will of an ancestor? I know it makes it more real to me. Now, to just figure out how to convince the husband that we need to take a research trip around the great state of Virginia...

Do you love genealogy? Are you actively connecting your family history with your homeschool history assignment? I would love to hear about it! Who knows, maybe I'll write a post about genealogy. After all, it is becoming another "new found" obsession interest and it is on my Big Fat 100 of 2011 list!  :)

And, to give you something fun to think about, has a free two-week trial membership. If you need a bit of entertainment to kick off a new hobby check out the new season of Who Do You Think You Are? I'm a new fan, and let's just say that I've been spending a lot of time watching Season One on! (I have no reason to post these links other than I enjoy them. No reviews, no compensation, no reason... just because...)

History is exciting and a real part of our lives. We are making history ourselves in our own circles and our own communities. It's time to remind ourselves that it surrounds us every day. Go talk to a grandmother or make a family tree. Your kids will thank you for it!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Giveaway: Natural Notes Piano School Online Classroom!

I hope that you are ready for a fantastic giveaway! Regular readers know that art and music play a big part in our lives, so I'm really, REALLY excited!

Are you ready...

Tami Duvall, licensed and accredited Simply Music Instructor at Natural Notes Piano School Online Classroom,  is giving away a month's worth of weekly online piano classes ($70 value)!

From the Simply Music Website:
"Simply Music is the largest playing-based music education institution in the world, with educators at 520 locations throughout the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. It presents a revolutionary, Australian-developed piano and keyboard method for those who would like to teach music, or learn how to play. This breakthrough program has students of all ages playing great-sounding blues, contemporary, classical and accompaniment pieces - immediately - from their very first lessons. Simply Music educators look at music in an entirely new light, transforming the teaching and learning process. The program sets a new standard in music education, and presents the possibility of a new era in self-expression through music. "

The classes will be held LIVE on Tuesdays at 1:00pm CST starting Tuesday, February 22. The drawing will be held on Saturday, February 19.

If you would like to be entered into the drawing, post a comment including these words, "I would like for my child(ren) and me to have music as a companion for the rest of our lives!"

The winner will be chosen using a random number generator. Make sure that you include either a link to your blog or an email address so that we can notify the winner about their fantastic prize!

For more info on the classes check out the following link:

*Note: Only students from USA and Canada can participate in Natural Notes Piano School Online Classroom.* 

I'm pretty excited about the giveaway, and I'm also excited that the kid will have the chance to participate in the next session as well. We will finally put the piano to good use!

Good luck everyone, and come join the music!

Book Review: The Beginning Reader's Bible

Title: The Beginning Reader's Bible
Illustrated by: Marijke ten Cate
Compiled by: Tama Fortner
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (Tommy Nelson - kids division)
ISBN: 9781400317028

Summary from Publisher's Website:

This exceptionally illustrated Bible storybook allows children to read the story, pray to God, and grow closer to Him.

Using actual Bible text from the International Children's Bible® as well as prayers, memory verses, and fun activities, children will love this large format and be engrossed in the intricate detail of the illustrations. Bible stories from the Old and New Testaments are included and stories are accompanied by a prayer for the child to pray, a verse to memorize, and a fun activity to help them grow. 

My Review:

This hardcover children's Bible is fantastic! It is meaty, simple, enjoyable, heartwarming, educational, encouraging, and interest-provoking. Whew! But, true. :)

I am amazed at how simply Thomas Nelson introduced children to the concept of a Study Bible through The Beginning Reader's Bible. Each section includes actual Biblical text rather than a watered down story version. I especially love how the chapters are referenced under the section title for the adults reading along. (Imagine reading through the Bible with your young child... they read the sections in their Bible while you read the referenced chapters in yours!)

Each section includes three main areas: Remember God's Word, Pray God's Word, and Do God's Word. This is a wonderful way of introducing these concepts! Remember God's Word incorporates a selected Bible verse that is useful for discussion or memorization. (Parents notes in the front of the Bible indicate this as well.) Pray God's Word gives an introduction to using God's word in our personal prayers. For example, Psalm 139:14 ("I praise you because you made me in an amazing and wonderful way. What you have done is wonderful. I know this very well.") is highlighted in the Creation story. What a wonderful verse to share as well as teach to our children as a prayer of praise! I have to admit that I was not taught the way to pray God's Word as a child, and I wish that I had been! The third and final section, Do God's Word, holds fun and inviting activities for your children to use in order to cement the Biblical concept and story in their minds and hearts. It may be sketching something that God created, playing a game, or singing a song, and through each of these your children will have fun, build memories, and strengthen their understanding.

Concluding this Bible is a very handy section that includes items such as the Ten Commandments and the Lord's Prayer, a list of disciples, selected verses from Psalms, etc. One of my favorite parts: The reading and scripture memorization lists. I'm a list checker by nature. I love it. In the back of The Beginning Reader's Bible are lists to check off! Your child can indicate the date that they read a particular chapter or memorized a particular verse. It speaks to my inner list maker (and will serve as a wonderful memory later in their life.)

Typically I always find hardcover children's books (and Bibles) to be an awkward size. Not so with this Bible. It's square shape is easily held and used by children and adults alike. The paper is a wonderful weight that should withstand lots of use by little hands who may or may not be as careful as we would like them to be. The illustrations are wonderful! I am completely drawn in by books with good color and illustration, and The Beginning Reader's Bible exceeds all of my expectations. The illustrations give a wonderful balance to the text, so I think that it would be enjoyed by children even slightly younger than the targeted age range (non-readers.) Perfect for siblings! They are gently, soft, and inviting, yet not cartoonish and fanciful like some that I have seen in the past.

All in all, this is a keeper! I wish that this would have been available when my daughter was younger because the content and illustrations far exceed the quality of the children's Bibles that she had at this point in her life. This would be a wonderful gift Bible as well.

Rating: 5 Stars! I'm so excited to pass this on to the daughter of my closest friend. I hope and pray that it brings her many moments of joy as she learns God's words.

And for the folks at the FCC:

*Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book through the publisher's Booksneeze blogging program in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: February 7, 2011

Cooking has been an adventure around here lately! I haven't been able to stand in the kitchen as long as I would like, so that has limited it a bit. We've also become a gluten-free family, and our commitment to being casein-free has been renewed. In reading and researching about a gf/cf diet (and paired with my units in my Vintage Remedies Family Herbalist course) I've also renewed my interest in health and nutrition. All of that adds up to Mom trying new recipes!

Here are a few that we tried this weekend:
Quinoa Black Bean Salad (I did a quick google of my ingredients and this came up. It's fantastic!)

Teriyaki Veggie Cakes and Garden Veggie Cakes, both from The Spunky Coconut (now one of my favorite foodie blogs! Great for allergies! And these are now going into a regular rotation. Even the meat-gnawing carno-husband loved them... and they are raw-inspired! I used a combination of cannelloni beans and black eyed peas because that was what I had in the fridge!)

Kale chips - fantastic... though I want to try curly kale next time instead of dino kale to see if there is a texture difference, and I might toss them in the dehydrator as well. (I just threw it together on the fly using olive oil and a Greek seasoning mix after reading several recipes, but you can peek at a video on Kath Eats Real Food - another new find!)

Tomato Soup from Veggie Converter (another go to blog if you are vegetarian/vegan! Watch her go through her converting challenge this year! This soup is a keeper. I'm going to add some roasted garlic next time, and I used almond milk - doubled - instead. Yum!)


On to this week's menu! My goal is to plan three meals a day plus snack, and actually cook all of it. This has been hard with my back lately, but we really need to have meals planned so we aren't eating ick or tempted to throw a - very expensive - frozen gfcf pizza in the oven. We'll see how successful I am. (Maybe I'll even update!) I'm hoping that the excitement of some new-to-me recipes will carry me through. Because I'm going to focus on shopping at the local winter farmer's market on Saturdays I'm going to run our menu planning Sunday to Saturday. I'm hoping that this makes it easier for me to plan based on what I find while shopping. It will definitely be easier once the growing season begins around here, but for now we'll do what we can. Here's to locally grown whole foods! :) And, these are gluten-free and casein-free, vegetarian, and in a lot of cases labeled on the original site as being free of other common allergens. So get your allergy-free cooking groove on!

Sunday: church potluck lunch for our new student minister! (Our first since becoming gf/cf.)
b: Green Smoothies & choice of cereal, leftover muffins, waffles from freezer, etc
l: Potluck fare (bringing Creamy Scalloped Potatoes, gf chocolate chip cookies)
d: Leftover Raw-inspired Veggie Cakes (see links above), GF/CF Rice and Broccoli Casserole (recipe from The Ultimate UnCheese Cookbook)
s: GF Chocolate Chip Cookie
To Do: Make muffins. Make breadcrumbs with last week's leftover bread and ends.

b: Apple Cake with Cranberries (made as muffins)
l: Mac and Cheese (recipe from The Ultimate UnCheese Cookbook)
d: Savory Vegetable Quiche (- sausage + red bell pepper), Salad
s: Clementine sorbet
To Do: Make breakfast bread. Prep CP items.

Tuesday: Bible study with the church ladies
b: Sweet Potato Bread with Chocolate Chips
l: CP Split Pea Soup (no ham + veg broth) and Cheese (nutritional yeast) Toast
d: Spaghetti with Karina's Veggie Loaf done in Meatball-Not style (noted on her site); salad
s: GF Cheese Straws
To Do: Soak garbanzo beans and black eyed peas.

Wednesday: evening church activities
b: Vegan Mom's Scrambled Tofu (+ veggies to make it more like a scrambled omelette-ish.)
l: Garbanzo bean spread sandwiches (smashed gb's, mayo, nutritional yeast, salt/pepper/garlic to taste) & fruit or veggies in ranch
d: Hoppin' John over rice, Southern Greens mix (collards, mustard, etc), Cornbread
s: GF Pecan Crackers (but with almond meal and no caraway seeds)

b: Biscuits and Gravy (I miss this. Trying it w Pamela's Baking Mix to see if it works!)
l: leftover Spaghetti and Meatball-Nots
d: Roasted Parsnip and Garlic Soup with Mushrooms, quinoa with sauteed veggies, garlic toast
s: Hummus w veggies, leftover cheese straws, pretzels, etc.
To Do: Make buns for breakfast and rolls for dinner. Prep CP ingredients.

Friday: babysitting day!
b: Banana Hot Dogs and fruit (I'm going to attempt to make buns with a cinnamon flavor.)
l: GF Pizza with Daiya "cheese" and whatever toppings the kids want (I'm voting for spinach & olive)
d: CP Lentil Sloppy Joes with GF Buns and Crispy Potato Sticks (oven fries)
s: Popcorn (air popped with a buffet of spices to choose from!)
To Do: Make polenta and set in fridge overnight.

b: YOYO (You're On Your Own - we wake up at different times, so it's just easier this way!)
l: YOYO (trip to the farmer's market usually means that some of us snack there, some eat breakfast late, and some eat leftovers when we get home! Day off for me!)
d: Roasted Vegetables on Broiled Polenta & salad (using up all the veggies left in the fridge from the week!)
s: Peanut Butter Quinoa cookies

I'd love to hear if you will be trying any of these! Let me know it goes, or if you found that you love one of the websites listed!

Hop on over to's Menu Plan Monday thread. Check out great menus, and link up your own!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

January Recap: My Big Fat 100 of 2011 list

It's the big January Recap of My Big Fat 100 of 2011 list! I know, I know... I did a recap halfway through the month. I've decided that since most of this will be boring to all you out there in blogdom I will limit my recaps to one big monthly wrap-up. It's mostly to keep me accountable and motivated, so once a month will be a good pace to keep me on the move.

So, what did I get done, you ask? Let's take it section by section. Don't worry. It won't be long. I promise. (I wasn't THAT motivated this month!)

1. Make a budget. Jan '11
3. Learn to coupon and do it! Jan '11 BLOGGED

* Ok, so I didn't get anything else done in this category since my last update. Still, things are moving forward and I have two items checked off of this list. I'm feeling pretty good about it!

1. Read through the Bible in 2011

*I haven't completed this yet, but I have included it because it's an ongoing project. I have other ongoing projects, but none as important as this. I'm struggling a bit in this area. I truly don't think that it's because of the daily reading or that I don't want to read. I love it! The reading plan isn't working for me. I'm looking at options right now of mixing it up a bit so that I can still participate with our women's ministry but read through at a pace and schedule that works for me. I'm considering using the 90-day schedule. Still processing it. I love reading daily, but having it chopped up is bothering me. I'm a "straight through till morning" kind of gal, and reading a bit of this and a bit of that is driving me batty.


*Nada, zip, zilch. I did sort through clothes for our clothing ministry at church only to find out that it is seasonal and not year-round. So, clothing went to the local Goodwill. Best of intentions... I'll get more spring/summer things organized for the next clothing drive with our clothing ministry.

7. Create a better schedule so that we have more free time in our day Jan '11
8. Create our long term course of study for the high school years. Jan '11 BLOGGED

*While we are still a long way from having a traditional start time (we usually start by 9:30am or 10am) we have found a great routine! We've broken up our day into two sections: Mornings are for the basics - literature, math, Bible, writing, etc. Afternoons are for her concentrated subject work and elective. I've blogged a bit about our new routine but it was secondary to the topic. I'll write up something about it very soon. It's working great, and I love it!

5. Visit the local art museum at least twice per month.

*Ok, so it wasn't twice. And, I shouldn't include it. We were on a good pace with plans to complete this but were sidelined by my back injury. We got one very good, very enjoyable trip in. Next month we will be victorious!

1. Begin the Family Herbalist course. Again. (done when three units have been completed) Jan '11
4. Track food in WW's online tracker daily Jan '11
5. Be a better motivator and supporter to my mom and sister in our journey toward health Jan '11

*I'm making progress! I've almost made a few other goals, so hopefully February will bring those in an update as well. I'm thoroughly enjoying my Family Herbalist course. Thoroughly! I have a renewed focus and excitement about the subject matter. I've done well with tracking. I did get off track (off track with the tracking!) this week because I have had to adjust things a bit since I'm seriously sedentary while I heal, but I'm saying this bad boy is DONE. Woosh! I've been updating, texting, emailing, and chatting with my sweetheart of a baby sister, and life is good. I'm working with mom to create more meals that better fit her needs due to her health issues. Again, life is good. I'm content with my work in this area.

3. Post two book reviews in January Jan '11 - Reviews blogged HERE and HERE

*Done! :) You can also find info and reviews linked in my "Reading" tab at the top of the blog.


*Yeah, nothing got checked off in this category. You'd think it would considering it's the second most important area. Yeah, no. What can I say. I suck. ;)

8. Post a minimum of two book reviews per month Jan '11
9. Document progress on all of my goal lists once per month Jan '11

*Still slow moving in this area, but I got my January updates/goals in since I blogged mid month! From now on I'll try to blog an update on the last day of each month. Key word "try."

WildCrickets Shop:
3. List ten new items in January - fail!

*Epic fail. I'm not sure why I lost my motivation after the holidays, but I did. I have items finished and ready to photograph, but I just didn't get them listed. (And no, there aren't ten.) I am making it a goal to focus on the shop in February. Definitely.

So there you have it! My first monthly update on my first annual Big 100 list. Now to get moving so that February's update is a tad more impressive in certain key areas. :)

What are your goals for 2011? Are you meeting them? I'd love to hear about them so that we can motivate each other!

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Homeschool Mother's Journal: Feb 4, 2011 (Wk 3)

The Homeschool Mother's Journal

Look at that... multiple posts in one week. Maybe I'm on a roll and getting into a routine like I wanted. I like it!

It's time again for The Homeschool Chick's weekend meme... The Homeschool Mother's Journal. Click on the links or the linked graphic above to read other homeschool mom's entries or link up your own!

In my life this week...
We had such winter-filled weather this week! I typically have a hard time with the grayness of Ohio winters. Pair that with the newly sedentary life that I'm leading with my back injury and it makes for a bad attitude. Thanks to the lovely attitudes and praise-worthy Facebook posts and blog entries of some of my friends (thanks, Debbie!) I made a conscious decision today that I was going to have a good attitude today. I had a very pleasant afternoon! It's amazing what a little gratitude can do for the soul. (And it didn't hurt that the sun was out shining brightly today either!)

In our homeschool this week...
I had a bit of validation this week! The kid stayed on track, made some great progress in math, and showed me for a second week in a row that she can work independently AND stay on target. I have been saying that she's made this jump, and I knew it, but I don't think I really felt it until this week. I think sometimes we need that to get us through the rough weeks!

Places we're going and people we're seeing...
Tomorrow we're heading to the local winter farmer's market. Normally we would be there nearly every weekend but the last year has just been a zebra of a different stripe. (Horse of a different color is used so much... trying to be unique. ;)  I'm looking forward to getting back to something that feels normal!

My favorite thing this week was...
I had a ball cooking this week! I didn't get to do much of it because I'm still on restricted activity, but what I did do thrilled me to no end. I've been able to steal away moments to myself to read about nutrition and health, and I've also been able to work on my Family Herbalist course. Selfishly, my favorite thing this week was my "me" time!

What's working/not working for us...
I really need to get into a better morning routine. Ours is SO bad. We have always followed the idea that if the kid needed sleep, she just needed sleep. I'm still good with this, but I'm feeling the pressure to have a more normal schedule. We are still accomplishing our list (most days), so maybe it's not that bad to have a relaxed start time. Something I'm pondering...

Homeschool questions/thoughts I have...
Lately I've really been taken with the idea that we only have a handful of years left with the kid at home. I'm trying not to focus on the "empty nest" portion of our life before we get there, but I also remember how hard it was when our oldest moved out. She was my nighttime chatting buddy. How do you keep yourself from thinking too far into the future and forgetting the present?

A photo, video, link, or quote to share...
I've posted several times that we're walking down the gluten-free road now. I've been reading gobs and gobs of blogs and websites on the subject. (I'm a tad addicted to foodie blogs!) My lovely friend, Sheri, introduced me to The Spunky Coconut. She is a hoot! I love her recipes, and have been spending far too many hours reading her blog. Ok, so we'll call it research. She does have wonderful posts about nutrition, so it's educational! :) I'd love to pass on her site to anyone with or without allergies. Try some Spunky Coconut recipes. You'll be glad that you did! (I believe that I read they were homeschoolers, too. Woo hoo!)

Book Review: Lady in Waiting by Susan Meissner

Title: Lady in Waiting
Author: Susan Meissner
Publisher: WaterBrook Multnomah
ISBN: 9780307458834

Summary from Publisher's Website:

Content in her comfortable marriage of twenty-two years, Jane Lindsay had never expected to watch her husband,  rad, pack his belongings and walk out the door of their Manhattan home. But when it happens, she feels powerless to stop him and the course of events that follow Brad’s departure.

Jane finds an old ring in a box of relics from a British jumble sale and discovers a Latin inscription in the band along with just one recognizable word: Jane. Feeling an instant connection to the mysterious ring bearing her namesake, Jane begins a journey to learn more about the ring—and perhaps about herself.

In the sixteenth-century, Lucy Day becomes the dressmaker to Lady Jane Grey, an innocent young woman whose fate seems to be controlled by a dangerous political and religious climate, one threatening to deny her true love and pursuit of her own interests.

As the stories of both Janes dovetail through the journey of one ring, it becomes clear that each woman has far more influence over her life than she once imagined. It all comes down to the choices each makes despite the realities they face.

My Review:

I have to be honest. Susan Meissner has been one of my favorite authors since I read The Shape of Mercy. Let's just put it out there right in the beginning. So, yes, I was probably a little bit biased when I selected this title. I expected to love it. I hoped that I would love it.

I did love it!

Ms. Meissner's style - integrating the present with the past in an unforgettable and completely applicable manner - never leaves me wanting. Her writing style is beautiful. She chooses words and phrases that put you into the heart of the characters. When Jane Lindsay hurt, I found myself hurting. When she cried, I found myself crying. When Lucy Day felt compassion, I felt compassion. It's her beautiful integration of fiction and real life that draws you into the characters. They are fully developed, and best of all they are real, solid, and whole. Neither story is lacking as both are fully developed. You don't find yourself feeling lost in transition, nor do you notice one character being stronger than the other. They are each unique so you may find yourself feeling connected to one more than the other, but this isn't a distraction in the slightest. (Or, you could be like me and feel connected to both!)

I do have to say that being a history fanatic I was a bit nervous about how I would react to her interpretation - or rather, hope - of how Lady Jane's life transpired. I flipped through the book, as I always do when I read historical fiction, looking for historical or author's notes. (I know... some might see it as cheating, but I like to see how an author applies history and academia to their stories. I found this quite funny when the character of Wilson was introduced... read and you'll understand!) I love that Ms. Meissner takes the "What if" approach to piecing together Lady Jane's story. Brilliant! We are allowed to dream for a while, which is exactly what good fiction is meant to bring you.

Rating: 5 Stars! I was sad to see this story end. I was pleased with the way that it ended, but sad none the less. It left me wanting more simply because the story, and Ms. Meissner's writing, is just that good. I can honestly say that I will be reading this book again. Though I'll be recommending this title (and possibly loaning it to a privileged few outside of my immediate family) I won't be parting with it. It will live on my shelf next to my other two favorite Meissner titles. After all, you don't give away friends, do you? Lucy and Jane Lindsay are my two newest friends. Have fun reading!

And for the folks at the FCC:

*Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book through the publisher's Blogging for Books blogging program in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Review: Titanic Unit Study by Joshua Noble

Every homeschool mother's dream is to instill the love of learning in their child. We try to lead them, encourage them, inspire them... and sometimes it takes.

What do you get when you have a homeschooler that has a passion for history, specifically the Titanic, and parents that encourage that passion?  You get a UNIT STUDY!

Joshua Noble is that homeschooler, and he has created a fantastic unit study on The Titanic. Perfect for any homeschool, this unit study - all 109 pages of it - gives a wonderful overview of the history, design, and events surrounding that fateful journey and so much more. I had the pleasure of reviewing his unit study, and all I can say is wow.

The first thing that impressed me was his approach to the subject. I am completely taken with the level of respect that he gives to the lives that were lost. The story of the Titanic isn't some fictionalized Hollywood blockbuster. It was a real event that affected men, women, and children. It made heroes, and frightened cowards. It affected families. By way of an introduction and a respectful tone Mr. Noble sets the stage so that our children can realized that, much like the events of 9/11, the events and lives aboard the Titanic are to be given respect and honor. I am so glad to see this being taught as a foundational truth of the study. (But don't worry that it carries a heavy tone throughout... your kids will enjoy this study!)

Let me say that the resource guide is amazing. Mr. Noble gives such a complete list that any homeschool mom (or dad) will be able to easily locate enough resources to complete this unit study regardless of library stacks or book budgets. We've all been there... great unit study... four obscure titles... not in the library catalog... and each more money than you spent on dinner last night for a family of four. You won't run into that problem with this unit study. Because of it's depth and breadth you'll be able to easily locate acceptable resources for your children no matter the level. (And, he's included free videos on the Internet as well!) Have a visual learner? He has video suggestions!

This unit study is written in a "buffet" style. Walk up to the loaded table and take your choice of subjects. The content is the deepest that I've seen, but don't let that scare you off if you have younger students. You are able to pick and choose going as deep into one area as you would like. I could see this unit being used over a few weeks with one family just as easily as a full year by another. It is that flexible. The activities are geared toward both younger and older students, and with few exceptions could be easily adjusted to work with a variety of age ranges. You'll find art, design, math, and composition assignments as some of your selections. I especially like the final project suggestions that are included as well. It truly gives those who desire suggestions and form the walls that they need while giving a wide area to dance to those who want the freedom to make it their own. He's found a good balance. Each section makes it clear that Joshua Noble has invested time and passion in this subject, and your children can benefit from it!

Last to mention, but certainly not least in importance, are the field trip suggestions! And... there are virtual field trips listed as well! I'm a sucker for a good virtual field trip, and having a very visual learner makes me prone to swooning over good links. Yep. I said swoon.

Though we're currently studying Ancient History, I am so tempted to toss this at the kid. She loves it! I look forward to using it with her as part of her American History studies in the future. I haven't yet decided how much time we will spend on it, but I can say that I, personally, couldn't see my child being happy with anything less than a month. It's that good, and her being a mini-Titanic obsessed fan I think she'll want to learn from each section in the unit study. The background that she would learn would be perfect to pair with her next long-term creative writing project. Talk about great research for a project. Oh no... now my wheels are turning...

Take a journey through Joshua Noble's blog, The Titanic Gazette.

Read about The Titanic Unit Study.

Look at a sample. And pick it up for your crew at the most reasonable price of $25.

*Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this unit study for review with no stipulation that I give a review on my blog. I was not compensated in any way for this review. I am giving it because I am so very impressed with it, and I love to share great products!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Great Googly Moogly... A Fantastic VR Essentials Giveaway!

Pretend that I'm doing a jig over this one. (I really am, but it's on the inside since my back is still out of whack! But it's an internal Irish Jig none the less...)

I've mentioned before that I'm a student in the Family Herbalist program over at Vintage Remedies. I love the program and the staff. The materials... hands-down one of the best that I've found (which is why I became a student!) The books available are perfect for those interested in natural living, student or not. Jessie Hawkins has come up with some amazing things over the years, and the newest program, Vintage Remedies Essentials, is nothing less than amazing! She strikes again!

Today through midnight on Wednesday, February 2, Jessie and Vintage Remedies is hosting a fantastic Giveaway in celebration of the new Essentials program! Gift certificates and copies of The Kitchen Herbal are just waiting to find a new home. So, what are you waiting for? Go read Jessie's blog, fall in love with the new program, cruise around the Vintage Remedies website, and oh yeah... don't forget to enter the Giveaway!

And for those homeschoolers out there who are attending the MidWest Homsechool Convention in Cincinnati: Be sure to check the schedule because Jessie will be speaking at the convention! I sat in on her sessions last year, and to say that you'll be walking away with useful, pertinent, important information doesn't stress enough how helpful these sessions are to your life. If you breath, eat, and have kids (just pick one of those) you'll find it applicable to your life.

Enough gushing... I'm going to make lunch!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Homeschool Mother's Journal: Jan 29, 2011

The Homeschool Chick

I first learned of this meme over at Brenda's Garden of Learning blog. I think it really appeals to me because it reminds me of the Simple Woman's Daybook meme that I try to include every now and again. There's just something that I enjoy about peeking into the lives of others. No, it's not a creepy, "baseball hat floating by your bathroom window" kind of thing. I think it speaks to my love of biographies, only what is more exciting to a homeschool mom who loves food than to read about the lives of other women, moms or not, homeschooling or not, who cook... or not. Either way I'm good.

Read, please comment (I love comments!), click the link above to see more blogs participating in The Homsechool Chick's meme, and join in on the fun! The rules are simple and easy, but the meme is only linked each Friday to Monday, so make sure you check it out soon!

In my life this week...
Unfortunately this was a rough week. I was down with a bug that my daughter had the week before. But the really icky part was that I've been dealing with a bad back for a few weeks. I try to be one that doesn't whine and complain too much. I have arthritis in my hands and various rebellious body parts as well as sciatica, so I'm generally just quiet about a bit of what goes on. This back pain has been a little more than I can quietly handle. So, I did a lot of asking for help, limping around, and whining a bit. I'm not used to it so I'm getting a bit surly in my current state. But, all things shall pass... and for the things that don't there's always chocolate. (Yes, I'm going to limp my way to the kitchen this weekend to make more GF/CF chocolate chip cookies. Weight Watchers or no Weight Watchers those yummies are needed in my tummy...) 

In our homeschool this week...
C did amazingly well! Thankfully she's old enough (9th grade... sniff...) to work independently so she wasn't terribly off schedule. She whipped through math, literature, grammar, science, music appreciation, and creative writing on her own. I was so thankful that my issues didn't sideline her. Granted, we didn't accomplish everything on the schedule since I wasn't up to some of the discussions but I've learned to take it as it comes. We have seasons where we get more accomplished than I have dreamed and seasons where we are accomplishing 90% instead of 100%. (Let's not talk about the third kind of season that exists!) I'm good with that. 

Places we're going and people we're seeing...
A wonderful homsechooling friend organized a girly afternoon for her daughter and several friends yesterday. I hear all of the girls had a great time! They laughed, worked on craft projects (crochet/knit), played games, had a fantastic lunch, and enjoyed time together. It was fantastic. It definitely lifted my kid's spirits after having a very boring week with mom at home! I just love afternoons like this. It's a nice reminder that even as teenagers they can still have "play dates!" (We're just not allowed to call them that now... shh.....) 

My favorite thing this week was... 
Our music appreciation curriculum is fantastic! (Discovering Music - see the curriculum page above for more curriculum info.) The kid enjoys it so much that she began listening to a local classical radio station, and she's gotten herself hooked on a particular segment that they do where they discuss pieces and play longer selections of operas, etc. We were sitting in the living room talking about something completely unrelated when she realized the time. She cut the conversation short with an apology because there was a particular piece scheduled that she had been waiting all week to hear. This thrilled me to no end. If you've read anything on my blog you might notice that the arts are extremely important to me. The fact that she apologized - aka used good manners - made it even better! You could have knocked me down with a feather... and not just because I wasn't standing all that well with my back. ;)

What's working/not working for us...
Unfortunately we've had a year (or two) where things seemed to fall into the "not working" category. We've gotten a handle on it all and I believe are in a good groove. The main thing that is working best for us at the moment is that we are following our daughter's particular leaning in her scheduling as well as what materials we have chosen. Planning, at least in my case, was centered around what types of materials or learning styles our girls exhibited. I never really paid a lot of attention to the scheduling needs of those kids beyond the basics. Did this child do better with focused work such as math after lunch, or do they need to alternate between "thinking" tasks and "doing" tasks? (When I speak of scheduling I'm not specifically talking about actual blocks of predetermined time. "10am to 11am, etc." I'm talking more about routine or order.) This year we've pushed all the boundaries on scheduling. 

Our daughter is an immersion learner. She likes to dive in, become obsessed with a topic, and when she's gotten what she can from it she moves on. This worked great with certain projects when she was younger, but as she aged we really didn't use it much. This year we've changed that. In the morning she covers the basics, or the high school version of the 3Rs, that will be year-long courses... math, literature, writing, foreign language, etc. Our change comes in the afternoon. We're taking the approach that colleges use... one course with focused study covered over one semester rather than a year. Because she began science in August we are using this time to focus on finishing her science course. She has been spending approximately  2.5 hours each afternoon on science, and she LOVES it. She also has one elective that she will focus on for the semester as well, and this part of the year is devoted to music appreciation. So far it's working like a charm. She's actually getting more work done per hour because she doesn't have to stop when she's got a good rhythm going. We are back to homeschooling January to December which fits this perfectly (see the post titled "Staring a New Homeschooling Year, Unconventional Version.") I'm really excited to see how it will continue (and crossing my fingers that it keeps working!)

Homeschool questions/thoughts I have...
My mind has been swirling with thoughts lately! I'm not sure if it is because I am in the midst of planning or if it is just my nature to constantly think ahead. I've been thinking a lot about her high school plan, and the ensuing looks and glances that I get when people find out about her classes. This isn't meant to be divisive or bragging in any way. Please, dear reader, do not take it that way! I've just noticed that when we needed advice or an ear with other tough situations and struggles in homeschooling years past it was readily available. But, not so much when you have a child that you have to run to keep up with. I'm hoping that there will be some workshops at this year's MidWest Homeschool Convention that may cover this. I am struggling between hearing that my kid is taking too many classes and knowing that I'm simply following behind handing her materials for courses that she's requested. Proof even us "old dogs" of homeschooling have the same concerns that many new homeschooling moms do. Am I doing it right? She still finds time to read books for fun, sketch and participate in art classes, see friends, watch (way too many) movies on Netflix, chase interests, etc. I think it's an internal struggle that we all have... No matter what our situation we feel like someone is thinking that we are doing the wrong thing. 

Why on earth do we struggle with this? Is anyone else out there struggling with it along side of me?

A photo to share...
I've been planning the kid's Ancient History course lately, and I have to admit that I have had a few sniffs over the difference in projects and activities between a middle school and high school level! Here's a project that she completed many moons ago when we studied Ancient Egypt. We created the Nile out of Sculpy clay and surrounded it with dirt and grass seeds. It was so much fun to "flood" the river and then watch everything grow. Ahh.... the days of hands-on learning. :)

Join in the fun! Click on the linked logo above to read more and participate!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Such a sweet surprise...

Wow - I am am so touched! Imagine my surprise when I read such a sweet note from Stacie over at No Idle Bread saying that she's given me a blog award. I think know I squealed a little. It isn't the fact that I received a way cool graphic or was linked, it was that I was included in a list of wonderful blogs that Stacie enjoys. I'm like everyone else... To know that someone may have smiled at some point while reading my simple little words makes me all warm and fuzzy. So, thank you, Stacie! I really appreciate it. Really and truly! It was a total surprise and a bright spot in a tough week.

I am a bit late in posting this because unfortunately the ick and yucky that snagged my girl last week snagged me (in addition to a back issue. I might be blogging about my very first chiropractor appointment if this doesn't let up!) I'm thankful that I am feeling better - slowly, but better - and that we have a weekend greeting us. I love the slow pace of the weekend! Come Monday I should have some more posts ready for my little neglected blog.

The rules of the award (kindly lifted from Stacie's blog lol) are as follows:

  1. Thank and link back to the person who awarded you this award
  2. Share 7 things about yourself
  3. Award 15 recently discovered great bloggers
  4. Contact these bloggers and tell them about the award

Let's get started with my seven things...

1. I'm a nurses kid, and for most of my life my mom worked in a pediatric hospital. Every time a child would come in with a strange injury I would lose a toy or privilege! I lost my skateboard when a kid had a broken collarbone. I wasn't allowed to play on a trampoline after a little girl was hurt. And don't even get me started on the summer that she wanted me to stay off the diving board! :)

2. Sometimes I have dreams so vivid that I wake up laughing - or crying. I had one this week about my uncle who passed last year. I could hear his voice as clear as day...

3. In my Psychology 101 class in college my professor was teaching us about birth order. He challenged anyone in the room to stump him. He was able to guess everyone's birth position in their family... except me. :)  I am the only child of my mother and father, yet I am the oldest of three to my father and my stepmother, and was raised in the house with my grandparents and uncles leaving me in a sort of "youngest of three" situation since it was grandparents/mom with the boys/me. I'm a walking contradiction who exhibits traits of the oldest, youngest, and only child all at the same time.

4. I really don't like cleaning the tub/shower. I can wash windows till the cows come home. I'll even scrub a toilet without complaint. Dishes? I got that. Just please, someone, anyone, scrub the shower for me!

5. I can't eat a meal without spilling something or getting something in my hair. True. I'm a mess. I spent nearly every lunch in high school with my best friend picking Cheese Curl dust from my hair. (You'd think I'd have out grown it. Not so. If I was able to make it down to GA to see her more often she'd be picking some sort of food out of my hair at each meal.)

6. I can't keep my bed made. My dog can pull down the covers. Evenly. With his teeth. Even if the corners are tucked in. For months my husband and I couldn't figure out how the bed was changing each day, but then we caught him in the act! He actually folds back the covers layer by layer, end by end. It's either the most talented thing I've ever had a pet do, or it's just plain weird. The jury is still out.

7. I miss the South with all my heart and am still homesick. Daily. It's been 11.5 years since I moved. At some point I hope that it will go away! Until then I have to hang onto the Word and know that either God has a plan for me to move back or He's working on teaching me how to be content with my situation. I'm guessing it's the second one. :)

Wow - those seven items went fast! Hopefully they weren't too boring and gave you a little insight into my personality. (Why do I think there should be some sort of warning label at the top of this post?)

Now for the really fun part! Here are some blogs that I enjoy. Each has been a wonderful bright spot to me. I hope that they are a new wonderful bright spot for you as well! They are listed in no particular order. I love each one. Let me say that it was hard to skip a few that Stacie listed in her post! (Ahem... Lady Rose...) It was also hard to skip Stacie! Her blog is fantastic, and she has such a heart for the Lord and her family. Please go read and show her some love. But, that said, it sure is nice to know that we share some of the same taste in blog reading. It makes me that much more excited about cruising through her list this weekend. I have a feeling my "blogs that I follow" list will get longer before Monday...

Some of my favorites:

1. Choosing Joy - De'Etta has inspired me for so many years. Whether it's through faith, homeschooling, family she motivates me! Plus, it's a great blog to visit if you love learning about daily life in another culture...

2. Veggie Converter - As a vegan married to a omnivore and mothering an undecided (who says she's vegan again), Kristi's blog speaks to me. No idea why. :giggle:

3. The Berry Patch - I love Lisa's blog! Her words ring true, and her photography rocks. :)

4. Praying for Noah - Please, stop and say a prayer. The life of this little guy is amazing, and the strength and faith that Kate exhibits is a walking sermon to how we need to live with and for God. I may not comment often, but I have to say that this is the one blog that I read each and every time there is a new post, without fail.

5. Growing Fruit - What can I say about Amy's blog? Love the reviews. Love the thoughts. All around likey. :)

6. From Diapers to Driver's Ed - A great homeschool mom, Holly writes intelligently, with faith, and a big heaping spoonful of humor. Love her. :)

7. Dreams Into Plans - Jen is a beautiful writer! Now, if I could just get over my procrastination to join her in her Thrift Store Thursday posts. My back hurts, remember? It's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!

8. Garden of Learning - I don't know if I like the memes or the faith-filled reflections or the homeschooling posts more. Brenda's blog rocks.

9. Extraordinary Life - This is a brand new blog find for me this week. In searching for GF/CF blogs I found Lisa's blog. She's got menu plans. She's got $10 dinners. And she's also got a Mexican Rice recipe that I've been dying to make all week. Now that I'm feeling better I think it's safe to say we'll have it tomorrow. I'm really looking forward to reading more of this blog.

10. A Life Better Than I Deserve - I love the reviews and comments that she shares, but most of all I love how real Michelle is - in a very nice and positive way. But still, real. Love that.

11. With Thankful Hearts - Another real blog. I just love how Heidi writes, and what she chooses to say. Plus, her photographs make me want to take more photos! And her blog is just so pretty. It really makes me want to clean up my blog... (It sounds like she makes me want to work but she really makes me want to sit and read. :)

12. Life at Willis Creek Ranch - I love Laura's blog! Another filled with great photography... recipes... homeschooling. Plus, she's a sweetie (who I get to see in a few weeks at convention! Woo hoo!)

13. Following The Narrow Path - I'm saying it again... another filled with great photography. Debbie's heart is so full. I just love reading about what she experiences and seeing the photos that go with it. Another sweetie with a heart for the Lord.

14. Homedaze - Renita keeps it real. Can you guess a theme with me? I love blogs that share the dirt as well as the desire... the fun and the funk. I love Renita's writing style and the way that she shares her heart. Like a few on this list I've gotten complacent in my blog following because I keep up with them on FB. However, I need to start visiting - and commenting - on the actual blog more often!

15. Green Acres - I'm a broken record, but it's SO TRUE. Real life. Upbeat. Beautiful photos. I just love Jodi's outlook, and I bet you will, too.

There you have it! My seven & fifteen! I'm not sure what I liked most about this, but I think getting to revisit some blogs and really think about why I enjoy them ranked at the top of the list. I know that I didn't have to write a note for each, but I wanted you, my friends, to know how special these each were to me. I didn't just copy and paste. I hope that I did them justice, and that you enjoy visiting with them as much as I do.

And, to end it on a note-stealing, well, note...

Stacie said it best so I'm paraphrasing:

Please know that I smacked gave you this award because your blog is something special to me. If you don't like awards, no offense taken when you ignore it. If you don't want to follow the rules and award others, I'm good with that, too. Just please know that it was meant with good intentions and a great big smile (followed by a plate of gluten-free chocolate chip cookies since I'm evidently obsessed with them these days!) Many kisses and much love to each of you awesome blogging ladies!

Now, go play. It's Friday!

Monday, January 24, 2011

My new food adventure: Gluten Free!

I love adventures! If you plan correctly, they can be extremely satisfying. If you leave just enough of spontaneity, they can be exciting and unpredictable. And then you have the adventures that take a little education to really get kicked off right.

That's where I am right now!

Several years ago our youngest daughter developed a casein allergy. It was so severe that it took us quite some time (and quite a few specialists) to uncover. It also took months and months to recover from the effects of it. It was heartbreaking to watch her suffer through headaches, sores and rashes, gastrointestinal issues, and a slew of other symptoms. However, I'll gladly take the casein allergy over what it could have been! We learned quickly to be thankful for our health.

One thing that she has struggled with was a weakened immune system. She caught everything! Dairy - casein protein in particular - puts such a stress on her immune system that she spent the majority of the month each month fighting something... colds, flus, viruses. We were blessed with a fabulous family physician and a wonderful naturopath that worked together to get her in top shape. However, one thing that was always on the back burner was that we may need to consider transitioning to a gluten-free diet as well. (Soy-free diets are typically followed by those that are CF from what I've been told, but we do partake in soy in limited amounts. We try to keep our use limited to tofu and occasionally tempeh.)

Due to some additional issues with illness and questionable sensitivities (plus a continued battle with catching bugs and viruses!) we've decided to move forward with their suggestion to remove gluten from our diet. I say "our diet" because we are a team. We're in this together! When she goes GF/CF we all go GF/CF! I am still putting together our lists for shopping, baking basics, replacements, and additions, but we are on our way down this new road. Thankfully I was blessed to find a few good blogs and articles early on in my reading last week. It isn't that we are losing food that we can eat. We are introducing fruits, vegetables, and grains that we may not have tried or might not have given a starring role in our kitchen productions. We are focusing on the foods that we can enjoy.

Am I scared? No, not really. I know that we'll have great nutrition. It will benefit us all.

Am I intimidated? You could say that! I fought my battle with turning my meat-gnawing husband into a vegetarian/vegan meal eating man (who still gnaws on meat in a limited amount.) I went from having my dear spouse say that I was an awesome cook that rocked anything I touched to hearing two to three times a week that something wasn't his favorite or that it was "just ok." Talk about an arrow through the heart. I'm a southern girl. Food is love. So, I'm concerned that he will be the same way about this new food adventure. What does that leave me? One or two times a week that he likes something? Talk about a wavering "food-esteem." (I know it isn't a real word. Self-esteem with food = food-esteem. Just smile and nod.) So far so good though... two things have gotten a thumbs up: chocolate chip cookies and banana bread!

Am I confused? You betcha! The transition from "whole grain goodness" in my breads to "whole grain means other things than wheat" is blowing my silly little mind. My husband - who took two years to transition to whole wheat bread - told me that my GF bread was too soft. Well if that don't beat all! ;)

But... am I excited? You don't know how much! This is a new adventure for me. I'll plan, and I'll be spontaneous (as soon as I learn how new flours and additions react.) But first, I'll be reading and living on blogs like the following:

Adventures of a Gluten-free Mom
Extraordinary Life
Gluten Free and Thrifty

Have a good GF blog to share? I'd love it! Please pop it into a comment.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Book Review: Voices of the Faithful Book 2 (Moore and Davis)

Title: Voices of the Faithful Book 2: Inspirational Stories of Courage from Christians Serving Around the World
Author: Compiled by Kim P. Davis, Introduction by Beth Moore
Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Summary from Publisher's Website:

A willingness to go is all they have in common," says Beth Moore and Kim P. Davis, speaking of their friends on the front lines who are spreading the gospel around the world and with whom they collaborated to create this book. This second book of 366 daily devotionals features stories of God's faithfulness, written by hundreds of missionaries worldwide.

From stirring miracles to heroic adventures, this second volume highlights those who daily go to the outer limits of spiritual devotion. A follow-up to the first book which has now sold 300,000 copies.

My Review:

I absolutely love the concept behind this devotional! I wasn't familiar with the first book, though now I wish that I had been!

Growing up in Southern Baptist churches I quickly developed a heart for missionaries and missions in general. Though I no longer attend an SBC church, I still have that love and desire to support missionaries in their work. Voices of the Faithful (Book 2) is a fantastic way to integrate missions into your life. The format of the book is typical of any dated devotional. Simply follow along by date and you will be treated to an appropriate verse, a glimpse into the life and work of a missionary and the families that they live and work among, and a closing prayer that will help you be specific in your missions-focused prayer life. What makes this devotional special - apart from the content - are the monthly divisions. Each month has a well-written introduction with a specific focus in mind. You'll spend approximately four weeks guiding your thoughts and prayers around topics such as Prayer, Divine Appointments, Lost and Found, and Hope for the World just to name a few. Use this devotional in chronological order as written, or use one of the two indexes to locate devotionals specific to a certain verse or topic. Voices of the Faithful Book 2 is definitely arranged in a user-friendly manner! The devotionals are moving. The format is user-friendly. And, I have to say it... the cover art is gorgeous.

Personally, I plan on using this devotional in one of two ways: I plan on using the short readings first thing in the morning to give me a verse and focus for prayer that day. I'm not fully awake in the a.m. so in-depth study is out. However, I can use this to help me set my day (and attitude!) straight. I also plan on using one reading a week to help focus my daughter's attention to missions. When she was smaller we used various books to study about other areas and the work of missionaries, and this, I believe, will be a more teen-friendly way of doing so. It will be easy to focus on a specific people group or area of the world to read about or pray for after reading an interesting glimpse of their story.

Rating: 5 stars! I can honestly say that I will read this book in the future, even after completing it in 2011. I will also be seeking out Book 1 as well. It's going on the recommended list for those interested in missions or those looking for a nice change in morning devotions.

Now a little personal disclaimer:

Due to the daily devotional format this is not a book that I read from cover to cover. I did read a generous amount of entries and skipped throughout the book to verify that consistency remained throughout. I plan on reading through the entire book this calendar year as a personal goal.

And for the folks at the FCC:

*Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book through the Booksneeze blogging program in exchange for my honest review.