Friday, August 31, 2012

Book Review: Hope for Today, Promises for Tomorrow

When I read about Hope for Today, Promises for Tomorrow by Teske Drake, I knew I had to read it. Even though it has been over sixteen years now, and while it has gotten to the point that I will have whole days go by without thinking about my missing child, it doesn't take much for me to snap back to feeling as devastated as I did when I first realized I really had lost my baby.

When it happened, I really didn't know anyone who had been through a miscarriage or other infant loss.  Or at least I didn't think I did.  Suffering a miscarriage is pretty amazing in that I learned about all kinds of losses that others have been through, only I had no clue.   

I looked for books to read, particularly books from a Christian point of view.  Everything I found was about bad stuff in general.  I couldn't find anyone who was talking about how to cope when your baby dies.

So, reading this blurb from the publisher, I thought, "At last!"  And I knew that while this isn't a book I really need NOW, it is a book I want to promote.
No mother ever expects to grieve the death of her child before or immediately after the child is born. But the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences reports that as many as 31 percent of all pregnancies end in miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss. When the unthinkable happens, where do women turn for help?

Written from the perspective of one grieving mommy to another, Hope for Today, Promises for Tomorrow is a ten-week study that will encourage and challenge women to delve into a deeper understanding of God's Word. As women engage in biblical teaching, they will learn to embrace God's promises of love, goodness, purpose, comfort, peace, refinement, restoration, hope, and eternity.

"Hope for Today" verses peppered throughout each chapter, journaling cues, prayers, and the stories of other women who have experienced loss will help readers move from grieving in silent solitude to living life in the richness of God's love.

While other books suggest a one-size-fits-all method for grief management or focus on understanding specific causes of child loss, Hope for Today, Promises for Tomorrow offers comfort for the reader, whatever her situation, by helping her focus on the light of the ultimate Promise, the hope of a Savior, Jesus Christ.
What did I think?  I wish this book had been given to me fifteen or sixteen years ago.  Teske Drake is real. She talks about real feelings.  For instance, one thing so many people quoted at me was Romans 8:28.  You know the one.  "...all things work together for good..."  I always wondered why people thought that would make me feel better.

In the chapter "The Promise of His Goodness," Teske writes:
Not only is our God a good God, but He also works all things for good.  All things?  Yes.  Even the death of a baby.  An array of dismal feelings and thoughts bubble to the surface and linger as we trudge through the grief.  We question:  How could a good God allow such suffering?  Why would God take my baby, yet allow another baby to be born into an abusive home?  Why does this woman in the supermarket even have children if she only wishes to yell and yank them around?

 Oh, yeah.  I was so there.

What I love about this book is that it acknowledges the pain, the grief, the questions.  But it also points to something bigger, something greater.  There is no condemnation for asking questions like the ones above.  Because that was something I found way back when.  Lots of guilt for daring to question why God would do something like this to me.

This book does give hope.  This book talks about God's promises.

This is something I will recommend -- or give -- to women I know who lose a baby.  In fact, this copy is heading to Kansas tomorrow, to go to a friend of a friend whose baby was just stillborn.

Disclaimer:  I received this book through LitFuse Blog Tour.  No other compensation was received.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Review: The Open Bible NKJV

I love having lots of different versions of the Bible available, and I love having different styles of study Bibles.  So when the opportunity to review The Open Bible NKJV came up, I went for it.

I figure that you already have an idea as to whether or not the New King James Version is something you even want to consider (this Bible is also available in KJV if you prefer that), so I'm not going to address the "Bible" portion of this.  My review will focus on some of the features that make this Bible different from other NKJV Bibles.

Book introductions and outlines:  Okay, many Bibles include introductions to each book.  The Open Bible has significant introductions to each book.  In cases like 2 Timothy, the introduction/outline is nearly as long as the book itself.  Each introduction follows a basic format:
  • Brief overview of the book, usually a paragraph or two.  This includes information about the history of the name of the book.
  • Information on the author of the book
  • Information about the time of the book, usually referring to the time the book was written
  • Information about how Christ is presented in the book.  For Old Testament books, this section is particularly interesting.
  • Keys to the book -- key words, key verses, key chapters -- and a description as to why these are important.
  • Survey of the book, which goes through the main sections of the book in paragraph form.
  • A chart that summarizes the book visually.
  • A traditional outline of the book.
Biblical Cyclopedic Index: Three HUNDRED page index, this is the kind of thing I tend to ignore.  As I've done more Bible study with my kids though, one thing we've tried to do is to learn HOW to use various study and reference tools, such as a concordance or a topical index.  This Cyclopedic Index is a combination of those two tools, plus more. 

Let's take a look at the entry for "Clothing, tearing of" for an example.  First, there is a brief definition, in this case, "symbolic expression of grief."  For some entries, there are subheadings, but not in this case.  Underneath the entry, there are listings for each instance in Bible, with a brief description ("By Reuben"), the reference ("Gen 37:29, 34"), and the page number in this Bible.

This is something that will be handy for some of our studies.

Visual Survey of the Bible:  Roughly 25 pages, located between the Old and New Testaments, this section gives an overview of the big picture of the entire Bible, with charts, maps, timelines (including biblical and extrabiblical events), along with very brief text.  This is a great summary.

Articles:  There are also a number of articles throughout The Open Bible, including:
  • How to Study the Bible
  • The Christian's Guide to the New Life
  • Between the Testaments
  • The Apocrypha
  • The Scarlet Thread of Redemption
  • The Greatest Archaeological Discoveries
  • A Guide to Christian Workers
Charts/Lists:  There are a number of charts, including:
  • Money, Weights, and Measures
  • Jewish Feasts
  • Jewish Calendar
  • Harmony of the Gospels
  • Teachings and Illustrations of Christ
  • Prophecies of the Messiah Fulfilled in Jesus Christ
  • The Parables of Jesus Christ
  • The Miracles of Jesus Christ
  • The Laws of the Bible
  • Prayers of the Bible
 This video shows some of these features too:

My bottom line:  I am glad to have this Bible as part of my collection.  My favorite portions are the book introductions, the archaeology article, and the Visual Survey.

Disclaimer: As a Booksneeze Blogger, I did receive this Bible for free from Thomas Nelson. All opinions are my own.  No other compensation was received. For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.

Book Review: Perfect Lies

Over the past month, I've been reading Perfect Lies by Jennifer Crow.  One of the things I seriously appreciate about this book is how transparent Jennifer is about her depression and physical problems -- and her journey to recovery.

From the publisher:
Are your innermost thoughts robbing you of health and happiness? Jennifer Crow knows what that’s like. She always tried to do everything right—so she was shocked when her seemingly perfect life began to fall apart. Diagnosed with a dozen chronic health issues, she entered a deep depression and spiritual crisis. And as everything unraveled, Jennifer began to see how the perfect lies she’d told herself—lies like “I must prove myself because my worth depends on what I do” and “I must gain the acceptance of others because their opinion matters most”—were literally crippling her body, mind, and soul.

In Perfect Lies, Jennifer reveals nine key lies that held her back, walks us through her journey of miraculous recovery, and shares practical techniques for overcoming these same lies in our own lives and finding true freedom instead.
Jennifer starts the book by describing her life at the point where everything was falling apart.  She talks about how this impacted her and her family, and then talks about starting the road to recovery by countering nine "perfect" lies.

The bulk of the book consists of a chapter for each of these nine lies.  In each chapter, Jennifer starts by giving personal background on her experience with a particular lie, and further details are woven throughout the remainder of the chapter.  She talks about the emotions that go with a particular like, and she asks some questions to help you to figure out if this lie is an issue in your life.  Chances are, it is at least to some extent.  She talks about how to counter the lie, between scripture, "picture prayer," and meditative prayer.  The chapters end with statements to ponder and scripture to ponder.

If the meditative prayer idea bothers you, I'd highly recommend you skip to the final chapter of the book, "Questions and answers about Christian meditative prayer," which contains a lot of good information on what she means when she discusses meditative prayer.

I had more issues with the picture prayer idea.  Not that I think there is anything wrong with it, per se.  I just have never gotten anything out of any kind of visualization exercise I've ever been asked to do.  Ever.  The visualizations have you doing things like picturing the first time you can remember feeling guilty, and then taking time to visualize where Jesus was in that scene and what he was doing.

I just can't do it.  I could probably explain situations like this... but I have a difficult time creating images in my mind and then visualizing forgiveness, or visualizing how Jesus was forgiving other people involved too.

Regardless of my feelings of inadequacy in these picture prayer exercises, I did find a lot to think about, and I do think she really did hit on nine lies that are pretty universal.

Perfect Lie #5: I am a target.  That one particularly hit me.  I've been joking lately along the, "Just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get me" lines.  I read through this chapter and thought that this is the one I need to start with.

This is not a book to read quickly.

Disclaimer:   I received this book for free from Tyndale House Publishers.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

This week's kitchen adventures

I've been pretty busy in the kitchen here lately.  Trying to get things stored up, as I have the chance.

Today I have a couple main projects.  I am canning about 15 pounds of tomatoes.  I end up doing it as a chunky sauce, which makes it something I can use in a lot of different recipes.  I basically use it in place of diced tomatoes.  What I love about it is that it isn't really a lot of work.  I saute some onions and garlic, wash the tomatoes, cut out the stems and any bad spots, and just cook it all.  For a long time.  And then I use a blender on 1/3 to 1/2 of it.  I put it into quart jars, add a touch of lemon juice, and pressure can them.  I could do water bath canning, but at my altitude, why bother?

I am also freezing broccoli and cauliflower.  Those are simply a matter of washing them, chopping them, blanching them (put in boiling water for about 3 minutes, then plunging into ice water.  I lay them out in a layer on a cookie sheet, freeze for an hour or two, then I pack them up into nice serving sized bags.

I froze seven over-ripe bananas, for use in banana bread, muffins, or pancakes.  That was my easiest project.

Earlier this week, I canned six pints of medium salsa.  Yumm.  I also froze four packages of broccoli and three packages of winter squash.  And I made a quart of limeade concentrate.  That didn't exactly get stored though...

I also experimented by drying some kale, which I crumbled and put into an airtight container.  I'm planning to add a bit here and a bit there -- to spaghetti sauce, eggs, soup, or whatever else strikes my fancy.  Here's hoping that works, because when we get kale, we always get more than I can store fresh.

I'm hoping to stay busy this coming week... maybe I'll try to update next week too.

Review: Uncover Exciting History

I'm always looking for new ways to read about history in my household.  So when Golden Prairie Press came up as a vendor for the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I knew immediately that I wanted to get a look at the book Uncover Exciting History.

Golden Prairie Press started when Amy Puetz, a homeschool graduate, decided to write a book about historical costumes.  She went on to write additional history books.  The Schoolhouse Review Crew had the chance to review four different titles, but in my male-dominated household, titles like Heroines of the Past Bible Study did not stand a chance. 

We went for Uncover Exciting History: Revealing America's Christian Heritage in Short, Easy-to-Read Nuggets.  At 184 pages, the book contains 25 chapters on U.S. history, plus four bonus chapters.  That means roughly six pages per chapter -- so it truly is in short nuggets.

We received the ebook (it is also available in physical form and as an audiobook) and were easily able to send it to my Kindle.  The formatting has been perfect, though as it is not a Kindle book per se, it isn't straightforward to navigate.  But since we are just reading it straight through, it has been fine. 

I have to confess right off the top that the "Revealing America's Christian Heritage" part of the subtitle made me nervous.  While I do believe that America has a Christian heritage, and I do believe that Christianity played a far-too-often-forgotten role in the foundation of this country, I also think most homeschool publishers who bandy about the "Christian heritage" phraseology are far too over the top with it.

My expectation for this book was that we could read some great stories, but that we'd be stopping frequently to discuss whether the claims about Christianity's role were accurate.

I was wrong.  Oh, I was right about the great stories aspect.  It was the rest of it that I guessed wrong about.  There is certainly some mention of God providing or protecting, like in the fourth chapter Squanto is said to have been sent by God to help the Pilgrims.  But I find it is hard to read about Squanto and not think that God sent him.  Some of my more secular readers will disagree.

So what does the book cover?  The book goes through a more-or-less standard set of events -- Columbus, first settlers, the American Revolution and the Constitution, westward expansion, the Civil War, World War I, the Depression, finally ending with a chapter on the Navajo Code Talkers in World War II.

There are chapters on all kinds of other events that aren't included in many short history books.  These include the Great Awakening, the French and Indian War, the Barbary Coast Wars, the Second Great Awakening, and the Mexican War.

Intended for ages 12 and up, we decided to use this as a read-aloud for my three oldest (ages 15, 13 and 11), and the 8-year-old always listens in too.  My 6-year-old daughter kind of floats in and out, but her big brothers listen intently.  Well, no.  Not entirely true.  Connor, the oldest, tends to tune out in chapters like the one on the Pilgrims.  "Mom, I have read all of this a hundred times!"

Fortunately, there have only been two or three chapters like that.  Most of the book either covers events he really doesn't know at all, or it covers events from a slightly different perspective.

After each reading (which takes us roughly ten minutes), there are questions and activities in the book to expand on the learning.  In the chapter on the Spanish-American War, for instance, there are two basic comprehension types of questions.  There is a link suggested to go read an original document.  There are two book suggestions, one for younger children, one for high school students.  And there is a geography assignment.

Let's look at the first chapter, the one on Columbus.  What I appreciated is that this man is written as a real person.  For example, "Although Columbus was an amazing explorer, he was a very poor governor and was completely incapable of keeping his men in order."  I appreciated that Columbus was portrayed as a flawed man, neither completely evil, nor perfectly wonderful.

We are enjoying this book.  The boys think the best part is the stories about people they didn't know (or only vaguely knew) before.  I love that we have a relatively short read-aloud that I can use with everyone. 

My bottom line:  These history stories avoid being politically correct, yet don't err on the side of Christianizing everything.  Each story gives enough real detail (with quotes and excerpts from the time) to be informative, even in rather short chapters.  Additional resources are suggested as well.  Overall, there is a good mix of the familiar and unfamiliar parts of US history.  We love it.

Right now, Amy has a back to school sale going, so this book is currently available for $11.96 as an ebook, or $15.16 for a physical copy.  I want to purchase Ten Great Adventurers while it is on sale!

To see what my fellow crewmates had to say about the various Golden Prairie Press titles, click the banner here:


Disclaimer:  As part of the TOS Schoolhouse Review Crew, I did receive products as mentioned above for the purposes of a review.  All opinions are my own.  For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.

If you are interested, here are more of my Schoolhouse Crew Reviews.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Book Review: Live to Give

It is time for another LitFuse Blog Tour... this one is for the book Live to Give by Austin Gutwein. 

I love books that I can hand to my teen to read, and I especially love books that are written by sincere, Christian male teens or young adults.  This book is that.

Connor keeps vanishing with my Kindle so that he can read more.  But then he keeps reappearing, because he just feels compelled to share what he is reading.

Well, let's do the publisher's synopsis:
Want to do something for God but don’t know what? Want to help others but don’t know who? Want to know what it is you’re really good at doing? Your gifts may feel small and insignificant. But God can use them to work a miracle!

Inspired by the biblical story of the feeding of the 5,000, "Live to Give" delivers a message of hope that we all have something to give. Written in the down-to-earth, candid voice of the gifted young man who as a kid founded a relief ministry that has saved and improved countless lives in Africa, "Live to Give" is the message that every teen needs to hear: You are more special than you know, and you can do big things.

Jesus proved that no gift is too small when He used five loaves and two fish to feed a crowd of thousands. And if no gift is too small, too ordinary, or too random, there is no limit to what the youth of today can accomplish!

A teenage philanthropist who has built a high school, two medical clinics, and a dormitory in Africa—all before the age of 16—Austin Gutwein shares how to take what may seem like the simplest of talents, gifts, and interests and use them for something Jesus can use to move mountains.
And take a look at this interview:

Connor's take:  "I love the analogies he uses, and how he is always quoting appropriate scripture.  Yet he still keeps throwing in all these personal bits, so I feel like I really know him.  It's almost like having a conversation, though I try to come out here and talk to you instead of talking to this gadget."

I asked Connor what ages he thinks this book is appropriate for, as I was thinking it would definitely be good for William (13) to read, and maybe Thomas (11).  Connor didn't hesitate.  He said, "This is good for all ages.  I think Trina [age 6] would be able to listen to it and benefit from it.  I think Dad would learn a lot."

Now, I'm not planning to read this aloud to my young elementary students, but I will be having my tween and young teen read it too.  I do think this is a book that every teen should read.

See what other people are saying about Live to Give.

And there is a giveaway happening very soon.  If we were to win, we'd give the book copies away to some young men at Scouts, and the donation would go to a nearby food pantry, as fighting rural hunger is Connor's hot-button issue.

Austin's new book Live to Give is about "Letting God Turn Your Talents into Miracles"! Celebrate with him by entering his "Get and Give" Campaign - you could win a Kindle Fire for yourself AND Litfuse will donate $250 to the charity of your choice!

One winner will receive:
  • A Brand New Kindle Fire with Wi-Fi
  • Five copies of Live to Give by Austin Gutwein
  • $250 donated on the winner’s behalf to the charity of their choice
Hurry, the giveaway ends on 8/25/12. The winner will be announced on 8/27/12 on the Live to Give Landing Page!

Just click one of the icons below to enter. Tell your friends about Austin's giveaway on FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning.

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

Disclaimer:  I received this book through LitFuse Blog Tour.  No other compensation was received.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

I can't afford to homeschool high school - or can I?

PhotobucketBlog Cruise time again!  This week's theme has to do with Budget-Friendly Homeschooling.

Homeschooling can be expensive, no doubt about it.  Watching online, there are constantly stories about how many hundreds of dollars per student it costs to homeschool.  But really, homeschooling can be done for a lot less than many of the experts suggest.  And that can still be a fabulous education.

What types of things you do will depend a lot on how old your kids are, and the resources you do have available.  My basic advice is to get creative.  That goes for any age.  But it is so much easier to get creative with your elementary kids. 

The million dollar question:  How do you homeschool high schoolers, and still have money left to feed them? 

I wish I had all of the answers.  Believe me, I could use them.   I don't.  I have some ideas though.
  • Prayer.  Your high schooler should be doing this too.  Pray about figuring out a plan, pray about the right resources or people showing up in your life.  
  • The library.  Your library may be less than stellar.  But if it has been awhile since you've checked it out, try it again.  See if they have a teen program at all, and see if they do anything to help you and your teen learn what is available.  We are using a free online Spanish program (Mango), there are free test prep materials available, and of course there are loads of books too.  Maybe there are programs that are convenient for you.  Or online research materials.  Online homework help.  Or a science lab.
  • Other homeschoolers.  Start bartering.  High school materials tend to be really expensive.  In my house right now, I have advanced chemistry materials I borrowed from a friend.  I have some high school math that didn't work for two other friends, but is going to be perfect for my 8th grader over the next couple of years.  I have been offered the use of some writing materials, an astronomy course, and more.  But turnabout is fair play.  My Teaching the Classics set resides at a friend's house at the moment, as are some writing DVDs, some math, more writing materials, and a book or two. 
  • Organizations you are already a part of.  Boy Scouts, in our case, but also 4H or whatever.  With a bit of extra work, I can turn a merit badge into a 1/2 credit high school course.  There is always a requirement to research careers -- I turn that into an writing assignment.  I require more documentation and research than they could get by with and still earn the badge.  I find additional project opportunities, or have them find some real mentors, or read a couple books, or, or, or...  
  • Back to the library, look for audio or video courses from The Great Courses and The Modern Scholar.  Especially if you add in the study guide material, some of these make excellent spines for a high school course.  History, art, music, literature, science, math...  you name it, one of these companies probably has it.  Subscribe at The Great Courses website, and you'll get notifications of sales.  Something is always on sale, everything goes on sale eventually, and sometimes those prices get pretty low.  The Modern Scholar -- I have subscribed to and used my credits to purchase some of the courses my library doesn't have.
  • Khan Academy is amazing. And free.  They are not just for math anymore, though the math is still great.  Art history, computer science, psychology.  Lots of subjects, and new ones pop up all the time.
  • Check out the free courses at NROC.  Specifically, I am impressed with the courses here... including courses like AP sciences, upper level math, history, and more...
  • Even if you don't like a textbook approach, checking used homeschooling bookstores or sales and watching for a few textbooks there might be worth your while.  You can have a basic outline of what makes up, say, high school government.  You can still do unit studies or whatever, but use the text as a bit of a road map for you.  Some of those books can be found for very little money.
  • Log hours.  I expect roughly 70 hours for a half credit.  So if we take part in a free 'artists of the west' program at a local museum, and we watch a Great Courses set on the art of the Louvre, and we watch some art discussions on Khan Academy, plus some additional research of some sort... pretty soon we have a 1/2 credit in art history or art appreciation or something. 
  • Adapt.  You can often take a program that targets middle school and add some research, a paper or two, or some additional reading, and turn that into something worthy of high school credit.  Or you can take a college text, and by slowing it down and maybe requiring a bit less, that can be worth high school credit too.
  • Don't be wowed by all the bells and whistles.  There are some great, expensive programs out there.  But there are plenty of just plain expensive programs too.  
  • If you have some money to spend, think about getting the most bang for your buck.  What will it cost to use this program again with child #2, #3 or #7?  What else do you need to use this program (books, supplies, reference materials, a microscope) and how readily can you acquire it?  What kind of expertise do you need?
  • Consider doing reviews.  Reviewing for the Schoolhouse Crew can be a lot of work, but I am ending up with some amazing high school programs as a result.   I've also spent time on programs we've really disliked.  Of course, sometimes I get the chance to give those away and truly bless someone.
My final tip?  Figure out what is really important to your child.  Figure out what is really important to you.  And figure out what weaknesses your child really needs to work on.  If those three are not things that you are comfortable covering by 'creating your own' or scrounging, that is where you ought to spend your money.

Do you have any other great suggestions?  Or still need more ideas?  You can read what my Crewmates had to say -- starting tomorrow -- at the Crew page!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The right tool for the job

Men get this.  The right tool makes all the difference in the world in getting the job done.

I remember reading something about how every home improvement project should budget at least 20% for acquiring the correct tools.  All the men near me nodded in agreement.

So why don't we get this concept when it comes to everyday household stuff?  Probably because these tools are used day in and day out, and either we just don't notice when their value starts to decline (the vacuum cleaner), we know we can't afford to replace them anyway, or we are just so used to "making do" that it seems frivolous.

Yesterday, I made a frivolous purchase.  You see, we got about two dozen limes in our Bountiful Basket oh, six weeks ago?  Eight weeks ago?  I'm not sure.  I made 8 or so into limeade by adapting a lemonade recipe.  It was a disaster.  (The lemonade is amazing though. And easy.)

I have used a couple in cooking.  I squeezed lime juice enough to make two cherry-limeade slushes.  And froze cherries to do more.  But that process took me at least two hours.  Two hours for two cherry limeades?  Uh, no.

So yesterday, while looking for something else, I saw this bright green gadget:

And bought it.  Totally on a whim.  Knowing I hate having gadgets that are this specialized as they just take up room.

This morning, I used it.  It did a beautiful job of juicing four limes in the time it took for my first cup of coffee to brew.

I juiced another (and took photos) while waiting for my second cup of coffee.  Here is a picture with a lime half after juicing.

The last three limes are waiting until my family is up.  I need to show them my new toy.

It cost just under $5.  Now, that may not have been worth it for just eight limes.  But the thing is, we get limes often enough with Bountiful Baskets -- and now instead of taking up space in my refrigerator for months while I slowly use one here or one there, I will be willing to go ahead and DO something with the juice.  Right away.  Which puts it into a form that:
  • takes up less refrigerator space
  • I'm more likely to actually use
And next time we end up with two dozen limes, we'll enjoy them when they are fresh, not after they have sat around until I finally am frustrated enough to deal with them.  And when there is a fantastic price on a bag of limes, I will go for it.  I've never been willing to do that before.

The right tool for the job?  You know, I might just need to start allocated a few dollars every month to this for me. 

Oh, and if you are wondering:

Limeade concentrate:

Juice your limes, measure the juice.  This is the base measurement for everything that follows.  Let's say it is 2/3 of a cup.

In a saucepan, combine one measurement (2/3 cup in this case) of sugar and one measurement (2/3 cup in this case) of water.  Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the sugar dissolves.  Let cool.  Add lime juice.  At this point, you can store in the refrigerator (or freezer).

To make limeade, combine one part of the concentrate with two-three parts cold water. I'd recommend starting with two parts, and tasting, and adjusting, until you figure out the ratio that works for YOU.

Cherry Limeade:

I took 2 cups of the finished limeade
a cup or so of ice, crushed works best
1 cup frozen cherries

Stick it all in a blender, blend until it is nice and slushy, add more ice if you need to.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Bountiful Baskets: August 18

I love Bountiful Baskets week!

Another fabulous basket this morning, and there were four of us there volunteering.  We contributed for two baskets, plus a box of tomatoes, and a tortilla pack.  We were so bummed that we ordered too late the last time tortillas were offered.  Love, love, love the tortillas.

This is one basket

Between the two baskets, and the extras for volunteering, we now have:
  • four bunches of leaf lettuce.
  • two bunches of kale
  • six onions
  • two good sized bags of Brussels sprouts
  • two heads of cauliflower
  • a whole bunch of broccoli.  Yikes.  Lots and lots of broccoli.  I counted 11 or 12 bunches.
  • two tomatoes
  • three bags of red grapes
  • 22 plums
  • 6 apple pears
  • 9 nectarines
  • 15 bananas
I have not really begun to figure out what we'll do with all of this.  I couldn't fit it all in the fridge, so I have a lot of things in a cooler with ice packs at the bottom.  But what I do know:
  • lettuce will be used in salads.  My older guys tend to do a salad as a mid-afternoon snack lately, if there is lettuce in the house.
  • I'm going to do a potato-sausage-kale soup.  Not sure what else I'll do with kale.
  • onions just get used.  I was thrilled to see them, as we were down to two.
  • We'll have Brussels sprouts with dinner tonight, and probably again next weekend.  We'll probably still have another meal worth.
  • I'll cut up one of the heads of cauliflower, and the kids will be free to eat that whenever they want to.  The other one, I'll probably do some with mashed potatoes (as we are <ahem> almost out of potatoes) and some cooked and blended and added to alfredo sauce.
  • I cannot imagine how I'll get through all the broccoli.  I will freeze some, I'll cut up a head or two for the kids to snack on, and we'll do 3-4 skillet meals this week with broccoli, since Dale won't be around.  Maybe I could use another head in a stir-fry.  And after that, the remaining 3-4 heads, oh, goodness, I don't know...  it is a LOT of broccoli.
  • I added the tomatoes to my box.  Plan is to can some mild salsa (I'm out) and probably to can some plain ol' tomatoes.
  • all the fruit is just eaten throughout the next week and a half.  Plums are first.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Review: Economics for Everybody

Because I have used and totally love Visual Latin, I was contacted about the possibility of reviewing the latest curriculum produced by the Compass Cinema folks -- Economics for Everybody.


I was a CPA in my previous life, and back at the University of Minnesota, and North Dakota State University before that, I have taken plenty of economics courses.  I found the subject fascinating, and I have intended all along to have my children take at least an Intro to Economics semester course in high school.

Connor is actually starting a full year economics class to prepare for the AP tests in Microeconomics and Macroeconomics in the spring, which meant that when this chance came along, I wasn't really sure if I wanted to add it to our plates.

Well, I did.  And I'm glad I did.

Economics for Everybody is a joint production from Compass Cinema (how I heard about it) and Ligonier Ministries, and it features Dr. RC Sproul, Jr. doing a series of 12 video lessons that range from 15-27 minutes in length.  There is also a study guide (250 pages) that outlines each lesson and provides a variety of questions covering the material.

In addition, if you want to use this for high school credit, there are suggestions of some textbooks and the study guide contains reading recommendations for those texts.  You can find those high school suggestions in their FAQ.

I received the pdf version of the Study Guide, and was able to download the videos.  With the downloads, we can watch on the computer, on the iPad, or we can link it up so we can view it on the television.  I love having something so portable!  The videos are also available on a 2-DVD set, and the Study Guide is available in a print version.

I read through a fair amount of the study guide myself, and have started watching the video lessons with my three oldest, who are all in middle school or high school (6th, 8th and 10th grades).

Here is the trailer:

This gives you a flavor for how the videos are set up and what is being covered.  This clip is actually a segment from the first video - What is Economics?

One thing I love is that the videos feature a lot of different kinds of footage.  There are clips from old movies:

Or from art:

There is footage that looks like it was shot in normal life:

And that includes normal life in places that aren't the US:

They give a fair amount of description as to what the lessons cover on the website, so I'm not going into a lot of detail about that here.  I mostly want to focus on how we are using this, and what my plans are for the future.

We are sitting down, when the little two are outside or after they have gone to bed, and watching a lesson.  We talk a bit about the lesson.  Then we go over the study guide as a group discussion, going through the multiple choice questions and referring back to the notes in the study guide when we disagree on the answers.  We do disagree about answers!  I very much appreciate that the multiple choice questions include some that present you with more than one credible answer, so it isn't something where you can get everything right just by paying a wee bit of attention.

The greatest part of this, however, are the open ended questions.  Some elicit a couple minutes of conversation.  Some we can discuss and debate for a half-hour or more.  We may not agree with everything Dr. Sproul states, but the questions are such that we can explore the concepts more and really think about our view and his.

My kids are really enjoying this too, though Thomas pretends not to.  And they all told me they know they are learning something.  What I like is that the materials explain some of the often confusing terms and concepts in a way that is accessible to even my 11 year old.

How we plan to use this, long term:  Since I already own materials for Connor to use for this year, I am using this as an introduction to the overall subject, and he will also work through the AP Prep materials starting in October.  I wasn't sure there really was enough there for a full credit, so this helps to round that out.

For Thomas and William, this will be a semester long middle school course, and we will see what happens for high school.  I may have them work through this with the suggested textbook for a 1/2 credit in high school.

For my younger two, we will revisit these materials when they are in 6th and 8th grades.

I do recommend this program, and not just because I do get affiliate income if you purchase it by clicking here or on the Homeschool Economics graphic at the top of this post. (If you click the other text links in this post, you can purchase it without giving me credit.  That is totally fine too!)  I think for the money (and it is on sale through TODAY -- regular price of $45), this makes a great middle school or high school course, and you might learn a bunch from it too. 

There is a lot to explore at the website -- including the entire first lesson and clips from many others.

Disclaimer:  I received this program through Compass Cinema.  This post does include affiliate links. No other compensation was received for this review.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Book Review: The Haven

When book 2 in the Stoney Ridge Seasons series, The Haven, came up for review, I knew I wanted to read it.  I few months ago, I reviewed the first book, The Keeper, which featured Julia Lapp.  The Haven is about her younger sister, Sadie.

Suzanne Woods Fisher writes Amish fiction that pulls me in.  The characters are so very real and they don't strike me as being all that different from people I know.

From the publisher:
When Sadie Lapp steps off the bus in Stoney Ridge after being in Ohio for the winter, she is faced with a decision–one that goes against her very essence. Yet it’s the only way she can think of to protect a loved one.

Schoolteacher Gideon Smucker has been crazy about Sadie since boyhood. But his response to her surprising decision undermines his own reputation–and his relationship with Sadie.

College student Will Stoltz is spending the spring at the Lapp farm as a guard for a pair of nesting Peregrine Falcons–courtesy of the Lancaster County Game Warden. Will needs to get his life back on track, but his growing friendship with Sadie threatens his plans.

The lives of these three individuals intertwine, and then unravel as unexpected twists create ripples through the town of Stoney Ridge . . . and through Sadie’s heart.

Once again, bestselling author Suzanne Woods Fisher intrigues and delights with a story that explores the bonds of friendship, family, and true love. Readers will enjoy every surprise in Sadie’s story as they search for the truth hidden within these pages.

Read an excerpt!
What did I think?

I enjoyed this book immensely.  The characters are rich and well-developed.  They have flaws and idiosyncrasies that are delightful.  The plot moves along and provides a twist or two where instead of thinking, "Wow!  I didn't see THAT coming!" I am thinking something more like, "Huh.  That makes sense, why didn't I see that?"

I also absolutely loved the ending.  And no, I definitely didn't have that figured out beforehand.

This story explores some pretty interesting themes.  Friendship.  Trust.  Choices and their consequences.  Letting go.

A great read.

Celebrate the newest book in the Stoney Ridge Seasons series with Suzanne by entering her 4 eReader Giveaway and Facebook Party and RSVPing for the Live Video Chat on 8/30! 

See what folks are saying about The Haven!

Four grand prize winners will receive:
  • A Brand new Kindle Fire or Nook Color 
  • $25 or Barnes& Gift certificate 
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on August 29th. Winner will be announced at Suzanne's Live Author Chat Party on 8/30. Suzanne will be hosting an author chat (party will start on Facebook AND then be Live from her website) and giving away books, gift certificates and several Burt's Bees® Nourishing Radiance Kits!!

So grab your copy of The Haven and join Suzanne on the evening of the August 30th for a fun chat (both on Facebook and via Live Video), trivia contest and lots of giveaways. 

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

Don't miss a moment of the RSVP today. Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 30th!

Disclaimer:  I received this book through LitFuse Blog Tour.  No other compensation was received.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Book Review: 10 Christians Everyone Should Know

I love reading a good biography.  So I couldn't help it... I had to read 10 Christians Everyone Should Know edited by John Perry.

So, who are the ten Christians everyone should know?  There are a couple people on here I would NEVER have guessed would be included.
  • Saint Patrick
  • Galileo
  • Anne Bradstreet
  • John Bunyan
  • Johann Sebastian Bach
  • Jane Austen
  • D. L. Moody
  • George Washington Carver
  • Sergeant York
  • William F. Buckley, Jr.
From the publisher:
Jane Austen, Sergeant York, Saint Patrick—What did they have in common?
Two thousand years and still going strong: that’s the story of Christianity. And while the Christian martyrs and saints and orators may have gotten more press, the fact is the faith has been carried through history in the hearts and deeds of believers who—though beloved to us now—were simply living ordinary lives of devotion.
“It would be almost impossible to imagine ten people more different from each other than these,” editor John Perry says. “This [is] the first truth of Christian living: anybody, anywhere can be a champion of the faith, an example and inspiration to all who follow.”
There’s no dry biography here, though. Each story teems with fresh insight. D. L. Moody did some of his most powerful evangelizing by befriending ragged street children in Chicago. William F. Buckley never delivered a sermon, yet a Christian worldview informed his erudite, witty, output in print and broadcasting. To compose her poems, Anne Bradstreet had to understand science, history, the Bible, and literature, not to mention the political scene in both Massachusetts and England. You’ll look with new eyes, also, on the lives of George Washington Carver, Jane Austen, Galileo, Johann Sebastian Bach, Sergeant York, John Bunyan, and Saint Patrick. You might think you know their stories . . . but you don’t. Not yet.
For lovers of biography, for homeschool or study groups, for anyone seeking encouragement in the Christian walk, 10 Christians Everyone Should Know is a valuable resource.
This book is fabulous.  The individual biographies average about 30 pages each, which is a great length.  You can read one in a single sitting, yet they are long enough to include quite a bit of detail.

The publisher's blurb is right... "You might think you know their stories... but you don't."

I thought I had knew a fair amount about St. Patrick, who is the first person in the book.  But I learned a lot.

I was sure I knew a whole lot about Galileo, the second chapter.  You guessed it, there was much that was new to me.

Anne Bradstreet, chapter 3... okay, this chapter did not surprise me.  I knew I didn't know much about her.

And so it went for all the biographies. 

This book is going to become a part of my kids' studies.

Disclaimer: As a Booksneeze Blogger, I did receive this ebook for free from Thomas Nelson. All opinions are my own.  No other compensation was received. For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Review: World History

For the past couple of years, I've paid attention to the literature program that James Stobaugh has put together for jr. and sr. high school.  We've never used it, but it is something I keep coming back to examine.

So when I found out we had an opportunity to review his high school history program you better believe we jumped at the chance.

For the past couple of months, Connor has been using  World History: Observations and Assessments from Creation to Today, and he really enjoys it.

From the publisher:
Respected Christian educator, Dr. James Stobaugh, offers an entire year of high school world history curriculum in an easy to teach and comprehensive volume. World History: Observations & Assessments from Creation to Today employs clear objectives and challenging assignments for the twelfth grade student. This study will help students develop a Christian worldview while forming his or her own understanding of world history trends, philosophies, and events. The following components are covered for the student:
  • Critical thinking
  • Examinations of historical theories, terms, and concepts
  • History makers who changed the course of history
  • Overviews and insights into world views.
 This 288-page student resource should be used in conjunction with the World History: Observations & Assessments from Creation to Today for the Teacher. American History and British History are included in this comprehensive high school history curriculum for 10th, 11th, and 12th grades offered by Dr. James Stobaugh and Master Books.
We have both the student and teacher book, available for $25 and $15 respectively.

The book is set up with 34 chapters, each consisting of a bit of introduction, four daily lessons, and a weekly exam.  The lessons contain a short reading, and some type of critical thinking questions.

The first chapter covers Mesopotamia, and from there the student works through history in a roughly chronological manner, ending with chapter 34 on South Africa.  While the majority of the book covers typical western-focused history, there are also individual chapters on Japan, South Asia, Persia, China, Germany, Scandinavia, and of course, that final chapter on South Africa.

I'm not sure that there is exactly a typical week, but let's take a look at a recent one -- Chapter 13: Roman Thought and Decline.  In this week, Connor learned:
  • Virgil -- includes a couple of paragraphs about Virgil, a mosaic dating to the third century, and a painting "Aeneas Flees Burning Troy."  The daily assignment has the student thinking about who might serve as a "Vergil" today.
  • Epicureanism and Stoicism -- this lesson includes a lot more text explaining both philosophies and quoting from Principal Doctrines, and from Meditations by Marcus Aurelius.  The assignment includes a couple questions regarding these life philosophies.
  • Neo-Platonism -- this lesson includes text describing Neo-Platonism and a passage from The Six Anneads by Plotinus.  The assignment involves thinking about modern religions and philosophies that compete with Christianity.
  • The Fall of Rome -- the final lesson is describing the fall of Rome and discusses some thoughts on the reason for the collapse.  The assignment has the student describing the causes of the fall of the Roman Empire.
In addition to the above lessons,  the student book contains a glossary, bibiliography, and timeline.  It does NOT include the weekly exams.

The Teacher Book is half the size -- 144 pages.  This consists primarily of each lesson's assignment and answers, including the exam key for each week.  It also contains the exams and a weblink so you can print them off individually.

The exam for Chapter 13 includes a dozen matching questions and an essay question.

Now, after we got started with this, we became aware that the suggested sequence for Stobaugh's materials has you using this book for 12th grade.  Connor was finishing up 9th grade when we began the book, so he is a couple years younger than the intended audience. 

I have some concerns about this book being used as the sole source for a high school history credit.  Initially, I thought I probably just have a warped sense of how much work you need for a credit.  But after reading through the material a bit more and crunching numbers, I do think this is just not enough.  It is suggested that each lesson should take 20-30 minutes... which would be 1.7-2.5 hours a week.  Over the course of 34 weeks, that is 58-85 hours, and I just don't think that is enough time spent for a full history credit.

That makes me feel better though, as this means that I can add some additional reading to his life and I don't have to feel like a demanding mom.  So we can add a biography every couple of weeks, or a documentary, or additional research.

We are enjoying this study, and finding the questions in the assignments are leading to a lot of interesting discussions.  Like any history program, I question why an event or person wasn't included quite frequently, however we are free to add a little something here or there.  And given that this is covering a few thousand years in 34 weeks, clearly many topics simply cannot be covered.  There seems to be a "slant" towards including events/concepts that still impact us today.

Some other points I feel I need to bring up:
  • Like most first printings of texts, this definitely has a few errors.  Hopefully we have done a decent job of catching them as we go.
  • All black & white, which does keep the cost down.  We'd rather look up artwork or whatever online than pay more for the book.
  • The size of the book makes it really easy to take along and continue to just get it done.  It isn't a huge, intimidating textbook.
  • Sometimes dates given are pretty exact, even when I know from other reading that there is a fair amount of debate for an event.  Sometimes, there is discussion about some of the various dates/date ranges. 
  • Heavier emphasis on ancient history, with modern history being a bit more rushed.  Lesson 20 is on the Middle Ages, so well over half the book (19 of 34 lessons) takes place before the Middle Ages.  Given that the other two books in this series are British History and American History, and those two volume focus on more recent history, I can understand the choices. 
My overall opinion?  We are using this as a spine for high school history for Connor anyway.  I require him to log more time before I will give a full credit.

Disclaimer:   I received this book for free from New Leaf Publishing Group.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review.   

Friday, August 10, 2012

Review: Vocab Videos

One thing I hated when it came time to try to prepare for the ACT and then the SAT was vocabulary.  I would get lists of huge words I couldn't pronounce and I was supposed to learn what they meant.  B-O-R-I-N-G.

Learning vocabulary has come a long way in the past few thirty years. 

Vocab Videos features 500 SAT vocabulary words put into outrageous parodies of current television shows.  Outrageous is a word their website uses, and it is a perfect choice.

The basic format is that there are 25 different ten-minute "programs" available.  Each of these is split up into twenty roughly 30-second sections.  A typical section would go something like this:

Each episode starts with a screen that looks like this.  The vocabulary word and the definition are displayed, and a narrator pronounces the word and gives the definition.  Not so big of a deal with a pronounceable word like "urbane" but quite handy with words like "surreptitious."

Then comes the video segment.  In this one, Hank is trying to impress Nina by chatting about Mozart and the Museum of Modern Art.  The video is about 20 seconds.

After the video, you see a screen like this and you see the word and definition again, and the narrator says something close to, "While Nina is truly urbane and knows a lot about classical music, Hank is merely pretending to be sophisticated."

Then it goes on to the next segment and repeats the process.  After watching all 20 vocabulary words, there is a quiz available with SAT-style questions.

After taking the quiz, you can go back and just watch the section for the specific words you missed, if you missed any.  So far, Connor has only missed one.

His statement to me is that these videos are so over-the-top that he'd have a hard time forgetting the words, but even if he does, it is easy to go back.  He commented that some of these words he vaguely knew (and some he definitely knew) but the insane videos make sure he really sees the word in action.

I really appreciate that he is both hearing and seeing the word in the opening and closing of the segment.  He tends to be a lot like me -- he knows what the word means when he sees it, but not when he hears it, as he isn't pronouncing it in his head while he reads.

In addition to the videos and quizzes, there are some worksheets available.  One allows the student to fill in the definitions for the words and print them out.  Connor is going back and doing that.  There are also crossword puzzles for each video.

There are so many other resources available, but these are the ones we've used.  I mean to investigate the flashcard maker portion as well, but we haven't done that yet.

Overall, we do really like this and Connor wants to continue to use it.  However, I do need to throw out a couple of cautions.  One is that I only allow Connor to do this when his younger siblings are elsewhere.  Well, William (13) will be watching the videos here too.  But I don't need my elementary-aged students seeing these.

Why?  Well... the language used is sometimes inappropriate.  The situations are more "mature" than what I tend to expose my kids to.  But honestly, they hear the Lord's name used in vain more in a 20 minute conversation with their grandmother than they do in watching one of these videos.

Also, since this is parodying current television shows, we are quite sure we are missing some of the humor.  Connor has seen quite a bit of Lost, and an episode or two of 24.  Otherwise, none of us have seen any of the other shows being spoofed (The Office, Gossip Girl... I've never even heard of them).

As part of the Crew, I received a one-year subscription as a small educator.  That means I can have up to 20 students, which is plenty for my family!  That subscription costs $74.99.  A single student subscription is available for $39.99 a year.

To see what my fellow crewmates had to say about Vocab Videos, click the banner here:


Disclaimer:  As part of the TOS Schoolhouse Review Crew, I did receive products as mentioned above for the purposes of a review.  All opinions are my own.  For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.

If you are interested, here are more of my Schoolhouse Crew Reviews.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Book Review: The Stars Shine Bright

Today I get to write a review of yet another fantastic book in the Raleigh Harmon series by Sibella Giorello.  This one is book five... The Stars Shine Bright, and just like I said in my review of The Mountains Bow Down, this is the best one yet. 

I was introduced to Raleigh Harmon, a forensic geologist, in The Clouds Roll Away which is the third book in this series.  I reviewed that here, and went in search of books one and two as soon as I realized they existed.

While I think this series is absolutely fabulous, I would not recommend starting with this book.  I do think this would be a good book on its own, but there is so much in the back story and I just think it a new reader would miss too much.

Here's the publisher's blurb:
After the FBI suspends her for bending its rules, Special Agent Raleigh Harmon is looking for a chance to redeem her career and re-start her life.

Sent undercover to a thoroughbred horse track, Raleigh takes on a double life to find out who’s fixing the races. But when horses start dying and then her own life is threatened, Raleigh realizes something bigger—and more sinister—is ruining Emerald Meadows.

She’s never felt more alone.

Her one contact with the FBI is Special Agent Jack Stephanson, a guy who seems to jump from antagonistic to genuine friend depending on the time of day. And she can’t turn to her family for support. They’re off-limits while she’s undercover, and her mother isn’t speaking to her anyway, having been confined to a mental hospital following a psychotic breakdown. Adding insult to her isolation, Raleigh’s fiancé wants them to begin their life together—now—precisely when she’s been ordered not to be herself.

With just days left before the season ends, Raleigh races to stop the killing and find out who’s behind the track’s trouble, all the while trying to determine if Jack is friend or foe, and whether marrying her fiancé will make things better—or worse.

Raleigh is walking through the darkest night she’s faced, searching for a place where the stars shine bright.
I don't even know where to begin in talking about this book.  The writing is so descriptive and the characters are well-rounded and just feel so real.  I love their complexity -- everyone is flawed, most have redeeming qualities, and many can be quite humorous as well.  Giorello writes so well... I felt anxious as Raleigh was facing some decisions or traumatic situations, and the next moment I'd be laughing out loud.  The tension and action-packed nature of the plot kept me turning pages until my Kindle died, and then had me up and reading again first thing in the morning. 

This is Christian fiction, but it isn't preachy Christian fiction.  That's really important to me.  It also has some romance aspects, but it is far from the focus of the story.  That's also important to me.

I've talked in the last two reviews about how realistic this all feels.  It is clear that Giorello knows her geology and she clearly isn't afraid to talk to experts in order to bring authentic-feeling detail to the plot and characters.

The greatest part, I think, is that while there is a nice, satisfying ending, it isn't an 'all wrapped up with a pretty ribbon' type of unrealistic happily-ever-after.  It is clear that life continues to go on, that issues are still out there, and I can't wait for book six...

Novelist Sibella Giorello is celebrating the release of the latest book in her praiseworthy Raleigh Harmon series by giving away a Kindle Fire! 

Find out what the reviewers are saying here!

One grand prize winner will receive:

  • A brand new Kindle Fire
  • The entire 5-book Raleigh Harmon series.
Hurry, the giveaway ends on 8/25/12. The winner will be announced on 8/27/12 on Sibella's blog!

Just click one of the icons below to enter. Tell your friends about Sibella's giveaway on FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning.

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

Disclaimer:  I received this ebook through LitFuse Blog Tour.  No other compensation was received.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own. 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Book Review: Your Guide to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Quite some time ago, I had the opportunity to check out a True North book.  That one was a Grand Canyon guide, and I found it fascinating.  When I was asked about reviewing Your Guide to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, I didn't have to think about it at all.  I've visited both parks numerous times, and I simply love them both. A young earth guide to these two parks, oh yeah, now that is something I want.

We were hoping to make a trip that direction this summer, and to be able to talk about the guide in terms of how we used it on an actual trip.  That won't be happening, but maybe next summer.

However, I still have a review to write now, not next summer. And what I can tell you is that with this guide in my hands, I feel completely capable of fully planning a trip to these two magnificent parks, even though it has been a lot of years since I've been there.

The guide is well-organized, starting off with some introductory information before moving into the bulk of the book.  Roughly a hundred pages are devoted to information that is fabulous for trip-planning.  Most of these pages fold out, and they include gorgeous photos and tons of information.

I took a trip, alone, to Grand Teton and Yellowstone after I graduated from college.  It was a great trip.  But this guide would have made it better.  Flipping through the pages would have helped me to choose how to spend my time.  There are suggested itineraries for each park, with recommended options for a half day visit up to one of four days or more.  And those recommendations are solid.  Personally, I wouldn't make Old Faithful a must visit for a half day in Yellowstone if it was just me, but if we were whipping through the park with my family that is the one place they'd probably want to see.

Not only is there the "what to do" aspect, but this book also contains so much well put together historical and geological information.  And it is bound in a hardcover/spiral format, which means it has the durability of a hardcover, yet it lays nice and flat.  Love that feature!

If I ever have the chance to visit Zion and Bryce Canyon, I will be looking for the True North guide for them.  And I hope there are more coming. 

Disclaimer:   I received this book for free from New Leaf Publishing Group.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review.   

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Bountiful Baskets: August 4

Thomas & I headed off to volunteer at Bountiful Baskets this morning.  Oh, what fun!  And some great stuff.

Here is one of our two baskets:

This one had an extra cabbage and an extra mango.  The other basket had three extra potatoes and an extra tomato.

So, including what we got for volunteering, we came home with --
  • Two Galia melons
  • Two bags of cherries
  • Three 6 oz packages of blueberries
  • Ten peaches
  • 18 bananas
  • Nine mangoes
  • Three heads of cabbage
  • Two heads of lettuce
  • 11 tomatoes
  • 29 potatoes
So, what to do with all of this?
  • The melons will be breakfast twice later this week
  • We'll simply eat the cherries
  • Dale requested something like blueberry muffins or blueberry pancakes.  Or both.
  • The peaches will be eaten early this week.
  • The bananas are quite green still, so they will probably be eaten next week
  • The mangoes?  Not sure.  We usually end up turning mangoes into smoothies. I might try to figure out something else to do.
  • Cabbage, yikes.  We've had an awful lot of cabbage lately.  I'll make up some cole slaw with one of the heads.   I'm thinking maybe some soup, and maybe a stirfry.  I don't think people here can handle my usual unstuffed cabbage casserole again.  I think we've had that four times in the last six weeks.  I'll have a revolt if I try that again.
  • The lettuce will be salads a couple days this week.  We still have some of the living lettuce from two weeks ago, and some spinach.  So we probably can do three salad meals.
  • The tomatoes just get used.  I don't have to plan for that.
  • Potatoes -- we actually were nearly out of potatoes this morning (about 9 pounds, I think), so this was great.  We'll use them throughout the next few weeks.
I also bought some lentils as extras.  We're going to be doing a lentil-based meal on a weekly basis.  Lentil chili, sausage-lentil soup, 

Book Review: Through Rushing Water

When I read the description of Through Rushing Water by Catherine Richmond, I knew I had to read it.  The end of the first sentence nearly had me -- Dakota Territory, it said.  The next sentence sealed it, as it placed this story in 1876.

Without going and looking this stuff up to get exact dates, what I do know is that my dad's family came to Dakota Territory -- the north-eastern South Dakota part -- in the late 1870s, or maybe the early 1880s. I always forget.  Regardless, I tend to be interested in historical fiction set in the area in roughly that time period. This story is set south of where my family settled, occurring fairly close to the Nebraska border.

From the publisher:
Sophia has her life all planned out—but her plan didn’t include being jilted or ending up in Dakota Territory.
Sophia Makinoff is certain that 1876 is the year that she’ll become the wife of a certain US Congressman, and happily plans her debut into the Capitol city. But when he proposes to her roommate instead, Sophia is stunned. Hoping to flee her heartache and humiliation, she signs up with the Board of Foreign Missions on a whim.
With dreams of a romantic posting to the Far East, Sophia is dismayed to find she’s being sent to the Ponca Indian Agency in the bleak Dakota Territory. She can’t even run away effectively and begins to wonder how on earth she’ll be able to guide others as a missionary. But teaching the Ponca children provides her with a joy she has never known—and never expected—and ignites in her a passion for the people she’s sent to serve.
It’s a passion shared by the Agency carpenter, Willoughby Dunn, a man whose integrity and selflessness are unmatched. The Poncas are barely surviving. When U.S. policy decrees that they be uprooted from their land and marched hundreds of miles away in the middle of winter, Sophia and Will wade into rushing waters to fight for their friends, their love, and their destiny.
What did I think?

This was a pretty light and easy read.  I don't think the above description really does that great of a job of describing the actual plot though.  The basics are there.  Sophia is jilted and she signs up with the Board of Foreign Missions believing she'll be posted to China, which puts her closer to Russia, her home.  Instead she ends up in the Dakota Territory, where she falls in love with the Ponca people. 

At the end of the book, there is information given about the historical basis for this story.  Obviously, much of it is fiction, but it was nice to know which portions were based in reality.

The title comes from something Will says to Sophia in the middle of the book, "Ignore the rushing water.....Ignore everything that tries to pull you under or knock your feet out, or obscures your view. Plant your feet on the solid rock."  Sophia clings to that thought at a few points from there on out, focusing on the goal and not the distractions.

I appreciated that the plot was more about the events occurring on the reservation, and not just centered on the romantic aspects of Will and Sophia's relationship.

Disclaimer: As a Booksneeze Blogger, I did receive this ebook for free from Thomas Nelson. All opinions are my own.  No other compensation was received. For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.