Friday, September 23, 2016 Annual Subscription (Review)

My Youngest was very pleased to receive his own email when we were given an Annual Subscription from  as part of the Homeschool Review Crew. He delights in the ability to send emails to family, and I appreciate the ability to monitor his use. has a number of settings that can be customized as each family desires. Here is a look at the basic control panel home for the parent. This control panel allows the parent to customize the amount of oversight for each email address separately.

The greatest advantage to this program for my family are the Safety settings:

  • Receive mail from contact list only (yes or no) *other messages sent to queue to be reviewed by parent
  • Send mail to contact list only (yes or no)
  • Allow child to edit contact list (yes or no)
  • Send parent copy of incoming mail (yes or no)
  • Send parent copy of outgoing mail (yes or no)
  • Allow images from incoming mail (yes or no)
  • Allow links in received emails (yes or no)
  • Allow attachments in received emails (yes or no) (can be further customized to attachment type)
  • Allow bad words in received emails (yes or no) *most common bad words filtered out
  • Add tagline to sent messages (yes or no) *makes sure recipient knows they are communicating with a minor (Older teens will appreciate having this turned OFF ;)) 
  • Send email sender a notification when email goes to queue (yes or no) * This setting lets an unapproved sender know that their email will be delayed until a parent approves it (or refused if not accepted)

Some of these settings are no brainers for any age (Filter bad words... umm.. who wouldn't?) and others depend upon the maturity level of each child, and the amount of trust placed in each child.

The one setting that the children have total control over is the appearance setting~ there are a number of backgrounds that can be chosen, with a number of options to satisfy the tastes of many ages.

Tested it with my older teens (because there is that option...) and my daughter, who uses her iPod almost exclusively was having problems with the site~ The emails window is so small that she had to zoom in to write anything. You can see how tiny it is in the screenshot to the right. Then, if she wanted to add an one of the smiley faces, she would have to zoom in even further to be able to click that button. After clicking, rather than returning her to that location in the email, the program would zoom her in to random parts of the screen, and she'd have to click around to find the text again ~ rather frustrating. Thinking that this may not be optimized for tiny mobile devices.

My Youngest didn't seem to have any problem using it on the iPad as far a reading and writing emails.

However, he did run into another problem when he tried to send a drawing to his Dad from the iPad. The drawing tool wouldn't allow him to make multiple strokes, so he wasn't able to actually DRAW much (ie... a smiley face or written words unless in cursive). He did figure out a little go-around, as you can see at the bottom of the screenshot to the right...  but it took three different attachments. We checked it out on the computer, and drawing on the trackpad worked fine, but I'd like to see this feature optimized for mobile devices, as that is what is used most often in our home, whether a tablet or an iPod, and I suspect in many other homes as well.

While I have never had any reason to distrust my older kids' communications, my youngest has very little discernment at this point, so the ability to give him the freedom to communicate (like his older siblings) and yet monitor what goes in and out is a really nice option. The world is rapidly changing around us as technology grows and becomes more commonplace, with access being granted/expected at younger and younger ages (particularly as families travel or live long distance from grandparents, etc), so I appreciate when companies step up to help make it safer for our youngesters to be able to communicate with friends and family.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
  • Company: 
  • Product: Annual Subscription
  • Ages: Literate through teen
  • Price: 
    • Free 30 day trial
    • $38.95 Annually for up to 6 accounts ($2.99/month)
    • $4.95 Monthly for up to 4 accounts
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Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Pray-ers / Book 1 Troubles (Review)

My daughter and I have been reading a new Christian Historical Ficton novel, The Pray-ers / Book 1 Troubles by Mark Mizra, published by CTM Publishing Atlanta. I would suggest that this is not a typical novel, or a quick read. In trying to describe what it is about, I came up with a 1, 2, 3 description, although not listed in order of importance.

  • One central theme ~ Prayer (with examples of both effectual and non-effectual).
  • Two spiritual beings ~ an angel named Hael and a demon named katepa (note that the author chose not to capitalize the demonic names in this book as a personal choice) who are influences in each of the:
  • Three time periods and three main human characters
    • First Century ~ Epaphras, a contemporary of Paul
    • 19th Century ~ Alexander Rich, a contemporary of D. L. Moody
    • Current Era ~ Dale Riley, a university athletic coach
One of the reasons that this is not a "quick read" is because the story skips around between time periods and viewpoints. There are also a number of footnotes throughout, mostly including Scripture to back up a particular phrase or sentence as they come up in the story. I find these to be something I will spend more time on with a slower, second read of the book. 

The story emphasizes and models effective prayer in daily situations, and shows how that impacts our wrestling not "against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places." (Ephesians 6:12)

Mark Mizra, author
Founder of
Common Thread Ministries
I greatly appreciate the fact that Mark Mizra worked hard to not "glorify" angelic/demonic beings in his attempt to give us a picture of what warfare might look like on the spiritual realm. It reminds me a little of Frank Peretti's books, but with perhaps a little less "intenseness" (which could be a good thing ;)). 

I found the sections that dealt with prayer specifically to be at times enlightening, and others were good reminders. While this story is NOT Scripture or entirely devotional in nature, it could be a good springboard for personal contemplation, a discussion on prayer, or an addition to devotions, reading a section at time, taking the time to look up the specific Scriptures in the footnotes.  

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
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Friday, September 16, 2016

Can you guess it?.\

Clues to our first week of school....

Any guesses? 😉

Friday, September 9, 2016 (Christian HomeSchool Hub) CHSH Download Club Annual Subscription (Review)

As a homeschool parent, Support Group Leader, Awana Leader, Church Musician, and general chauffeur to dance, baseball, youth-group, and any other activity, I don't have the time OR the energy to reinvent the wheel. I'm sure that many of you feel the same, and that's why sites like are such a boon to the busy homeschooling family. With over 50,000 pages of educational material, many homeschoolers are sure to find useful a number of ready-made worksheets, as well as forms and other pages to use for notebooking, lapbooks, journaling, and general portfolio-building.

While there are quite a few free resources available, in order to access the entire site, members of the TOS Review Crew were given an annual subscription the CHSH Download Club. In order to get a feel for the quantity of downloads available you may wish to peruse their catalog. You'll find the downloads organized in a few different ways:

By Subject:

  • Arts, Music and Crafts
  • Bible Related Resources
  • Electives
  • Health
  • Language Arts
  • Languages
  • Math
  • Science
  • Social Studies

By Grade Level
1st-3rd Grade
4th-8th Grade
9th-12th Grade (High School)

By Month (2 months at a time, with seasonal highlights)
General Organization and Classroom Helps
Miscellaneous including Curriculum Treasures from the Past, Fun Pages, and Lapbooking and Notebooking Units.

Sampling of some of the variety of pages/units available to download.
Because it was summertime during our review period, we weren't doing a lot of work that was required "extras," plus we spent two weeks on a cross-country road trip, so I actually mostly checked out some of the e-books available, rather than using worksheets.

I was intrigued by the "HomeEc" section of of the "Curriculum Treasures From the Past" and downloaded A Little Cookbook for a Little Girl. As many books printed around that time, the instruction comes in the form of a story about a young girl who wanted to learn to cook *now* not when she was older. Her mother, grandmother and aunts all work together to create a cookbook for her birthday with some of the "simple" recipes from their cookbooks.

How interesting (And what a history lesson) to read through this cookbook! While some recipes could be attempted today, some of them might be harder to alter, as the instructions are based on cooking over a fire, or possibly on a wood stove. I was also amazed at the recipes that were considered "simple" as some of them are nothing my graduate would like to attempt.

At any rate, it was a learning experience that gave a little glimpse into the practicalities of one of the basics of life (cooking) a little over a hundred years ago.
An excerpt discussing how to cook bacon. I especially love the way it ends... ;)
This is much nicer than bacon cooked in the fryingpan or over coals, for it is neither greasy nor smoky, but pink and light brown, and crisp and delicious, and good for sick people and little children and everybody.

I did take a peek at some of the other areas, and am sure that as we get our fall school schedule up and running there will be a number of useful items. These really only touch the very tiny tip of the iceberg as far as the pages available...

The Graphic Organizers file includes 80 different organizers as well as a number of examples, which is very helpful. There are generic organizers as well as author study sheets, graph paper, storyboards, language/grammar/writing organizers, science, reporting, and more. Pretty useful bunch of printables!

I was pleased to find a unit on Johnny Appleseed geared for upper elementary ages rather
than the usual first and second grade offerings. Johnny is a favorite of ours, as he shares a birthday with one of my sons, and got his start in Massachusetts. The unit found at has some information included that I had never read before, so will be new and interesting to my Youngest.

I am also looking over the High School World History course (Student textbook and Teacher manuals all available for download). School starts for us on Monday coming, so I haven't gotten that far with him just yet, but it looks very thorough. Part 1 covers 3100BC-1800's with 21 units and over 600 pages in the student text. The 242 page teacher manual includes Unit Focus, Suggestions for Enrichment, Unit Assessment, and Answer Keys for each unit.

I am very impressed with the quantity of resources presented on, and expect that I may find myself checking here first if looking for a resource for a specific topic.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
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Thursday, August 25, 2016

National Parks Centennial (HAPPY 100th Birthday, NPS!!) (NuggetsofGold!)

Nothing like a major celebration to give me an incentive to post some photos from our road trip this summer. Be sure to check out the parks near you this weekend~

(Golden Nugget alert) From their website:

 The National Park Service turns 100 on August 25, 2016, and we're inviting visitors of all ages to join in the celebration throughout the month! With special events across the country, and free admission to all 412 national parks from August 25 through August 28, the National Park Service is encouraging everyone to #FindYourPark for the centennial!

Beyond that, if you have a 4th grader, be sure to check out the "Every Kid In A Park Pass" that will give you and your family free admission to the National Parks for one year.
Youngest getting his first badge (and patch!)
At the FIRST National Park, Yellowstone
Happy Birthday, NPS! 

One of my favorite features of the National  Parks is the Junior Ranger Program. The majority of them are offered for free (with a few exceptions, but the fee is nominal), your kids get a booklet, learn about the park, and receive a badge (usually) or sometimes a patch! Pretty cool! 

Because of the 100th birthday, some of this year's badges were special editions
Note the two wooden badges in the middle photo and the metal badge between. 
We were pleased to have the opportunity to visit some old favorites (from 2006), as well as some "new-to-us" visits!

In the style of Ansel Adams

Yellowstone (left top 3), *Devils Tower, *Mount Rushmore, *The Badlands, *Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, *Lincoln's Boyhood Home Memorial, *Mammoth Caves, *Lincoln's Birthplace, and *Independence Hall (*photo credits to Eldest)

We stopped by or "overlooked" a few more parks but didn't do any programs, sometimes because of the time of day (or night) we were visiting...

Niagara Falls National Historic area at 3:30am

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore
Theodore Roosevelt National Park overlook
Badlands of North Dakota
And some of the photos from the black and white montage up close and in color

Yellowstone National Park, Biscuit Basin

Yellowstone National Park, Old Faithful site before eruption

Yellowstone National Park, Old Faithful

Yellowstone National Park, Yellowstone Lake

Yellowstone National Park, Artist's Point, Falls and "Grand Canyon"

Yellowstone National Park, Washburn Hot Springs Overlook

Yellowstone National Park, Barronette Peak Turnoff

Devil's Tower National Monument
photo credit to Eldest

Mount Rushmore National Monument
photo credit to Eldest
Badlands National Park
Jefferson Expansion National Memorial
photo credit to Eldest
Lincoln's Boyhood National Park, Indiana
photo credit to Eldest
Mammoth Cave National Park Entrance
photo credit to Eldest
Lincoln's Birthplace National Park, Kentucky
Independence Hall National Park, Philadelphia
photo credit to Eldest
Alright, I made some space, and photos are uploaded! 
If you enjoy this post, or have any questions about our trip, I do appreciate comments here on the blog! :D

I will be posting more about our trip in upcoming weeks, so stay tuned! 


Throwback Thursday: Road Trip 2006/2016

Just the start (I hope) of some posts about our 2016 Road trip.
We tried to take similar photos in some of the same locales we visited in 2006.

Because the Arch is undergoing construction we couldn't do exact replicas, but we tried. Top right photo Eldest and Middlest are the tiny specks in front of the leg of the arch. ;) 


Friday, August 19, 2016

I am anti-condensation! MAXAM 13 oz Stainless Steel Double Wall Tumblers(Review)

I like ice in my beverages~ I like a lot of ice in my beverages! Ice cold water is so good~ and iced coffee, ice tea, you name it (Except milk... can't stand ice in my milk... ugh!)! 

This isn't always a problem, but in the summer, when the temperature in the house (or outside) is so much warmer than what is in my *very* cold cup, I regularly end up dealing with dripping wet glasses (The ones holding the water, not the ones on my nose), which isn't the most pleasant thing in the world in general, worse when it is by your bedside, and don't even talk to me about water rings (sometimes the condensation drips over the edge of my coasters... grrr). 

Because of all of the above, as well as a desire to move away from plastics, I was very pleased to be sent a set of 4 Maxam 13oz stainless steel double wall tumblers. They aren't huge (Notice the 13 oz) to keep a beverage in all day (it doesn't take me that long to down 13 oz of water or tea), but they are a great size for nightstand waters, kids needing a cup to take outside when parched from playing, or for just a regular thirst-quenching glass of water. 

These #MAXAM double wall tumblers should help keep your drink ice cold and your table free of water rings. So far we are very happy with the job they are doing, and we don't need to worry about breaking glass or ingesting microscopic plastic particles! #stainlesssteel for the win! We have been using these for "night-time" water, and I appreciate having water that is still cold a couple of hours later, without sloppy condensation dripping on me. :) 

I did receive these for free in exchange for my honest review. You can tell by my video that these are the real deal (I understand there have been some questions about whether they are all metal or not... I believe they are), and I only give my personal opinion.

Other than the slightly sharp lip, we haven't found anything negative, and are enjoying a respite from plastics with condensation. OH, one more thing... the box does come with a warning label~ about cancer causing materials according to the state of CA... ???
Not sure exactly what that is referring to?

As far as I can tell they are 100% stainless steel! Sorry, but CA labeling laws often seem weird to me!   Do follow the directions to wash them well before using to remove any oils picked up during manufacturing.

I hope this review is helpful, as I do try to review products that I personally find interesting and hopefully helpful for every day life circumstances. 



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