Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Nativity Story - Popup DELUXE Edition (App Review)

Every now and again I am offered an app for review. I have really enjoyed those apps that recreate the feel of vintage story books, with "pop-up" features and push/pull figures, especially as they are much sturdier than when little fingers are exploring them in real paper books. has produced a Nativity Story App that includes pop-up style woodcut illustrations, with tap and swipe features on virtually every page. You can get a glimpse by watching the trailer below.

The Nativity Story app allows you to read the story yourself, or have it "read to me." Please note that the story is available in English, French and Spanish. The style of the English narrator reminds me a bit of the narrator for "How the Grinch Stole Christmas..." a classic storytelling voice. Mary and Joseph and the other characters all have their own regular voices. The French and Spanish voices are all different, and I am guessing native speakers, based on my untrained ear. ;)

The story is told with poetic rhyme, which sometimes creates a bit of a "reach" from a story-telling perspective, if one is looking for a telling that follows the original text, however, the basic narrative is unchanged. Some traditional aspects that are changed a little include looking for place to stay at a "tavern," a "Theater," and the inclusion of a female innkeeper (which, while not impossible, was less likely). However, to balance that out, after going through the story book, there is an option to read the scripture from Luke. When using the iPod app, the text is rather small for reading, but on the iPad it is perfectly fine.

Some animals and an angel band add interest, with their noises and the musical instruments, and once again, the artwork is beautiful.

"Buttons" that activate the voices of the different characters make the most sense when pressed in left to right order (Good for helping to reinforce that left ---> right tracking required for reading).

My six year old enjoyed figuring out what each "button" would bring, and I enjoyed the beautiful woodcut artwork.

The retail price for the app is $3.99 for iPad and $1.99 for iPhone


Disclosure~ I received a free download of this app in order to leave a review. A positive review was not required, and the opinions are those of my children and my own. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Black Friday Specials (Some ongoing at the moment...) and a Homeschool gift list... :)

Hello friends,

Just thought I would share a few specials that are going on now, or will be up for Black Friday sales.

Compass Classroom (offering the most excellent "Visual Latin" curriculum, as well as history, economics, film making and more...) has a sale~ 30% off storewide! 
Disclaimer: clicking the banner brings you through my affiliate link~ 
My family appreciates the small change some of my blogging brings in...Thank you for using it! 
Compass Classroom Black Friday Sale

Shop Great Products is having a 24 hour Black Friday sale Friday, Nov 29th 12am-11:59pm  (30% off everything but laptops and finger missiles), and a Christmas sale from Nov 30-Dec 15 (with savings from 10-25%), so I thought I'd provide a quick review of a new shirt option~

As I've mentioned before, I have been purchasing shirts and bags from Shop Great Products for YEARS (See my post on our1st day of school pics and SGP's annual Aug/Sept sale).

My daughter and I have decided that we really prefer a v-neck to a crew neck, so we were excited to see the new ladies fitted shirt option. My daughter scored a 2nd Homeschooler by Day, Ninja by Night shirt, this time in black and with a v-neck. :)

They are a little more money, but well worth it for the comfort of 100% cotton and a v-neck.

Here you see my Eldest in her v-neck and me in my crew neck~ Like them both, but really love the slimmer cut and "breathability" of the v-neck. :)

Disclaimer~ no affiliate link here. I received ONE v-neck t-shirt for the purposes of review. All other Great Products items referred to in my blog posts have been purchased by myself, because we think they are .... Great! :) 

DAYSPRING Super Savings 30% off sale 
(Disclaimer: I am now an affiliate with Dayspring. 
Your purchase through my links is, again, greatly appreciated by my family. :) 

and Super Deals Sale 
(cannot be combined with the 30% off) 
Here are few of the items you'll find... 
Jesus Loves Me - Musical Bunny Plush
Reg $23.00
Inspirational Message Blocks - Set of 9 Blocks
$14.99 (Reg. $49.99)
Life Collection - 16
$7.99 (Reg $26.99) 
There is also a
special going on right now... 
Many options for Christmas shopping. :) 

I'll be back later, with a few more ideas for gift-giving inspiration! 


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Blend With Mad NINJA Skills!

This past Saturday I had the fun of hosting (with my friend MG, at her home), a Ninja Ultima Blender House Party. Since it is the first time I've done something like this, and since I was so delighted, I thought that I would share my impressions with you.
(BTW, a blog post was not required~ I'm sharing because I want to :))

House Party sent me a party pack that included one Ninja Ultima Blender for me, and one to give away at the party, as well as a couple of Ninja aprons. Very fun, and incredibly generous!

I have to say that I jumped on the House Party application when I saw it simply because our 20+ year old blender has not been operating at maximum efficiency for awhile (It is still kicking, but now will be relegated to "Crafting" purposes....). I really had no idea what I was getting into, and I wasn't aware that the Ninja Ultima is considered a competitor to some of the top dollar blenders out there until AFTER I was accepted as a host!
This is what met our guests at the door~ so they knew they were in the right place!

And this is what the counter set-up looked like:

I used some of the graphics to make a banner to decorate as well... fun, fun, fun! :)
The guests, with my friend MG wearing one of the nifty Ninja aprons. The photo is missing my daughter, who had to take the picture~ she had a fun Ninja shirt on as well~ homeschool style (hers is black, while mine is purple~ they say "homeschool(er/mom) by day, Ninja by Night." We thought they were appropriate wear! :D).
We first whipped up a bowl of Red Pepper spread/AKA Hummus
(Sorry that I don't have any photos for that, but it was delish!) 

Next we made a variation on the Sweet Spinach Detox 
(but we added a cucumber and used a little Kale in place of the spinach)
And During... the actual blending...


Next we made some strawberry peach ice cream

It tasted quite good, and it was a strawberry ice cream that I could actually eat. Most of the mass produced strawberry ice creams (Even from our local dairy) use ethyl alcohol to "flavor" them, and I seem to have an allergic/asthmatic reaction to them. Hurrah for quick and easy soft serve! :)

Next we made a  quick apple/ginger/honey/ice slushie in one of the individual cups. 
Everyone thought it was very tasty and refreshing. 

Our final juice wasn't made at the party, but the next day we tried out a variation on 
The Super Ninja Nine (minus jalepeno and red cabbage)
It was delicious, and the "aftertaste" was even better~ definitely a winner!

Back to the party.... My favorite part was unfortunately picture-less (But many thanks to my Eldest for the photos she took during the party! Couldn't have managed a blog post without her help!) 

We had a drawing for the 2 Ninja Aprons, 
AND the brand new Ninja Ultima Blender.
My friend who took the Ninja Ultima Blender home has been enjoying smoothies every day since! :) 

Thank you to House Party for the opportunity to host, 
Thank you for MY new blender, AND 
Thank you for the joy of blessing some of my friends with an afternoon out, yummy food/drinks, and some goodies, including a brand new Ninja Ultima Blender. The guests who didn't go home with the blender also received 10% off coupons, so everyone got something! :) 

If you have a Ninja Ultima Blender, what is your favorite thing to make with it? If you don't have a Ninja Ultima Blender, what recipe would YOU try first??? 


Disclaimer~ I received a new Ninja Ultima Blender for myself, one to give away, and two aprons in my party pack. I was not required to write a review, and all opinions are my own. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

"Coming Home For Christmas" Movie review and giveaway

Our family just watched a new Family Christmas Movie last night:

"Coming Home For Christmas"
While not an "Inspirational" or "Christian-themed" movie, it was a pleasant watch, with nothing objectionable for our 6 year old (Although there were some tensions that mostly flew over his head), requiring us fast forward or tell him not to watch. Always a point in any movie's favor! :) 

About "Coming Home for Christmas"~ When their parents separate, two sisters who haven't spoken in over 5 years reunite in order to try to bring them back together again. The "Brainstorm" idea is to try to recreate their last Christmas together (The last time they remembered their mother being happy). The only problem is that someone else lives in their old house~ 

When the movie starts out everything is just bad, bad, bad... fights, separation, unhappy family tensions. As my oldest pointed out... "there has to be some conflict to resolve...." It just so happens that it *mostly* all shows up at the beginning of the movie! Thankfully the rest of the movie is engaged in making things right. There are some corny moments, some sweet moments, and a lot of little humorous quips. Many of them are visual, so you can't be texting or on facebook if you want to catch them all. ;)

The main point to the movie is that family is important, friends are important, relationships are important, with a Christmas setting to back it up.
Director: Vanessa Parise
Cast: George Canyon (Christmas Miracle, Dawn Rider, Man of Steel), Aaron Pritchett, Britt McKillip (Dead Like Me), Carly McKillip (Hot Rod)
List Price: $14.99 Available at Walmart 
Soundtrack also available featuring holiday songs performed by George Canyon
If you would like a chance to win your own copy, please make sure that the rafflecopter form below has loaded so you can enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Acorns of Gold (AKA Freebies) for November/Thanksgiving

I, for one, am very thankful when there are freebies and discounts that I can take advantage of, and I am happy to pass them along to you, my readers. 

Great Homeschool conventions is offering a free mp3 download of Michael Medved's "The First Thanksgiving~ Pilgrims, Puritans and the Founding of America" when you subscribe to their thanksgiving history download

Christian Liberty Press's free e-book for November: 

This reader uses a series of stories and poems to teach students about the exploration and settlement of the New World. Students will learn about people and events of colonial America and the struggle for American independence; and will be introduced to such famous people as Christopher Columbus, Jonathan Edwards, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and Betsy Ross. This book is available in PDFEPUB, andprint editions. PDF versions of the answer key and test packet for this reader are also available.

PDF edition priceFree
EPUB edition priceFree

Great Printable and online Resources (Click the graphic)

~Currently Free on Currclick* ~

Another Freebie for Family Fun


Disclosure~ Links with an * by the company name are affiliate links. 
Thank you for clicking through, even on the "Freebie" items. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

French Essentials (Online Multimedia French Lessons)

Finally, after YEARS of mentioning the potential of learning “French” to my eldest, she finally acquiesced when we were given the opportunity to review French Essentials's Full Access Online Program  Middlest came along for the ride, and Littlest sometimes participated.

French Essentials is a unique product, in that it offers something of a classroom experience in the comfort of your own home using a variety of multimedia presentations. 

The "Core" lessons are downloaded pdf files with audio and video enabled. They must be viewed through Adobe Reader and not a generic pdf viewer (like Preview on my MAC) in order for these special features to work. 

We were fairly impressed with these techie pdf files! 

We particularly enjoyed watching M. Legnetil as he spoke the words of each lesson. Very clear and precise! We decided that this was quite helpful, as sometimes the woman in the audio portions of the lesson wasn't quite as clear.

*Funny story that goes with that last comment. Eldest was doing the very first workbook page from Lesson 1, with the following instructions: In this exercise your instructor will spell out an English word (with French letters). Click the box (in the pdf on your computer) to hear the letters. Then, fill in the blanks (on the sheet you printed) with the letters that you hear to complete the word. 
She found the first 6 words to be rather easy, but the 6th word had her stumped... "BEOBNU.... What kind of word is that?" Turns out that she had trouble catching some of the sounds... the word really was PEOPLE. It gave us a laugh, at any rate. 

Back to the beginning:
Once you have logged in, you will see something like this: 
The Download area is where you will download the mulitmedia PDF zip files for each lesson in each module.
In some of the Modules there will be a "parent corner" that is found at the bottom of that modules lesson download page~ this usually includes a "Checklist" as well as the printable exercises and the "key" to those exercises... make sure you scroll all the way down to find them!

Here are a couple of samples of the videos found embedded in the lessons:

and as the lessons and vocabulary grow, so do the videos~ real conversation here!

The online Exercises make use of the website Quizlet for each lesson's exercises and tests. They are reached easily by clicking through to the correct module (As seen below) and then to the correct exercise or test for each lesson.
My kids have enjoyed using Quizlet in the past, so they were pleased to have something familiar to use in this curriculum.

The final area of that can be explored online focuses on the culture of France, with some interesting information found in various pdf files and photos.
There are samples of each Module (Found on this page... scroll down).

Some of the unique hallmarks of this learning experience include:

  • Audio: the ability to hear the words spoken as they are seen on the page
  • Video: which incorporates watching, listening, repeating and speaking
  • Workbooks: printable exercises that reinforce grammar and sentence structure
The authors of the curriculum are a married couple from Quebec who got their start tutoring homeschoolers by request. They clearly have a background in the language, teaching, and they understand the homeschool community.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
We have been very pleased with our first foray into French Language education.
There are a couple of quirks, like sometimes having a hard time hearing/understanding some of the female instructors in the lesson audios. However, that isn't much of an issue, when M. Legnetil speaks so clearly~ and he usually shows up somewhere in the lesson. :)

By and large I think this is a very well laid out program, with many ways to engage your learner, whether their strengths are audio, visual, or kinesthetic.
  • Company: French Essentials 
  • Product: Full Access Online Program
  • Ages: currently 3rd/4th grade - 7th/8th grade 
  • Price: $149.95 for full access to all modules for one year
    (Stress-free download the lessons and workbook exercises)
    $69.95 for access to an individual module for 90 days
    *Note~ once the lessons and workbooks are downloaded, you can access them at any time, including up to and beyond the year or 90 days~ that time frame appears to be strictly for downloading purposes. 
Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Review Crew and see what others had to say. As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where best to spend your homeschool budget.


Monday, November 11, 2013

The Force ~ Review and a Book Lover's Giveaway

I don't know how many of you noticed my posts when the free kindle versions of mother/daughter author writing team Alexandra and Joyce Swann's books "The Fourth Kingdom" and "The Force" were available. I hope you took the opportunity to download them, but if not~ you have an opportunity to win them in this giveaway.

"The Fourth Kingdom" is an exciting read that incorporates sci-fi elements (With a focus on DNA) and some mystery, which while somewhat predictable was still a very good read. There are some curious goings-on at a "Cloning Farm" as well as at a mysterious research site in South America.

"The Force" continues to follow some of the main characters from the 1st book ~ with a much more fleshed out battle between good and evil. The "Thriller/Dystopian" elements take a front seat. Cloning, murder and a deeper evil created a gripping read that I had a hard time putting down. After I finished the book, the intensity of the story stayed with me for a few days~ the horrors that mankind is capable of thinking up juxtaposed with the overwhelming grace and power of God.

Here is the blurb from the publisher, to give you a little more information on the story:
A dark force is rising.... 
   Someone is murdering the world’s most beautiful women—over and over and over. 
   When Jarrod and Joshua Sinclair are called in to consult with the FBI about the Hollywood Starlet murders, they immediately suspect their old nemesis Josef Helmick of creating clones of famous women for a visiting Saudi prince. Wasting no time, they hire retired detective Fred Kowalski and send him to Dubai to uncover Josef’s base of operations and build a case against him for the murders. 
   But Fred soon discovers that Helmick is harboring a secret much darker than human trafficking. Fred must stop Josef before he resurrects an ancient, diabolical Force in order to bring the entire human race under his control.

If you'd like an inside peek at the writing of "The Force" you can visit Following In His Footsteps for her three part "Interview with an Author" series. The first in the series was particularly fascinating to me as the Swanns talk about homeschooling, their influences, and their writing methods.

If these books sound interesting to you, please continue reading to find out how you can enter to win them, as well as some other amazing books! I have either read the books, and/or have had some contact with all of the authors, with the exception of the William Struse books, so have personal experience with most of them.

We are excited to help Frontier 2000 Media celebrate the release of The Force by Alexandra and Joyce Swann with a super cool giveaway for book lovers! Two prizes will be awarded, one containing 11 awesome books and the other with five books. Total value of this giveaway is $185! Woohoo!

We would like to thank the following authors for their generous donations to these giveaways! Be sure to stop by their websites to say thank you!

William Struse
Tricia Goyer
Sarah Sundin 
Eisley Jacobs
Gwen Toliver
Carey Jane Clark

To enter the giveaway, use the Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post. Two winners will be selected and announced by noon ET on November 25, 2013. U.S. residents age 18 and older only please. Other Terms and Conditions can be found in the Rafflecopter.

Book Lover's Giveaway #1 ($120 value)
The Force  by Alexandra and Joyce Swann
The Fourth Kingdom by Alexandra and Joyce Swann
The 13th Enumeration by William Struse
The 13th Prime by William Struse
On Distant Shores by Sarah Sundin
Dragons of the Deep by Eisley Jacobs
Blink of a Dragon by Eisley Jacobs
Born to be a Dragon by Eisley Jacobs
Seed Sowers by Gwen Toliver
After the Snow Falls by Carey Jane Clark 

Book Lover's Giveaway #2 ($65 value)
The Force  by Alexandra and Joyce Swann
The Fourth Kingdom by Alexandra and Joyce Swann
The 13th Enumeration by William Struse
The 13th Prime by William Struse

a Rafflecopter giveaway




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