Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year, New Water Bottle! (Review)

Confession... I am a water drinker~ I don't think I need to worry about dehydrating, as I tend to have water with me most of the time, and my children and I have been water-bottle carrying folks since before it was "a thing."

We've gone through plastic water bottles (insulated and otherwise),  and stainless steel (also insulated and otherwise). They have do their jobs, and serve their purposes (mostly), but I do like some more than others.  I don't know about you, but I really *do* like to drink out of a "glass" glass, and have been intrigued by the glass water bottles I've seen out and about, and used by some of my friends, so I was very interested in this latest item which I received for review at a discounted price:  The 12oz Purifyou Glass Water Bottle

This bottle is a great size for carrying out and about, in and out of stores, or brief jaunts. It slides neatly into a handbag, or your favorite canvas.

Note: the silicone cover of the bottle in the bag is the closest to the actual color of the water bottle, the one to the left is more washed out. The bottle is offered in soft grey, blue, green, and pink, in addition to the soft purple that I have.

There really is something different about drinking from glass, and I really do appreciate it. Many folks these days have automatic ice makers in their refrigerators, so the size of the water bottle neck works well for them. We make our ice, and have larger cubes, so I have to work around that. The bottle can be partially filled with water and placed in the freezer, if you have big cubes.

So far I am quite pleased with this bottle, the refreshing feel of water drunk from glass, and the smooth grip of the silicone cover.
If you're looking at trying out a #glasswaterbottle, this might be a good choice for you. :)

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Everywhere God (Book Review and Fire Tablet Giveaway)

My friend Marcy at Ben and Me  asked me to participate in a review and giveaway for a new children's book, "The Everywhere God." For that purpose, I was sent a physical copy of the book for review purposes,

Written in a poetic format, "The Everywhere God" shares God's love and hope with children of all ages, and reassures them that regardless of what is happening, God is present, and God loves them, no matter the circumstance, no matter the sin~ He's there, and He cares!

Every child faces struggles, fears, and difficulties, some real and some rooted in fertile imaginations, some the result of external conditions, others the consequences of bad choices. This is a sweet little book, written by a grandfather to his granddaughter as she was going through some tough times that she perhaps had a hard time understanding.
Many of us grapple with the question of  "Why me?"  and "What now?" at some point, and for children, the answers can be particularly difficult to understand, as they are often certain that all of their circumstances are a result of their own actions.

If we can raise our children to know and understand that God loves them, no matter what is going on, and that He will be with them through thick and thin, imagine the new, emotionally healthy generation we might see, reaching out to a sick and hurting world.
While I don't think any one book (beyond the Bible) has the total power to change lives and situations, I do believe that many are good tools to expand on the truths we want to teach our children.

Literary comments: A few of the lines in "The Everywhere God" are a little contrived, in order to keep the rhyme, but beyond that, it reminded me of a Dr. Seuss or Margaret Wise Brown sort of rhythm and feel on many pages, which is a good connotation. The illustrations are sweet, colorful, and simple.

Now on with the giveaway...

The Everywhere God Giveaway
 This giveaway will have 4 winners. The grand prize winner will receive a new Fire 7" Tablet loaded with the Kindle edition of The Everywhere God.  The Fire tablet includes: 
  • Beautiful 7" IPS display (171 ppi / 1024 x 600) and fast 1.3 GHz quad-core processor. Rear and front-facing cameras.
  • All-new Amazon Underground, a one-of-a-kind app store experience where over $10,000 in apps, games and even in-app items are actually free - including extra lives, unlocked levels, unlimited add-on packs and more
  • Enjoy more than 38 million movies, TV shows, songs, books, apps and games
  • 8 GB of internal storage. Free unlimited cloud storage for all Amazon content and photos taken with Fire devices. Add a microSD card for up to 128 GB of additional storage.
  • Updated user interface - Fire OS 5 designed for quick access to your apps and content plus personalized recommendations that make it easy to discover new favorites
  • Up to 7 hours of reading, surfing the web, watching videos, and listening to music
  • Stay connected with fast web browsing, email, and calendar support
Three more winners will each win a print copy of The Everywhere God
The Everywhere God is a book about hope for children of all ages. Written for his young granddaughter during a particularly difficult time, the late Pastor Bob Nelson wanted to be sure she knew God was with her no matter what else was happening. Despite people and circumstances, his message is clear, God never leaves or forgets about us and His love never ends. Upon it's completion, he knew it was something special and wanted to make it a children's book. Unfortunately, time passed and things never fell into place for his vision to come to life. He passed away in 2008 before he could see it happen. More than 20 years after it's original writing, Bob Nelson's daughter remembered this treasured poem and like her father, felt it needed to be shared with the world. For many years she kept this special story in the back of her heart and always dreamed of making his vision for a children's book a reality.
To enter the giveaway, please use the Rafflecopter below after reading the terms and conditions. 
Terms and Conditions: This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only.  Void where prohibited by law. Must be at least 18 years of age. This giveaway is in no away associated with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. No purchase necessary for entry. Odds are determined by the number of entries. Selected winners will have 48 hours to respond to email notification to claim their prizes or another winner will be drawn. Entry into this giveaway will subscribe you to The Everywhere God email list.


Saturday, December 26, 2015

Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, 2015

Just a little post sharing some of our Christmas Eve/Christmas Day with you all. 

A couple of photos after the Christmas Eve service at Church: 

Tradition... 24 years(?) of Christmas Eve with our friends that are family...
Their tree is more decorated than ours right now... ;) 

Middlest received the "biggest" present~ wrapped with paper from our friend's neighbor~ specifically to wrap Middlest's presents in... how thoughtful! 

Eldest was feeling under the weather Christmas Eve morning... 
She was mostly upset about not being able to help out with preparations
I found something she could work on in bed... 
decorating these cute little snack jars before I filled them... didn't they turn out nicely? 

Christmas morning: well... full disclosure, actually afternoon~ 
we were home late from our friends, 
after the Christmas Eve service, dinner, and gifting...
Love that my olders don't mind getting stuffed animals~
they are just so cute peeking out of the top

Christmas "Breakfast" sausage and egg croissants, clementines, pomegranate seeds

Unusual New England Christmas Weather equals unusual activities
Our ENO's have grown from one to three! 
Love how easy and quick they are to set up! 
So fun to have strangers stop by and ask about them... ;) 
(I really think ENO should give me a commission... ;)) 

I also love that the double nest is "Communal"... we can fit 3! 

And since only one has a kayak... 
(See those blue paddles? That was what was in the big box!) 
it's a lovely spot to hang out and keep an eye on him. 

For my readers who don't know me well, my family does things a little differently when it comes to Christmas... we celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas + (Christmas Eve to our anniversary on Epiphany)

Our tradition is Stockings, breakfast, and then one gift with a little "wow" factor afterwards. Each day following we do one more gift(ish) per person, ending up on our anniversary on January 6th. 

I have seen posts as early as last night, and throughout the day today~ 
"Christmas is over"
"time to pack everything away now" 
(some people are gleeful, with others you can hear their melancholy spirit)
"Post-Christmas let-down" 

it goes on... 
So... some folks are all done with "Christmas", and we're just getting started! 
Our tree hasn't even been totally decorated yet (I expect sometime in the next day or two... colds and lighting mishaps delayed us numerous times)... and we say 
"Christmas isn't over, it's just getting started..." 
We'll continue to enjoy the lights, the joy, and begin to feel the peace  of God 
as we look towards the New Year with hope. 
(I might recommend to those who experience depression and/or major letdown on December 26, consider celebrating the 12 Days of Christmas... 
it's great for many reasons!) 

I hope you enjoy this peek into our Christmas ~ 

Day 1

Youngest received a Lego City Police Set
Middlest received a certificate for a completely assembled 
fly fishing kit from Bass Pro Shops
Eldest received an ESV Journaling Bible(Something like this one)
and a set of Micron Pens
Amusingly enough, DH and I gave each other fire... 
And we had no idea~ neither of us suspected the other... 
He gave me a little electric fireplace (Sweet!)
and I gave him a Kindle Fire. ;) 

So~ enough for now

Back tomorrow with our gifts today (Boxing Day), 
and the 3rd day of Christmas, if I get my photos taken:) 


Saturday, December 19, 2015

Nuggets of Gold (Music~ Free and Discounted)

Wow, it sure has been busy around here!
Tree Hunting, Crafting, Cooking, Christmas Partying...

Wanted to put out a quick little post with some great free and discounted music for your Christmas enjoyment.

Discounted CD: Toby Mac's album "This Is Not A Test" is currently $5.99 on iTunes. This has been one of our regularly listened to album these days!

Noisetrade Albums~
As always, the songs here can be sampled (in full) before downloading, and there is no set price~ free or give the artist a tip!

This is Christmas: A single by Alex Nicolette  If you like Ellie Holcomb, you'll probably enjoy this song. :) This song is available on Noisetrade through December 30. If you leave a tip, 100% will go to the "This is Christmas Fund" through Redeemer Church in Utica, NY. You can read more at the link.

Christmastime by Hill and Hale and Their Merry Friends~  This was offered last year also. We downloaded it and have enjoyed their cheerful music that has a very nostalgic feel (I think we'll be singing Reindeer, track #4 this year!).

Real Christmas~ Back to You Sampler by Kim Hill. She's one of my favorites, with quite possibly my all-time favorite rendition of God Rest You Merry Gentlemen (A collaboration with Phil Keaggy). This sampler has a few more songs on it, some I'm familiar with, others are new, including a rappish mash-up with her teenage son. Albums 
Click on the heading to access all of the following, that are currently offered for free:

Oh Come All Ye Faithful from Phil Wickham's Songs for Christmas Album

Emmanuel from Laura Story's God With Us Album

The First Noel From Philips, Craig and Dean's new album, Hope For Christmas

I hope you enjoy these lovely musical offerings! Please do let me know in the comments if you enjoy this sort of post!


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Peppermint Essential Oil Review (Simply Earth product)

Hi Friends~

I'm going to be doing a few reviews that aren't my usual books, music, or homeschool-related over the next few weeks. The first one up is a peppermint essential oil by #simplyearth.  I haven't used essential oils for awhile, and my supplies have been rather lacking, so I was very pleased to be sent this oil for free, in exchange for my honest review.

Simply Earth is a new, small, family business run by two brothers. Their intent is to offer a high quality product at reasonable prices, with a percentage given back to organizations that help others. When they started they were giving 7.5% of their sales to charitable organizations. That has changed to 13%, although that is not currently reflected on all website pages just yet. I'm a bit of a sucker for organizations that do good! You can read their blog for more information about their "Cause of the month."

OK, on with the product...

Wintertime, sniffles, raising dust getting ready for the Christmas tree, and general allergies are all common in my family this time of year, and December 2015 is no exception! I have used peppermint oil in the past (Combined with a few others) to make a steam bath for really nasty sinus congestion, but we haven't gotten to that point (yet). However, my Middlest almost always has a stuffy nose/ feels "Allergy-ish"  and winter/hot-air heating doesn't help him out. I decided to try using some #simplyearth peppermint oil on a bit of cotton, which I put in his heating vent.

When I took the lid off of the 15ml bottle, I wondered about the potency of the oil, as it wasn't incredibly strong. Not to worry~ when the heat came on, and flowed over/through the Peppermint infused cotton, his room was filled with a lovely peppermint aroma, that even drifted down the hall. 18 hours later, and the scent was still there, but not as strong. 18 hours later, and the scent was still there, but not as strong.

I asked him if he thought it made a difference, and he felt that it definitely helped his "allergy" feeling/stuffy nose, and he was breathing more clearly (rather nice not to be using the menthol "inhaler tubes" all the time).  I felt that it was helping my lungs breathe a little better as well. I'm now adding peppermint oiled cotton strips to a number of our hot air outlets, which will hopefully continue to help with our respiratory issues, stimulate our brains a bit while doing schoolwork, AND make our house smell delightfully "Christmassy!"

Side note: as I mentioned, I haven't done much with essential oils for awhile, and there are many more options for purchasing than there used to be. It is important to note that Simply Earth's oils are 100% therapeutic grade and third party tested, which makes me fairly confident in their quality, and $6 a bottle for this peppermint essential oil is in line with what I was paying 18 years ago, when I first started to explore EO's.

I'm sure that I will come up many other good uses for this peppermint oil as I reacquaint myself with essential oil uses and safe practices, but this is making me happy for now.


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Wordless Wednesday~ Cookie Swap ~ Sweet Treats!

Post in the comments if you would like recipes for the ginger cookie in the middle, the green grinch heart near the top, or the skinny chocolate swirl cookie on the left, and I will add a less wordless post soon. :)



Saturday, December 5, 2015

Things to be thankful for...

As we celebrate Advent, I'm still in a thankful frame of mind... 

THANKFUL for the kids who have earned respectively a hammock, and a kayak! 
They've been on their "Wishlists", but they have earned them instead. :) 
Also thankful for little cousins who color with  them... 

What are YOU thankful for?


Friday, December 4, 2015

Holiday Gift Round-up #2 (Also Artsy. :) ) and a giveaway

I hope that you are all  enjoying some Peace and Joy during this busy,
colorful season of Advent.

I wanted to put a quick note up about a nifty product for the younger artsy crowd that I received for review purposes from The Pencil Grip, Inc. They sent me a set of their new tempera paint sticks, Kwik Stix. I was quite pleased to be able to check these out, as I have a lad who enjoys painting, but we aren't always up to the "mess" of painting, if you know what I mean.

The Kwik Stix look something like a glue stick, but they are NOT glue, they are paint sticks. They remind me a little bit of oil pastels in the smooth creamy way that they apply to paper, but they are more like markers in the sense that they don't really blend, and they dry in 90 seconds. Kind of a unique product to play around with!

I did a quick little sketch using a lightly pencil drawn base from a perspective class I taught in our little co-op this fall. Turned out pretty cute, and I was having fun with this new product! I also really liked the "hand" of the picture~ the surface isn't "chalky" at all, but rather really nice and smooth once it dries, like a nice picture book.

Youngest wanted to try them, so I suggested that he make some Christmas Ornament drawings. He really enjoyed using them, and kept going...

A couple of things to note~
  • There is still potential for a little mess, in that they DO dry quickly, so there may be some stain potential... I didn't test that out... sorry! ;) Just be aware, and cover your surfaces. However, the mess potential seems far removed from water, paint cups, bottles of paint and brushes. Seems like these might have been ideal for our little Lit/Art co-op. Might have to check into the 96 count (8 of each of the 12 colors) class pack for the future! 
  • (click the box of KwikStix to the left to check them out and/or purchase through my amazon affiliate link)
  • The caps need to be put on (till they "click"), so that the paint doesn't dry out, just like a glue stick or marker needs to be capped (or for that matter, a bottle of paint). 
  • Just like with glue sticks, I expect care needs to be taken not to twist it up so high that it breaks off... we didn't run into that problem, but we also don't tend to have that issue with glue sticks... I know that some children DO, however. ;) 
As an added bonus, The Pencil Grip, Inc threw a selection of their base product, some pencil grips and pens into my package as well. What a timely surprise!

I've been working with youngest to improve his penmanship just a little bit, and one of the things I've been dealing with is trying to get him to hold a pencil or pen properly. He has a hard time with that right now, and might be just a wee bit stubborn, so I haven't fought him on it lately (Choosing my battles, yes?).

The good news is that he thinks the grips are cool, so enjoys using them, and when we couldn't locate the pencil with the silver grip for a particular assignment, he said "That's OK, I know how to hold it..." and demonstrated. Score 1! 

I received:

  • A silver metallic crossover grip, with "wings" at the top to keep fingers from crossing over one another, promoting a properly applied grip.
  • A blue pinch grip, which is an intermediate grip, still guiding placement, but allowing a smidge more freedom for the fingers.
  • A neon red pencil grip (I had purchased a couple of these in the past for my older two, but had forgotten about them for youngest). I believe that this is the original pencil grip, and the final step before moving straight to a pencil without a grip, having trained the fingers to grip correctly.

I have the feeling that using any of these grips might be useful for those who suffer from finger strain/arthritis, as it helps to control clenching muscles. I have used them, and felt my hands to be a little less tired at the end of the day. Obviously, your results may vary, but this has been my experience.

Well, I wasn't asked to write a review on the pencil grips, but I sure do like them, so I decided to add that in before moving on to the giveaway for the Kwik Stix.
base picture with some closeup details
top right and bottom left

The Pencil Grip, Inc will be sending the winner of my giveaway a set of 6 Kwik Stix (not the set of 12 as pictured that I received), just in time for Holiday gift-giving/stocking-stuffing!

Please visit the Rafflecopter to enter, and Advent Blessings!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Golden Braid (LitFuse Book Review) (Gift idea?)

Rapunzel ...
In the original telling, she was stuck in the tower, and relied on the prince to rescue her...

In Disney's "Tangled" she wields a frying pan with force! 
In Melanie Dickerson's The Golden Braid
she is no pansy, shrinking violet or other fragile flower, 
as she can throw a knife with the best of them to stop a knave in his tracks 
(although, she is rather fond of flowers, 
and paints them on the plaster walls of each home in which she lives). 

The Golden Braid takes place in a Medieval setting, and Rapunzel is the sweetly singing, brightly painting, something of an outcast daughter of a somewhat gypsy-footed midwife. Her life is fairly simple, but she is very lonely, as her mother has warned her away from making friends with any of the youth (boys or girls, but mostly boys) she happens to meet. 

Here's a bit of information from the publisher: 
About the book: 
The Golden Braid
 (Thomas Nelson, November 2015)

The one who needs rescuing isn't always the one in the tower...

Rapunzel can throw a knife better than any man. She paints beautiful flowering vines on the walls of her plaster houses. She sings so sweetly she can coax even a beast to sleep. But there are two things she is afraid her mother might never allow her to do: learn to read and marry.

Fiercely devoted to Rapunzel, her mother is suspicious of every man who so much as looks at her daughter and warns her that no man can be trusted. After a young village farmer asks for Rapunzel's hand in marriage, Mother decides to move them once again---this time, to the large city of Hagenheim.

The journey proves treacherous, and after being rescued by a knight---Sir Gerek---Rapunzel, in turn, rescues him farther down the road. As a result, Sir Gerek agrees to repay his debt to Rapunzel by teaching her to read. Could there be more to him than his arrogance and desire to marry for riches and position?

As Rapunzel acclimates to life in a new city, she uncovers a mystery that will forever change her life. In this Rapunzel story unlike any other, a world of secrets and treachery are about to be revealed after seventeen years. How will Rapunzel finally take control of her own destiny? And who will prove faithful to a lowly peasant girl with no one to turn to?

Purchase a copy:

About the author:
Melanie Dickerson is the author of The Healer's Apprentice, a Christy Award finalist and winner of the National Reader's Choice Award for Best First Book. Melanie earned a bachelor's degree in special education from the University of Alabama and has been a teacher and a missionary. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Huntsville, Alabama.

Connect with Melanie: websiteTwitter,Facebook, YouTube

My teenage daughter and I both enjoyed reading this book, and appreciated the addition of a spiritual slant, as Rapunzel learns to read from the pages of the Bible. Her strength of character is only improved, and further developed as she learns upon Whom to rely, and those around her reap the benefits of her gracious personality.

If you (or someone you know) appreciate re-imagined fairy tales as much as I and my daughter do, then you may want to pick up Melanie Dickerson's newest novel, The Golden Braid (Nice gift to find under the tree, or some great recreational reading during the Holiday break).

For myself, I know that I'll be looking up her previous works, and checking out any new titles by Melanie Dickerson.




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