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. 


Enlivenze LLC, Statue of Liberty FlipStir Puzzle

Being a puzzle-loving sort of mom with some semi-puzzle-loving kids, I was pleased to be included on the Enlivenze LLC FlipStir Puzzle review. Enlivenze LLC offers self-contained puzzles in a variety of levels, with a few different graphics to choose from. I received the Level 2 Statue of Liberty FlipStir Puzzle.  Level 2 puzzles have wavy edges which make them a little harder to manipulate. Level 1 puzzles are flat edged, and I imagine those pieces would slide into place more easily.

The puzzle is contained in a clear tube with a base and lid that are not removable. The knob on the top is the handle for a wand with a scoop on the end which is used to manipulate the puzzle pieces. FlipStir Puzzles are very compact in size (The tube is less than 7 inches tall, with the actual solved puzzle graphic being only about 4 inches in height). This makes it a good option to slip into a bag for entertainment purposes when traveling or going somewhere where waiting will be required.

My kids had a variety of opinions on the puzzle:

Youngest (9) is somewhat sensitive to squeaky sounds (He doesn't even like to wear new shoes because they are "too squeaky"... o.O). Unfortunately for him, if the wand is drawn across the opening while moving up and down to manipulate the pieces does create a definite squeak. Because he isn't dexterous enough to keep it in the very center of the hole while moving it, this was not a puzzle he enjoyed attempting, as it was squeaking at every move.

Middlest (15) was willing to try the puzzle, even though puzzles aren't really his thing. He expected to solve it instantaneously, and was a little frustrated that it wasn't quite that easy. It *is* a puzzle, and there *is* a challenge to it. We found that it takes close to 15-20 minutes to solve on average. He didn't seem to bothered at all by the noise of the wand, so clearly, that is something that will vary from person to person.

Eldest (19) is my puzzle-lover, but she is also somewhat sensitive to sounds, so her enjoyment of the puzzle/challenge was overshadowed by the little squeaks, and the extra work required to not let the wand slide on the plastic opening.

Mom~ Well... the squeaky-ness didn't really annoy me (And I think it *may* be getting less squeaky as it is played with more, but I'm not totally sure about that), and I enjoyed the challenge of manipulating the pieces to their proper positions.

I could see that a puzzle of this type might be very frustrating to someone with fine motor skill issues, and would be a better fit for those who enjoy working with their hands. On the flip side (see what I did there? ;), it could also be a good exercise for those who need some practice, not only with motor skills but spatial reasoning.

Other puzzles received by the TOS Review Crew included the Level 1 Rainbow Pencils and the Tyrannosaurus Rex Puzzles as well as the Solar System Puzzle (another Level 2). There is a 3rd Level 2 puzzle available (Periodic Table) that was not included on this review.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
You can visit Enlivenze on Facebook and Twitter, and 
FlipStir Puzzles on these Facebook and Twitter accounts. 

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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids, Spanish Starter Set 1

Although Youngest is still getting a handle on correct English, his pronunciation has gotten much better, to the point that I was willing to consider introducing him to a "living" foreign language. When the opportunity to review the Spanish Starter Set 1 by Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids we were both interested to give it a go.

Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids' program is appropriate for beginning learners aged 3 (With parental oversight) and up. I think it is most suitable for children in the elementary years, but can be used by older individuals to gain a quick grasp of some basic Spanish, or possibly prepare for High School Spanish courses.

The program is based on the immersion-style videos that are the spine of the program. As reviewers, we were sent the complete Spanish Starter Set 1, which includes a DVD with the first three levels of video (along with workbooks, teacher/parent guides, flashcards and stickers for each level). The videos follow a family with three boys, who are our "immersion instructors." They are seen in familiar settings, and introduce words and phrases that are part of their daily life. There are other scenes interspersed throughout the main story that emphasize the particular word or phrase being learned, along with written cues for the words.

The Teacher/Parent guides give suggestions for scheduling lessons as well as extra activities that can be included in the learning time. We both enjoyed the stories and the personalities of the boys as we learned some basic words. The only minor issue I had with the DVD was knowing how far to watch for each lesson~ it appears that those may be more clearly defined in the online version of the videos, another alternative in which some people may be interested.

The workbooks are of such a high quality paper that my son didn't want to write in them, so we just did the exercises verbally. They are bright and colorful, with fun activities that enhance the learning from the video. One of the pages I found most useful included very helpful information that introduced the concept of noun genders in Spanish. This was obviously a totally new concept for my Youngest, but Spanish would seem to be one of the easier languages to learn this, as the "gender articles" typically relate to the ending of the word... fantastic!

There are some flashcards included which can be used for any number of games, including the Go Squish Cardgame, instructions for which are included in this Starter Set. We chose to do a variation on Concentration as a solitaire game for my guy. We also used them as basic flashcards to test his memory. I appreciate that there are "Key" cards included that give the number of each picture card along with the accompanying Spanish word/phrase card. Smart! (Because otherwise, I may have been confused by some of them, even though each photo is taken directly from the action of the video).

The final component included in this set is one that we personally have not used, and probably won't use as intended~ a set of vocabulary stickers. We just don't *do* stickers or labels on objects around the house here, but in another setting or home, I think they would definitely add to the "immersion" quality of the program.

So, how did we use the program?
We mostly followed the suggestions in the Teacher guide for lessons, making sure that we repeated the video portions, as a part of review. The times required varied a lot, from 10/15 minutes to 1/2 hour or 3/4 hour, which was actually a nice thing for us~ some days being more or less appropriate for shorter or longer lessons. There is a "Rapid Review" portion that can be used as a determining factor as to whether your child is ready to move to the next level or not~ Sort of a Video Flash Card with a race to see if they can say the Spanish word for each picture before it is flashed on the screen.

Youngest has started to use some of his Spanish in daily life which has been fun to see. He likes that it has been fairly easy to pick up some words and phrases without too much trouble, although he does have to work to remember other words. He thought all the puzzles in the workbook were fun, and the flash cards/card game was a lot of fun, but really challenged him.

I think that Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids is a wonderfully gentle introduction to Spanish that has gotten my son excited to be learning new words in a new language.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
  • Company: Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids
  • Product:  Spanish Starter Set 1
  • Ages: 3 years old (minimum) and up (Particularly through elementary, in my opinion) 
  • Price: currently $140.25 for the physical products. There are also number of "online member" options available~ check the website for those! :) 
Visit Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids on Facebook.
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Saturday, August 6, 2016

Notebooking Pages ~ Notebooking Pages Lifetime Membership (Informational Review)

Members of the TOS Review Crew received a Lifetime Membership from for review. You may have run across the over 600 pages that they offer for free on their website. This is just a small (if 600 can be considered small?) sampling of the thousands of pages included in the Lifetime Membership.

What exactly is included in this Membership? 

  • A huge variety of pages for a multiplicity of ages, covering a wide span of topics. 
  • And this isn't just for what is available currently. As pages are added to the site, they are included in the Lifetime Membership 
  • A Search Bar and Table of Contents to help you rapidly find the appropriate pages for your current studies. 
  • Tutorials, Tips and Videos that will help you as you begin or continue your homeschool notebooking journey. 
  • If you are somewhat eclectic in your homeschooling, and would like something concrete to add to your portfolio, this might be a resource to consider. 
  • If your student likes to be creative and draw as part of their daily education, again~ check these page out! 
  • If you want to see thoughtful "This is what I learned" paperwork, vs the "This is what I remember, This is what I don't know" method of popular testing assessments, this might be something you would like to check out and possibly add to your arsenal of teaching tools. :) 

The Bible Notebooking Pages and the North American Birds Pages are two of my favorites (But really, there are SOOOO many topics to check out, this is just a smattering). The Bible Pages are handy for last minute Sunday School preparation (We don't use a set curriculum, so this is helpful if one doesn't wish to reinvent the wheel constantly).

The Bird Pages are gorgeous, and are a great addition to a Thornton Burgess read-through, or any basic bird Nature Program. They also make simply lovely pages to color! :) This screenshot I took gives you a bit of an idea of the quality of these pages.

If you like what you see, go give them a bit of a closer look, and sign up to download some pages from the free section. You can also access visual samples (non-printable) of most sets straight from website, to see if there are pages that will be useful to you in your homeschooling. Because of the breadth and width of topics covered, I suspect that just about anyone would be able to make great use of these pages.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
You can follow Notebooking Pages on their Social Media Accounts:
Facebook, Twitter

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