Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Earn rewards for filling out your SWAGO board on Swagbucks (Yes! Again!) :)

The holidays are here and the online rewards site Swagbucks has a smart and fun way for you to earn and save while you spend.
Swagbucks is hosting another round of Shopping Swago! What is SWAGO you ask? It's a bingo-inspired promotion run by Swagbucks, a website that rewards you with points (called SB) for completing everyday online activities. You can redeem those SB for free gift cards. If you've never used Swagbucks, participating in SWAGO is a great introduction to the site and an easy way to earn a good amount of points quickly.

Click here to get started!
Here’s what you need to know to get your 300 SB ($3) Bonus (and don’t worry, you don’t have to make a purchase to complete a pattern):
  • Shop Swago will begin on Monday, December 18th at 9am PT/12pm ET, make sure you hit “Join” otherwise you won’t get credit for completing the action items. Each square on your Swago Board will contain an action item to complete.
  • Once you complete the action item in a particular square the square will change color signifying the action item is complete.
  • You have a limited amount of time to mark off as many squares as possible so use your time wisely.
  • Be mindful of the patterns and their corresponding bonuses located on the right of your Swago Board. The patterns will vary in difficulty and bonus value - up to 300 SB - enough for your first $3 gift card.
  • Once you’ve achieved a pattern the corresponding “Submit” button will light up. You can have multiple patterns available for submission, however, you can only submit ONE pattern so choose wisely.
  • The game ends Friday, December 22nd at 12pm PDT/3pm EDT. So make sure to hit “Submit” on the pattern you wish to submit. If you don’t hit “Submit” before the game ends you won’t receive your SB bonus.

    Also, if you sign up through me this month, you'll get a $10 rebate when you make your first purchase via Swagbucks Shopping! You can activate it in the "Swag Ups" area of "My Account"
I have earned enough to help pay for some Christmas presents this year through Swagbucks~ it really does work~ and some of those points/dollars were earned by fil
ling out my SWAGO board last time around, so it really does pay to play. ;)


Survival Hax: (Hammock Hax?)

So... when I applied to review this sleeping bag it was an abnormally temperate fall, and I was hoping to use it to extend my outside "hammock time" relaxing with a book or kindle. However, by the time my package arrived, the temperatures had dropped a little too dramatically for me to use this 3-season sleeping bag for *my* intended, outside-the-box purpose. That being said, the timing was actually very good for me to bring it along when it was time to go pick my daughter up from college for Christmas break. It's a 7-hour drive and with an 8am "final" Final, I thought it would be best to come out the day before, sleep over, and be able to pack up when she was done. 

First benefit~ it is a very light sleeping bag~ which is a consideration when carting bags to the 3rd floor (but 3 flights of stairs, because we come in the basement). I was pleased that it was neither as bulky nor as heavy as our previous sleeping bags.

It also comes with a very nice carrying bag with straps that cover over the drawstring at the top, which I think is probably a safety measure, and if you were backpacking, I think you could use these straps to compress it even more so it would take up less space in your pack. 

As far as the bag itself goes~ there are a couple of things that I want to mention.
  • The fabric is very soft and smooth, and extremely comfortable. 
  • The head of the bag has a nice roll that worked perfectly to keep my pillows (picture taken before I unpacked them) from sliding and disappearing from beneath my head. 
  • The zipper is unique in that you can unzip from the bottom to let some air in if your toes are getting too toasty or you just want to stretch your leg out a bit. This is a huge bonus in my mind, as I frequently have a foot hanging out from under the covers.  
Although I didn't have the opportunity to use the sleeping bag outside in my hammock as I had hoped (before the weather turned colder), I look forward to starting my hammocking a little earlier this spring, with this sleeping bag as an insulating layer while I hang out in the yard or lakeside watching Middlest fish. 

If you or someone you know might benefit from a new sleeping bag (NOT for winter use), Survival Hax is offering my readers 70% off when purchased either directly on the Survival Hax Website, or through Amazon, using the code SLYP75BG. 

What would YOU use this sleeping bag for? 

Hope that you 
#survivalhax #sleepingbag

Monday, December 11, 2017

Green Monday is a thing... and you can save some GREEN if you're shopping anyway.

You can earn money while saving it during Green Monday! The Cashback Shopping site Swagbucks is offering big cash back - 2x or more - at a number of different stores today only. They're also offering big payouts on a varieties of different deals and offers from companies that would make great gift ideas. Get great deals without waiting in lines or even leaving your home!

If you're not familiar with Swagbucks, they offer cash back in the form of points when you shop. Then you can turn those points into gift cards to places like Amazon, Starbucks, Target, or PayPal cash. You can also earn points for discovering deals, watching videos, answering surveys and more! (I just redeemed points for a $25 Amazon card, and I'm on my way to another~ which helps with Christmas gift purchases!!)

Click here to take advantage of the cash back, just create your Swagbucks account when prompted (it takes less than 30 seconds) and then you're all set!

As a special bonus, if you sign up through me you get a 300 SB ($3) bonus when you earn your first 300 SB before January 1st! This site's a great way to extend your shopping budget, especially around the holidays!


Thursday, December 7, 2017

Huevos Rancheros Sweet Potato Soup (Recipe)

So... sometimes Necessity is the Mother of Invention....

This week we didn't have much in the fridge or the cupboards, and ran out of time to run to the store, so it was time to come up with what my DH likes to call a McGyver Meal. ;)
I had some sweet potatoes that I'd cooked in the Instant Pot on Monday, and I had some eggs for protein. With the addition of a can of green chile tomatoes it ended up having a bit of one of my dad's favorite flavors, a "Mexican Ranch Style Eggs" flair.

It turned out well enough that it was deemed necessary to document the basic recipe for future reference. I don't have pictures beyond the finished product but this is the process:

2 TBSP Olive Oil
1 onion chopped
3 carrots shopped
4 baked sweet potatoes (these were leftovers in the fridge~ instant pot cooked)
1 can of tomatoes with green chiles
1.5 boxes of chicken stock
Frozen Corn
Cumin (optional)
Celery Salt
1-2 eggs per person

1. Saute' chopped onions in olive oil till translucent.
2. Add chopped carrots and saute' for another 5-10 minutes, till soft
3. Blend up the baked sweet potatoes, onions, carrots and can of tomato/chiles in the blender.
4. Pour back into the pot and use the chicken stock in the blender to clean out the rest of the vegetable puree', and add to the pot.
5. Season with cumin and Celery Salt to taste.
6. Bring to a boil
7. Add the frozen corn~ 1/4 cup to 1 cup
8. Gently slide each raw egg into the pot of soup, and allow to "poach" for 3-4 minutes.

Serve in a bowl with toast for a yummy and somewhat unique take on poached eggs for dinner.

If you try it out let me know what your verdict is!


Friday, December 1, 2017

Adored: 365-day Devotional (Review and Giveaway)

Looking for a gift for your teen (13 - College) daughter, niece, granddaughter, friend that will offer a dose of daily spiritual uplift? I'm looking forward to sending this one back to PA with my daughter this January when she returns to college!

Adored: 365-day Devotional from Zondervan is a lovely book in shades of blue, white, and gold with (mostly) one verse devotionals written for young women of today. There are a variety of topics addressed~ some are more generally related to knowing and understanding more about God and His Love for them. Others include some that younger teens may be experiencing for the first time, like bullying and dealing with social media, while there are others that are still very applicable to older teens/college aged young women as they tackle friendships and dating.

This would be a lovely gift for any young lady in your life, and while it can be started any day of any year, the new year is always a good time to put devotional habits into practice!

List Price $14.99
Purchase at Christian Book Distributors
You can visit Zondervan's Adored Devotional page and receive a free 7-day download to get a feel for what is offered in the entire book.

You can also enter my giveaway for a free copy of Adored 365 Devotions for Young Women if you wait just a minute or the rafflecopter form to load.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

“Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255:  “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”):  Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway.  Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation.  I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post. Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller /FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days on the same blog, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again.  Winner is subject to eligibility verification.
 #AdoredByGod #FlyBy

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Do you have Swag? (Swagbucks, that is?)

In the event that you are doing any holiday shopping online, I wanted to make sure that you knew that you can not only earn Swagbucks for searching, but also for shopping online through their website. If you haven't signed up for Swagbucks yet, you might want to consider it. This is how I have afforded some Birthday and Christmas gifts, as well as some needed items around the house. Love earning cents for searching. ;)

As a pre-Black Friday warm up, Swagbucks is offering big cash back for shopping online at several of your favorite retailers right now! Just go to this page to see all of the deals available and get the jump on your holiday shopping.

In order to take advantage of the cash back, just create your Swagbucks account when prompted (it takes less than 30 seconds) and then you're all set! Your cash back comes in the form of SB points, which you can redeem for gift cards to places like Amazon, Target, Walmart, Starbucks, or get PayPal cash!

As a special bonus, if you sign up through me you get a 300 SB ($3) bonus when you earn your first 300 SB before December 1st! This site's a great way to extend your shopping budget, especially around the holidays!

Hope this helps you as you figure out where/how to best spend your hard earned funds!


Thursday, November 16, 2017

Characters in Crisis ~ High School Lit

We have enjoyed Writing with Sharon Watson's approach to writing and literature (see my reviews of Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide, and The Power In Your Hands), so I appreciated the opportunity to use and review the second volume in her Illuminating Literature series, Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis with my Middlest.

We received the physical components (Textbook, Teacher's Guide, and Quiz and Answer Manual) of this set in the mail.  I love it when companies offer free samples, as those nearly always help me to form a more complete opinion before I purchase a product, so be sure to check the product page to see what's available.

There are also some online components:
  • Novel Notebook: A full color downloadable pdf, intended to be printed and 3-hole punched. This is where the student is prompted to write reflections that correlate to the stories. Sometimes they are asked to write about the story directly, and other times they are asked to tell personal anecdotes that relate to the theme. 
  • Online Quizzes: For those who appreciate a lightening of the teacher's load, graded online quizzes are offered to take the place of the paper Quiz and Answer Manual. These are password protected, with the passwords being found in the text, at the end of each chapter.   
Screenshots of a couple of the full color Novel Notebook pages~ because they are much prettier than our black and white printouts... don't forget, you can download the entire pdf if you want to see what every page looks like. 

So, now a little bit more about the actual curriculum.
Sharon Watson writes engaging curriculum geared towards her audience. This can make all the difference in the world when your high school student is NOT a prolific reader (yes, I have one of those...). I love that she includes as an objective "To avoid sucking the life out of the class due to beating each novel until it begs for mercy."
She also has this to say...

The Textbook is written directly to the student and is a combination of formal and informal direction. The first week of lessons give an introduction to the course and what to expect. Sharon Watson talks about opinions, grading, course philosophy, the value of reading literature, character labels, forces of antagonism (conflict), and a quick exercise involving a book or movie of the student's choice. From here she moves directly into the literature choices for this year's worth of study (more about those a little down the page). Remember those samples I mentioned? This first chapter (0) is included in the free download, as well as the first two lessons from the first literary selection. 

In addition to the Novel Notebook, the Questions in the textbook, and the Quizzes (online or physical book), the are a number of optional activities that expand on the student's understanding of the the story. These are very diverse in order to give all learning styles an opportunity to complete something to suit their personal strengths. They include writing (of course), acting, illustrating, and creating physical objects. While not integral to the course, they can be a highlight when completed. 

Both the Teacher's Guide and the Student Text offer schedules for completing the course, whether done alone or in a co-op or once-a-month book club. The Teacher's Guide also includes grading rubrics specific to the chapter. Headings coordinate with the student text, making it easy to know what is going on in the textbook without having it directly in front of you. As a nod to the ever-increasing online nature of our world, the teacher's guide also includes pre-written Facebook posts that can be used to create/maintain interest if you are teaching to a group. The questions in the textbook are included in the Teacher's Guide, with specific answers or notification if answers may vary. 

*Note: this curriculum is written from a decidedly Christian Worldview. However, that does not mean that the authors chosen promote that world view. There may be language or events included in these stories are offensive to some. But isn't that true of life in general? This is a chance for your student to acknowledge that bad choices and evil exist, and to discuss and learn how to deal with those real-life negatives from a safe distance (this is a level up from the concept presented by G. K. Chesterton commonly paraphrased thus: “Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.” ― G.K. Chesterton )

I will freely admit that sometimes I have been known to err on the side of staying away from the dragons and the poor life choices, but it is definitely worthwhile to open up these discussions, particularly as the darkness of the world seems to encroach closer with each passing day. Another stated objective of the course is "To recognize what the author does to influence their (the reader's) hearts and minds." This allows your young men and women to more readily discern truth and the distortion of truth in their daily lives. 

Back to the Curriculum... ;) 
The titles included are: 
  • "A Jury of Her Peers" by Susan Glaspell
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  • Silas Marner by George Eliot
  • Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare
  • Short stories
    • "A White Heron" by Sarah Orne Jewett
    • "The Garden of Forking Paths" by Jorge Luis Borges
    • "Haircut" by Ring Lardner
    • "The Lady, or the Tiger?" by Frank Stockton
    • "Of the Passing of the First-Born" by W. E. B. Du Bois
    • "A Child's Christmas in Wales" by Dylan Thomas
  • Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  • Biography/Autobiography of the student's choice
  • The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkein
For the time of this review, once the introductory chapter was finished, we opted to jump ahead and use the chapter containing the Short Stories. This was partially because both time and funds are short at the moment, so it was nice to have the full texts available IN the textbook, instead of having to purchase or borrow one of the full length works right away. I also tend to skip about most full-year Literature Curriculum, choosing the units that I think will be in each of my children's best interest to read, and it was time for Middlest to enjoy some short stories. ;)

A note about the Text~ it is, in and of itself a workbook, if you only have one student using it~ there is plenty of space given to answer questions. However, because I have one more up and coming, I chose to have Middlest write his answers in a notebook, just like public school...

He appreciates the layout of the curriculum~ It starts with the literary terms being introduced, then moves into reading the story so that you can be thinking about the terms while reading. That way, when you reach the end of the lesson, you can easily answer the questions about those terms. He also appreciated the variety of extra activity choices, as creative writing isn't necessarily his gift.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 

You can visit Writing with Sharon Watson on Facebook and Pinterest.

Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Homeschool 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.
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#hsreviews #highschoolwriting #writingcurriculum

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Pencil Grip, Inc. (review and giveaway) Thin Stix Creativity Pack

I have blogged about the The Pencil Grip, Inc. products in the past, reviewing their basic Kwik Stix (set of 12) fast drying paint stix, and their basic Thin Stix (set of 6) paint stix. This time I am happy to have the opportunity to review the Thin Stix Creativity Pack, which includes not only the 12 basic colors, but 6 metallic, and 6 neon paint stix.

In the event that you don't end up clicking through to my previous reviews, let me give you a quick rundown on the Kwik Stix. They are a pretty much mess free, quick drying tempera paint. They come in a tube that is similar to a glue stick (so the same precautions apply, when used by young'ns... don't let them twist the paint too high). They really do dry quickly, so they are PERFECT for co-op and Sunday School classes when you have a limited amount of time for crafty projects. That being said, they are also a lot of fun to use on your own at home.

We were excited to have the thin metallic Kwik Stix to test out, as my youngest is often about all things "precious" ~ he loves to use gold and silver crayons and pencils when he draws. Boy howdy, are these a far cry from those other drawing tools! The paint really is shiny, brilliant metallic! I can imagine that those who have little girls would LOVE to use these for princess regalia~ coloring paper crowns, making shiny bracelets, etc...

One of the first projects we tried with the original Kwik stix were some paper "ornament" cards for Christmas. I thought that we might revisit that idea using the metallics on black paper to dress them up a little...

I really like the shine of the metallics, and I took pictures both in the sunlight and the shadow so you could get a feel for what they look like

We tried a couple of different things~

Free hand drawing

And taping out a star shape

And taping scattered triangles

Then using the tape itself on another "ornament" ...

*Note: the tape is painter's tape that comes off fairly easily, but you have to be fairly careful when removing it from the construction paper.

I also played with them a little to see how they would work for a pointillism project~ This one hasn't been fleshed out totally yet, but here is a look at the dots (slightly larger than a pencil eraser tip, or q-tip, if you've seen pointillism projects using those...):

One more thing I played with, but haven't figured out exactly how I want to incorporate... using colored pencil UNDERNEATH the Kwik Stix. The first pic has a white crayon scribble that doesn't really show up, and then a white pencil scribble that DOES. ;)

The next two pics are just fiddling... I think there could be a cool multi-media project somewhere here...

I should also mention here as in previous reviews that the Kwik Stix paints adhere not only to paper, but also to cardboard, poster board, wood and more. Great for decorating some of those picture frames or boxes that you can pick up at your local craft store.

If you want to give these a try you can pick up this Creativity Pack at your local BJ's, or order them at the link below.

In the meantime, The Pencil Grip has been so kind to offer one of my readers a free set through this giveaway...
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
You can visit The Pencil Grip on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest to see what else they have to offer, as well as to get some project ideas. 

Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Homeschool 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.
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#hsreviews #KwikStix, #temperapaint, #kidsartsupplies

Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Magic Stories (Reading Supplement Review and Giveaway)

The ability to read is probably the most valuable scholarly skill that can be taught, as virtually all other instruction builds on that capacity. It is also one of those skills that can cause a great deal of anxiety and frustration for both parent/teacher and young child. Supplemental materials that offer learning opportunities in an engaging manner, like The Magic Stories can be a huge blessing to those teaching early reading, or helping those who struggle with reading.

The Magic Stories is a new product put out by Allsaid & Dunn, LLC,  publishers of the highly acclaimed "Wordly Wise" vocabulary series, and also a product I reviewed a number of years ago, The Reading Game. This time, instead of a workbook (like Wordly Wise), or a matching game (like the Reading Game), the chosen format is a set of six stories optimized for reading on iPad or computer screen, or they can be printed out in booklet form. I just read them on my computer screen, as my ipad has limited capacity at the moment. If your child loves to read and color, printing them would be a good option, as there are nice, black and white illustrations suitable for coloring in (probably with colored pencil).


The purpose behind this particular series is to help children move from the simpler, early beginning reader words to some that are more complex, but not easily decoded through basic phonetic skills and word family association. This is done by incorporating "40 Naughty Words" that don't follow the rules, and need to be learned somewhat more individually. Each Story includes its own set of 40 Naughty Words in a deck of cards that can be printed for flashcard use, or game play (Print twice on cardstock and use it to play a concentration/matching game, or Go Fish or Old Maid, or anything similar your child enjoys. :). These cards are the main method of learning the vocabulary for these books.

In addition to the stories, you can download  worksheets which include a pre/post word assessment (highly recommended to use this prior to reading the story). There are also reading comprehension worksheets, as well as instructions on how to best use the stories with your children. All of these can be found on the Parent Guide section of the website.

  • Finish the Sentence (comprehension exercise that requires the student to finish a sentence about the story, with information gleaned from the story.)
  • Imagine (Open-ended type questions)
  • Finish the Story 
  • And my personal favorite, a True/False comprehension "Maze" that I think is fun and creative! :) 

Now, a word about the stories. The stories are engaging and most of them end up with some sort of moral application, as all good stories do. Here is my quick take away from each story.

The Magic Hole is set in China ~ sometimes the silver lining can actually be the treasure in the end.
The Magic Ax is in an ambiguous forest setting~ having secrets (that might normally be considered good news) can change you (usually not for the best).
The Magic Joke is set in a kingdom ~ in which a foolish king is saved from "war for war's sake" by the quick thinking of his daughter.
The Magic Hotdog is more of a cautionary tale~ in which we learn that an obsession with anything (even something as simple as hot dogs) is not good for your health.
The Magic Boots didn't actually have as much of a take-away, in my opinion. Just a little story about a mix-up between pixies and goblins.
The Magic Box is a different take on Rumplestiltskin, a cautionary tale of the dangers of greed, to some extent. (side note~ I don't particularly love cautionary tales, because they generally don't have a happy ending... :/ However, others love them, so this is just an FYI).

The stories as a whole remind me of some of the fairy tales I read as a child, and the fact that they have specific words woven through them so seamlessly is pretty impressive. If you appreciate the qualities of fairy tales, you might want to give the Magic Stories a try with your intermediate/reluctant/struggling reader.

Allsaid & Dunn are offering my readers a 25% discount on your purchase if  you input the code   raisingreaders   into the coupon box at checkout.

They are also providing a free set of Magic Stories for one reader of my blog... see the giveaway below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
  • Company: Allsaid & Dunn, LLC, Publishers 
  • Product: The Magic Stories
  • Ages: 2nd and 3rd grade (regular readers, older for struggling readers) 
  • Price: $16.95
You can visit The Magic Stories on the Reading Game's Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube pages.

Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Homeschool 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.
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