Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Ultimate Guide to the Daniel Fast by Kristen Feola
Our pastor recently embarked on a 21 day fast and encouraged the congregation to participate in at least one day of fasting with specific prayers for our church and community in mind.

I had a moment to speak to our pastor later that day and I confessed that I wasn't sure how to fast. During our conversation, he recommended Googling the Daniel Fast, which I had never heard of before, and that is how I found The Ultimate Guide to the Daniel Fast by Kristen Feola. Kristen also happens to be a personal trainer and nutritional consultant.

I am a new reviewer for Zondervan - which is the publisher of The Ultimate Guide to The Daniel Fast! You can imagine my excitement as I immediately requested this fabulous book for our first review!

The nice sampling of full color recipe photos found in The Ultimate Guide to the Daniel Fast are absolutely gorgeous. It's a pretty book to thumb through. Once opened to read, the content did not disappoint either.

 In part one, immediately we are taught about fasting; the whys and hows ~ Exactly what I was looking for.  If you visit the Zondervan page for The Ultimate Guide to the Daniel Fast under product details, you can sample 30 pages of the book.

Mrs. Feola takes us through several examples in the Bible of people that fasted, how they fasted and the reasons why. She spends a good deal of time on Daniel and his reasons and details of his fasts. It was fascinating to learn and to be inspired by these great people of faith.

Part two of the book is called The Focus. It includes 21 beautiful and encouraging daily devotions that begin with a focal Bible verse followed by the devotion, personal stories, additional Bible verses for study, a prayer, and sprinkled in at the end of each week is a paragraph of extra encouragement. There is a reason this book is called the Ultimate Guide to the Daniel Fast. Everything you need, including devotions meant to keep your heart focused on God while "Feasting on His Word" are provided.

Part three is titled The Food. Mrs. Feola Goes through which foods are acceptable to eat and which foods not to eat during a three week (21 day) Daniel Fast. Next, she explains how to take the more than 100 recipes in this book (which are all pictured on her blog to create a personalized, three week meal plan for yourself or you may choose the three week meal plan that is already written out for you.

The next section of The Food includes the recipes broken down by categories: breakfast dishes, appetizers and snacks, salads and salad dressings, soups, vegetables, main dishes and juices. The recipes range from quick and easy to multiple ingredients that appear quite involved.

I would love to see a prep and start to finish time added to the recipes. Knowing the length of time a recipe will take is important to me.

The Appendix includes a wealth of information, too. From Fasting FAQ's, to Verses to Feed on and the Daniel Fast Meal Planning Tool and at the end is an index of recipes.

There will be an online support system for a January 2013 Daniel Fast (Jan. 6 - 26) that you can join through The Ultimate Daniel Fast website.

Disclaimer: I was sent a paperback copy of The Ultimate Guide to the Daniel Fast in exchange for an honest review.

26 Acts of Kindness Link Up

In honor of the lives lost in Newtown and Sandyhook Elementary School, we have all been encouraged to get out there and do #26 acts of  kindness for others. Our friend, Mary @ Homegrown Learners has developed a place to share ideas and thoughts of kindness to help inspire others, with this in mind:

We are NOT doing this for a pat on the back or positive comments.  In fact, I would prefer you NOT to leave a comment on this post.   If you do, please just make it a suggestion of a random act of kindness you can perform for others.  

Also, Amy at Milk and Cookies has created wonderful printable Acts of Kindness cards numbered with the name of a specific person from Newtown we are honoring.

Here are a few ideas to hopefully inspire and get the contagiousness of kindness spread...

  • Write a letter of thanks to a teacher, maybe even one you had twenty years ago.
  • Help your little ones open a door for someone; make this a habit.
  • Take a homemade treat to your local fire station, police station and/or  rescue squad / ambulance service
  • While you are there, gift teddy bears. They are used to comfort children that are in need of their services.
  • Pay for the meal of the car behind you in the drive through line.
  • Leave a generous tip for a waitress.
  • Leave a homemade treat or gift card for your mail carrier and/or trash collector
  • Write a letter of love to someone that has recently lost a loved one.
  • Visit a neighbor or friend that you know may be lonely.
  • Visit your local nursing home. Simply spending time talking to residents makes their day. 
  • While you are there, leave a homemade treat  or bouquet of flowers at the nurses station.
  • Encourage your children to donate items from their toy box to a local charity.
  • Look through your kitchen and closets for items to donate to a local charity.
  • Donate groceries to your local food pantry.
  • Donate whole blood or platelets; shortages are common.
  • Wave someone in with a smile to the parking place you were waiting on.
  • Visit your local animal shelter with gifts of dog and/or cat food. Ask if there is something you and your children can do while you are there to help out.
  • Send a gift to a soldier.
  • When you feel led to do an act of kindness, listen to your heart and DO IT!
Won't you link up  and share your ideas and thoughts with us?

Friday, December 21, 2012

Our Weekly Wrap-Up, Santa and Truffles!

Our weekly wrap-up with a delicious and easy truffle recipe!

Sunday, the two year olds through six grade preformed songs with hand movements for the congregation. It was so sweet seeing the little ones sing for Jesus. We love having a church to call home, a place to serve, to learn, to be loved and love back and be involved.

Sunday evening we had planned to go caroling with our church, but the weather was cold and rainy. We decided to stay in and make our annual gingerbread house and bake cookies. We read the Sparkle Box- did you see my post about this precious Christmas tradition?

Early the next day, we found out my great-uncle passed away. We are a close family and it was a blow to us all. He was battling cancer, but we weren't prepared- who ever is...

We drove down to my hometown the next day to say our goodbyes and love on our family.

We were thankful to +Mary Prather at Homegrown Learners and her sweet daughter, Anna, for putting together a wonderful unit on Christmas Carols. We needed this meaningful and beautiful study.

We drove straight from my hometown to my husband's hometown for our planned Christmas visit.

One thing that was not on our bucket list for the holidays was to visit Santa. It's not a huge priority to see him in person.  In fact, we didn't even plan to see Santa last year. He just happened to be at Ethel M Chocolates ~ we were there to see their Botanical Cactus Garden full of Christmas lights. (We were visiting friends and vacationing in Las Vegas.)It was a nice surprise for the kids! - And, there was NO line!
November, 2011 - Ethel M's, Las Vegas
I remembered the cutest Writing to Santa set from Keeping Life Creative that was posted on Collage Friday last week. I printed out the adorable set and all three wrote letters to Santa.

We knew he was at a small mall about 20 minutes away and the local school district wasn't out for Christmas yet. That meant NO line at 11:30 when we planned to go! It worked out perfectly.
December 20, 2012
 The kids have had a wonderful time building forts (Daddy and Cousin S helped cut down pine branches to keep the wind out of the fort- it's bitter cold. Cousin T and all of our little ones pitched in to make the best fort ever!), exploring in the woods, playing with their cousins, making Christmas treats with Aunt W (Nutter Butter Truffles, yummy!) and being with family.

~ We're taking a break from regular lessons for the next couple of weeks.

Nutter Butter Truffles are so easy to make:

  • 10.4 oz package of Nutter Butter cookies: pound them to tiny little crumbs inside a large zip-lock bag
half way there! keep pounding

  • Soften an 8 oz. package of cream cheese
  • In a mixing bowl, add the crumbs to the cream cheese and let the kids have fun kneading the two together

  • Gather a teaspoon full of dough in your hands and roll into balls
  • Place the balls onto a cookie sheet lined with wax paper
  • Next, place the balls into the freezer to harden (10 minutes)
  • While the Nutter Butter balls are hardening, melt about half of a 20 oz package of Almond Bark in the microwave according to the instructions
  • Next, stick a toothpick in the hardened balls and dip them into the Almond Bark
  • Use another toothpick to transfer the Almond Bark covered ball onto wax paper
  • Let the truffles harden (5 minutes) and enjoy!
Thank you, Aunt W! She found the idea somewhere on Pinterest. She tells us that using Oreo cookies instead of Nutter Butter cookies is excellent, too!

Have a very Merry Christmas and don't for get to enter the giveaway for a $50 IEW gift certificate and get your free downloads- ends Jan. 30th!


Linking this week with:
Homegrown Learners

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Institute for Excellence in Writing Giveaway and Free Downloads!

As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I had the honor of reviewing IEW's Primary Arts of Language (PAL) curriculum, and this week our review was featured on their website!

We absolutely LOVE Primary Arts of Language, and I am thrilled to share something very exciting with you!  

The wonderful folks at Institute for Excellence in Writing is offering four FREE downloads (to all of you!) and sponsoring a giveaway for a $50 IEW gift certificate- drawing to be held on January 30, 2013  

Please, share this special offer with your friends, too!

The Giveaway and Free Downloads:

Follow this link to the Homeschooling 3 special giveaway. You'll need to register (or login) to IEW's website and then you'll be able to download your free files and fill out the simple form for the giveaway! You'll be able to enter once per day until the drawing on January 30, 2013.

Although not necessary to enter, would you please leave a comment on this post to let me know you are on your way over to enter?

The four free downloads (no purchase necessary!) are:
  • The Four Language Arts (mp3)
  • Reaching the Reluctant Writer (mp3)
  • Nurturing Competent Communicators (mp3)
  • Institute for Excellence in Writing's Reading List (pdf)
I'm am grateful to the folks at IEW for offering these special gifts and this great giveaway to our readers! We are enjoying PAL and in March another little learner will be turning five, and I can't wait to begin this program with him, too!

If you haven't already, follow this link to enter this fabulous giveaway and download your FREE gifts!


Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Sparkle Box - Our New Christmas Tradition

A few Sundays ago our pastor (thank you Pastor Doug!) introduced us to a new book, The Sparkle Box: A Gift with the Power to Change Christmas by Jill Hardie. During Sunday School, the children made their very own Sparkle Box. The idea is that we keep an eye on the good things they do for others, write those things down and place them in their Sparkle Box. Those boxes, full of wonderful acts of service and kindness to others, are their special gifts to Jesus. In Matthew 25:40 Jesus tells us, "whatever you did for one of the least of these... you did for me."

I love the idea of writing down sweet, kind actions and thoughts- whether intentional or not and offering these, as the gifts they are, to Jesus on His birthday. What a great way to showcase the good our children do, to reinforce that this is one way to honor Him with their very own special and unique gifts.

We bought our family a copy of The Sparkle Box, and in the very back is an envelope that includes a Sparkle Box that just needs to be folded to assemble. Daddy and I are sharing that Sparkle Box, the one on the far right. (The kids love The Sparkle Box story. We read it a few times a week.)

Here's an idea of what's inside our Sparkle Boxes: All of ours include a day of service at a school for children with special needs. Our children worked very hard cleaning that day along with a handful of other adults from our life group at church. We all helped scrub this school from top to bottom!  Our children were so happy to know they were serving the children and teachers by helping them have a beautifully clean school.

We decided as a family to sponsor a World Vision child, we filled shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child, the children have asked for chores they can do to raise money for children in Haiti and to support an Awana group in Nepal.

We've paid special attention to the sweet things they do for one another, like fill a near empty glass-even the little guy can use the water dispenser from the fridge, clear the table for another, open a door for a stranger, listen to Mommy and Daddy, taken turns nicely, offer the last piece of candy or a portion of a special treat to their siblings, stop whatever they are doing when a prayer request is heard and pray right then, pray for someone when they feel the need in their heart. This is just a sampling of the kind things that are already in their gift boxes for Jesus. A practice that should continue throughout the year.

It's nice to intentionally focus on the good, the kind, the helpful. You look at these little things and  I hope it's obvious ~ even a little child can make a positive difference in the life of someone else. I think that is an important reminder for every child and person to know. I believe the idea for the Sparkle Box is far more than casting a shadow on commercialism - it's about tangibly showing how helping and loving others is a very noble and worthy calling.

~ Hope

Disclaimer: We bought our copy of The Sparkle Box, and I just wanted to share our experience with you. This post may contain affiliate links. Please see our disclaimer page.

Friday, December 14, 2012

A special appearance with Big Daddy Weave, Beautiful Memories, and Favorite Resources

This past week has been FULL of family and special moments to remember.

First, we spent lots of time with family who visited for a Big Daddy Weave / MIKESCHAIR concert benefiting children with special needs. Caraline was asked to interpret during one of Big Daddy Weave's songs. (ASL is her heart.) 

 We took our annual trip to the Christmas Tree farm. It's always so much fun watching the children run through the forest of trees in search for ours. I LOVE this family tradition.

Once home, Daddy helps hang the lights and put our angel on top, and I help the kids hang the ornaments while Christmas music is playing in the background. This year it was BDW and MIKESCHAIR's Christmas albulms.  This is such a fun, full day. At the end of our big day, our tradition is to go out for a nice family dinner.
 Caraline's AWANA group had their Half-way Day celebration for the kids who'd completed thirty sections in their handbook. (This is for the Truth in Training groups. Our boys are not old enough to be in T&T.) She finished her thirty sections about three weeks early! I'm thankful that all of our children love learning about Jesus and memorizing scripture.
This of course isn't Caraline. This is a picture of Jonathan at AWANA with his craft of Jesus in the manger. An upside down hand print - from the middle of the palm down the four fingers for the manger. a thumbprint for Jesus, add straw and a star. Very sweet keepsake.

This week I had one of those homeschool moments I was so happy to be apart of. While I was giving a spelling test to Ryan (6) he started a "w" upside down and kept going with it for a moment. He immediately knew it was a little off and said out loud, "Ahhh! That's hair not a w!" He erased it and beside it made a beautiful w. It really did look like the hair he draws sometimes on little figures. We got the best laugh out of that together. It was a fun, precious moment I was so happy to share with him- making me ever more thankful I am a homeschooling mama.

And here's my silly Ryan pretending to be Santa. I heard a jolly "Ho, Ho, Ho!" and this is what I found! Love him!

A couple of fun resources used in our homeschool this week:

We learned about the Sumerians and cuneiform this week in the Mystery of History. We watched a Brain Pop video on the Sumerians which was the perfect supplement to our readings. (I signed up for a free five day trail of Brain Pop. Any users out there?)

I bought molding clay for the kids to experiment with making their own cuneiform tablets. After making their tablets, they continued sculpting for two hours at the kitchen table!

They would've sculpted longer but we were expecting company- a sweet family with a precious new baby, a three year old and eight year old were coming to visit!

Counting Bears by Learning Playground: Jonathan wanted to do schoolwork while I was working with Ryan. My sweet girl volunteered to teach Jonathan math with a new resource-a grandparent won a silent auction basket full of educational products for us the night of the benefit concert and Counting Bears was on of the items! More and more she is able to help Jonathan. This is a wonderful extension of her learning that I encourage. It's good for both of them!

We began reading The Reunion by Rachael McIntire. We are about half-way through. It's a beautiful story that we'll share with you in a couple of weeks.

We read The Sparkle Box: A Gift with the Power to Change Christmas. I need to make a special post about this book, too. Our pastor shared this with us and the kids made Sparkle Boxes in Sunday School a couple of weeks ago. I love the message in this book! (Update: You can read this post here.)

Other Christmas books we are reading this week: Jotham's Journey, The Crippled Lamb, Jacob's Gift, The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey, Room for a Little One and The Jesse Tree.

Favorite New iPad apps, recommended by our visiting friends:

Mobile Montessori Multiplication Charts, Splash Math, we've been using this for a couple of days and it seems to be a very good multiplication app.

Splash Math 1st and 3rd grade: free version for now, but I can see upgrading in the future! (You're only allowed to complete 20 questions a day with the free version.)

Pizza Fractions: Fun and FREE!

Hungry Fish: There is a free version, but we upgraded to addition for $1.99 pretty quickly. This is another super fun game for the kids.

And Geoboard: Free and the kids love to build shapes on this board. Jonathan our four year old enjoys this one, too.

And we survived three days with Daddy in Austin this week.

Don't forget to stop by and enter a fabulous Music Appreciation giveaway I am hosting! It ends tonight at midnight.

Linking this week with:
Homegrown Learners

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

BEETHOVEN’S BIRTHDAY! Giveaway and Half-price Discount!

I'm thrilled to share with you a special promotional discount price and giveaway (at the end of this post!) on a fabulous Music Appreciation course for the whole family, Beethoven Who? Family Fun with Music!

The Promotion Being Offered by Marcia:

One week only! In honor of Beethoven’s 242nd birthday anniversary on December 16, your family can enjoy learning about music together in Marcia Washburn’s all-inclusive e-course, Beethoven Who? Family Fun with Music. No expensive CDs to buy! No prior musical knowledge required!
A $29.99 value but order today for half-price--just $14.99. Special price ends Dec. 16, so don’t put it off. A great gift or something fresh to start your new homeschooling year in January.

That’s not all! She’s throwing in a free bonus e-book for all who order this week: Teach Your Family to Play the Soprano Recorder. Marcia teaches you how to play the recorder, even if you can’t read a note!

To order, or for more information, go to
Remember: this half-price offer ends Dec. 16. Order Beethoven Who? Family Fun with Music now so you won’t miss out on half-price plus the free recorder book.

Also, don't forget to enter the giveaway at the bottom of this post. Plus, if you go ahead and take advantage of this special pricing offer and are chosen as the winner of this giveaway, Marcia will refund your purchase price!

Review Excerpt:

A few months ago, I reviewed Beethoven Who? with my own family. Below is an excerpt from that review and link to the full review:

"To all those moms who want to teach their children music, but feel unqualified—
this book is for you." ~  Marcia Washburn

Beethoven Who? is an open-and-go PDF resource. You can plan ahead as to which element you'd like to study or just open and decide on the spot what you'd like to learn. It is extremely flexible. I believe this curriculum could take at least two years to thoroughly complete! I can see using this resource multiple times throughout the elementary and even into the middle and possibly the high school years as well.

 I also appreciate that she gives many ideas on how to use her curriculum. There is no wrong order or wrong way to introduce the material ~ find what is interesting and go with it. I found her curriculum easy to apply in our homeschool.

Additionally, I love the way Mrs. Washburn writes. She is down to earth and explains everything in simple, easy to understand terms for the average, non-musical parent like me.

This pdf ebook is over 300 pages long. It's massive. I found myself needing over a week to become acquainted with the ebook....

Go to this link to view the full review:

And here is the Giveaway Marcia is providing for one of you!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: I received a review PDF copy of Beethoven Who? months ago to complete the original review. I am not being compensated to host this giveaway or to promote the special pricing in anyway.This is simply a homeschool curriculum that I love and that I am excited about sharing with our readers.