Book Club ~ A Reminder/Update/Announcement

Book Club with Lori

Just a reminder that Lori and I are taking October off from the book club (did you read my review of The Pray-ers? That’s one of the main reasons we took the time off). We’ll be back on the first Thursday of November with a new book and new questions. If you want to join us, we’re reading The Bronte Plot by Katherine Reay this month. Here’s the summary from the publisher:

When Lucy’s secret is unearthed, her world begins to crumble. But it may be the best thing that has ever happened to her.

Lucy Alling makes a living selling rare books, often taking suspicious liberties to reach her goals. When her unorthodox methods are discovered, Lucy’s secret ruins her relationship with her boss and her boyfriend, James—leaving Lucy in a heap of hurt and trouble. Something has to change; she has to change.

In a sudden turn of events, James’s wealthy grandmother, Helen, hires Lucy as a consultant for a London literary and antiques excursion. Lucy reluctantly agrees and soon discovers Helen holds secrets of her own. In fact, Helen understands Lucy’s predicament better than anyone else.

As the two travel across England, Lucy benefits from Helen’s wisdom as Helen confronts ghosts from her own past. Everything comes to a head at Haworth, home of the Brontë sisters, where Lucy is reminded of the sisters’ beloved heroines who, with tenacity and resolution, endured—even in the midst of impossible circumstances.

Now Lucy must face her past in order to move forward. And while it may hold mistakes and regrets, she will prevail—if only she can step into the life that’s been waiting for her all along.

I think this sounds wonderful, and I can’t wait to get started. I have my copy waiting at the library; I just keep forgetting to pick it up. I’ve set an alarm so I’ll remember to head over there as soon as they open this morning.


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A Veggie Tales Devotional for Children (Review)

vt-devoThe past few weeks, Small Fry and I have had the privilege of reviewing a Veggie Tales Devotional for young children. The book, Every Day with God, comes in two editions: boy or girl. Obviously, we chose the boy version.

The book is set up to be a 365-day devotional for young children (target age is 4-7). Each entry includes a scripture, a short message using the scripture reference to back up the point, a “thought of the day,” and a short prayer. Small Fry, who is 4, and I were able to read a devotion in about 5 minutes. We often did this while he was in the bath at the end of the day.

In addition to the words on each page, each devotion is decorated with favorite Veggie Tales characters, which makes it extra fun for little kids. The devotions cover such topics as

  • Each child is special to God and created uniquely (Isaiah 33:17)
  • The necessity of obeying God (Deuteronomy 4:1)
  • God is always with us (Matthew 28:20)
  • Being thankful (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
  • God’s love is perfect (1 John 4:12)

and many more.

My son enjoyed listening to these short pieces. He loves having people read to him anyway, so I knew this book would be right up his alley. I like that he’s getting a little dose of Bible.

I highly recommend this devotional for parents (or grandparents, or aunts and uncles…) of young children. It’s a great way to instill wonderful truths in them using little bites of information that aren’t too much for them to handle.

You can buy the boy version or the girl version on Amazon for $9.99 each. The publisher has also graciously allowed me to offer a giveaway to one lucky winner in the US or Canada. To enter, just fill in the Giveaway Tools widget below. Entries will be accepted through next Friday, October 14, 2016.


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I’ve been taking ballet classes for one week now (a total of 5 classes), and it’s been a lot of fun. Tiring, but fun. There are a lot of things that come fairly naturally to me, but because I’m not as thin as I should be, a lot of things are difficult too. I find stretching and pointing my toes fairly intuitive, but doing the demi-plie (dem-ee plee-ay) and even more so the grande plie, are quite difficult for me.

Left: First Position Center: Demi Plie Right: Grande Plie

Left: First Position Center: Demi Plie Right: Grande Plie

The classes are teaching me a lot. It’s especially nice because I’m taking classes at two different studios, so I’m getting a variety of methods of instruction. I can see how this might be good or bad, but because I don’t have aspirations to become a world famous ballerina (lol), I’m totally okay with “good enough.” I’m thrilled to simply be learning the basic techniques of the art of ballet, even if I never get the opportunity to really do anything with it because of my age and current physique.

So, what have I learned? Ballet moves, obviously. Some French terminology, since ballet originated in France. And perhaps most surprising to me, that even when you’re barely moving at all doing the ballet moves, you get really hot and sweaty! It’s such a workout for the muscles that even when you move slowly, it’s definitely not an easy, low impact task. One of my classes focuses more on technique, and I sweat slightly less in that class; the other focuses on choreography, and we move all over the dance floor in that class, so by the end, I’m definitely ready for some cool air.

If you’ve ever considered learning ballet, I highly recommend it, even if you’re older and not in that great shape. It’s very rewarding. So rewarding, in fact, that we started taking the boys to the “Boys Dance and Movement” class where they learn ballet and gymnastics basics, and which is immediately followed by the Partnership class where they truly become male ballet dancers themselves, lifting and holding the ballerinas during their jumps. In just one short week, this has truly become something our whole family enjoys doing.


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Living in Historical Times (Carole P. Roman review)

This review is brought to you by Carole P. Roman and


I remember reading reviews of Carole P. Roman’s “If You Were Me and Lived in… {country name here}” series a few years ago; I’d never seen them, though. So when I heard about her new history series with the same basic title, I was intrigued. I talked to the boys about the books, and they were super interested, so we requested to be on this review. There are eight books in the historical series; we received four of them to review:

Each reviewer was given the choice of two they really wanted (I let each of the school-age boys pick one; Seahawk chose Ancient Greece and Munchkin chose American West), and then Ms. Roman sent along two “surprise” books as well. These books were a nice, easy history lesson for our first couple of weeks back to school. Each day, we read a book (or part of a book, in the case of the longer ones) and then did a related activity. For some of the related activities, we used the comprehension questions from the author’s website; for others, I came up with alternate options. But mostly, we just read them. Reading these books was how we opened our school day for about two weeks.

As the titles suggest, the books put your child right into the thick of the action of whatever era the chosen book is written about. The point of view is second person (you would do this, you would do that), which is unusual for books –  normally you see first person (I did this) or third person (Sally did that). The second person narrative made it interesting for the kids, especially since we read them aloud. Even Small Fry (4 years old) and Dragonfly (10 months old) were interested. As much as children that small can be interested, anyway.

The books give really good information about the time period about which they are about. We enjoyed reading about Ancient Greece and the Middle Ages especially. It was fun to learn about the types of names people had, what kinds of clothes they likely wore (each of the “you” characters in the books is from a well-to-do family, not a peasant family), and daily activities for children and adults. Even though the “you” character was from a higher class, there was also information about how the peasants lived, particularly in the Middle Ages book.

Of the four books we received, three (Ancient Greece, Middle Ages, and Viking Europe) shared an illustrator. These books were lovely, and the illustrations really added a lot. The layout on them was very simple, with the text in a single column on the left and the picture up the entire right side page and half of the left side page. On the pages where there was more text to fit, the picture was shortened to take up only about a third of the left page.


An example of the odd illustration style from American West

The other book we received, The American West, had good information but we didn’t care for the pictures at all. They looked like a weird conglomeration between photographs and clip art, and unfortunately I don’t think the style worked at all. In fact, it was with this book that I gave the boys a different type of “how well did you remember” activity: choose any page from the book and draw your own illustration for it, then summarize the text from that page.

Overall, we enjoyed reading these books. They were easy to read aloud (for me) and to understand (for the children). They learned a lot from them, and I think the kids are likely to read them again – at least periodically.

In addition to the four books we received to review, members of the Homeschool Review Crew also reviewing the other four books in the series as well. Click the banner below to be taken to the Crew blog post with links to those reviews. If you’re interested in more books from Carole P. Roman, you can head over to her Amazon author page, where you can easily find links to all of them. Her books are available in paperback and for Kindle.


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If You Were Me and Lived in ... {by Carole P. Roman and}


Picture of the Week: Ballet

In a casual conversation a few months ago, my husband learned something new about me: that I’d always wanted to take ballet classes as a child, but it had never worked out. He took that knowledge and found a class for adults who want to learn ballet but never have before, and I had my first session yesterday. It was really exciting, and I’m thrilled to be able to bring this childhood dream to fruition. Once I have a few more classes under my belt and I’ve learned more than just the very basic moves and stretches (and promptly forgotten most of them – that hour just flew by!), then I’ll write a proper post about my experience.

Have a great weekend!

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Discovering God in Ancient Egypt (Heirloom Audio Review)

Heirloom Audio Productions has long been a favorite of the Homeschool Review Crew, and we only recently had the privilege of listening to one of their audio dramas (Beric the Briton, earlier this year). Seahawk liked it so much that he really wanted me to request that we be chosen to review Heirloom’s newest offering, The Cat of Bubastes (boo-bass-tees). Luckily for him, we were.

The Cat of Bubastes is another of G.A. Henty’s novels; according to what I heard from other members of the Homeschool Review Crew, it’s a popular one to start with if you’re new to Henty (I’ve personally never read any of his novels – in fact, prior to the Review Crew, I’d never even heard of Henty). This one takes us back to ancient Egypt – Moses-ancient, not Cleopatra-ancient. The drama opens with the capture of Prince Amuba and his advisor, Jethro, by the Egyptians. The pair is bought by a very nice man, and each of the men is given to one of their master’s children as their personal servant. Before long, they find themselves caught up in a murderous plot that will test their loyalties. All the while, their newfound faith is being tested at every turn, pushing them to discover God’s love and providence for themselves.

I’m not going to really beat around the bush here… I find audio dramas difficult to follow. I’m very much a visual person. Seahawk, however, is an audio learner. He does really well with things like this – even in other school subjects. (I never truly processed this until right this second as I’m writing this. Thinking back to the things that have worked with him vs. not, I can really focus with him on things that will help him learn better from now on.) Because of this, he really enjoyed this drama. We would put it on for about half an hour each morning as our history lesson, and at the end of our listening time, we would do some of the questions from the study guide (more on that in a second). I really liked having the study guide; it took something that was interesting to listen to and made it more “school-like.”

In addition to a physical copy of the 2-CD set, we received several digital resources to go along with it:

  • an mp3 version of the drama, which is how we listened to it since we don’t have a CD player
  • an e-book version of Henty’s original novel (which I put on Munchkin’s Kindle for him to read later)
  • an mp3 soundtrack of the audio adventure
  • a printable poster featuring the cast
  • a PDF study & discussion guide
  • a printable inspirational verse poster featuring the cover art from the CD and 1 Chronicles 17:20
  • a behind the scenes video documentary featuring the cast and crew
  • access to the Live the Adventure letter

kimg0011As I mentioned previously, we used the study guide to help enhance our enjoyment of the audio drama. In order to do this, I printed off some Ancient Egypt pages from my membership and then read the study guide questions aloud to the boys. They then wrote the answers down on the notebooking page. I liked doing it this way rather than printing off the actual study guide because there was actually a place for them to record the answers. In the study guide itself, the questions are pretty stacked so there’s not much space for the answers if you want to keep a record of the learning from the drama. The study guide for The Cat of Bubastes is mostly questions (basic “how well were you listening?” type questions as well as “digging deeper” ones), but there are some other goodies in there as well, including vocabulary, bonus information about the time period, instructions for an ancient Egyptian game (which funny enough, my boys actually have, thanks to a Joseph-themed VBS this past summer), and even a recipe for bean cakes.

So what did we think of The Cat of Bubastes? Though I’m not really an audio person, I found Cat to be much more engaging than Beric. I found myself imaging what I was hearing much more easily than I have with other audio dramas in the past. Seahawk, of course, loved it. And Munchkin, well… he’s happy to have a new book on his Kindle to read later. 😉 Generally speaking, though, The Cat of Bubastes is another win for Heirloom Audio Productions.


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Heirloom Audio Productions ~Cat of Bubastes



Knitting Projects: October-November 2016

kimg0520As we enter the cooler months, I’m beginning to think about creating Christmas gifts. Last time I did a knitting projects update, I hadn’t quite started the sweater I was making for my dad, and I was still working on one for Munchkin. Well, I’ve since finished both of those projects – and done a few others to boot. Here’s what I’m currently working on and what I have planned but not started/purchased for yet. But first, a picture of the completed sweaters.

kimg0010The large brown one is the one I made for my dad, the dark blue one is for my 4-year-old nephew, and the light blue one with brown edges is for Dragonfly.

Now, on to upcoming projects. Currently on my needles is a sweater for my 6-year-old nephew. I followed the same basic pattern, but after making three of these sweaters already, I was ready to make it a bit more interesting for myself so I bought two different shades of green yarn and found a basic fair isle pattern. I used this one from Very Pink Knits (she has my absolute favorite knitting tutorials!), which was actually designed as a cowl (a short, circular scarf). I wasn’t making a cowl, though; I was making a sweater. Luckily, the pattern repeat matched up with the number of stitches in the sweater size I was making, so it worked out beautifully. This sweater is done except for sleeves, which go pretty quickly.

Small Fry has a special relationship with my dad, so he wanted a sweater to match “Papa.” But again, I want things to be a bit interesting for me as the knitter – especially since I’m still knitting the same pattern. So I found a yarn that has a similar brown color, but it’s variegated with white. I’m excited to see how it turns out; I think it’s going to be really pretty handsome.

When I need a break from sweater knitting, I’ve been making square cloths out of cotton yarn. At home, we’ve been using them for washcloths (for baby faces and wiping down tables and counters, mostly). They also make wonderful cloth napkins, which I love. They’ll last a lot longer than flannel squares and be a lot more cherished as well. So far, I’ve made 5 or 6 of them. My goal is to get up to about 12.

I mentioned in last week’s Random 5 post that I didn’t think I’d be able to get more sweaters made for our nieces and the remaining nephew, but I think I want to try. Kid sweaters go so quickly that it should be doable. I definitely won’t have time to do those and more adult sweaters, though, so I’m going to keep my focus on the kid sweaters. (Adult sweaters take me about 4-6 weeks; a kid sweater can be done in as little as a week or two.) I like the idea of gifting handmade items, though, so perhaps I’ll continue adding cloths to my arsenal and give each person a stack of those along with a “regular” gift.

I think all of these projects should keep me plenty busy for the foreseeable future!


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5 Random Things: September 23

  1. 5 random thingsIt seems that summer is really over. Our house has been about 65 degrees when we wake up each morning this week. It warms to about 70 inside by the end of the day, but today it’s only supposed to be in the upper 50s. This means that it’s highly unlikely the inside of the house will warm up, so we have a fire going in the fireplace so that at least one room is warm.
  2. I’ve been busily knitting sweaters for Christmas gifts (a more specific post on that is drafted for next week). So far, I have one for my dad and one for each of my nephews. I probably won’t have time to make them for everyone else (that would be four more adults and our four nieces), so we’ll have to come up with other ideas for them.
  3. Baby Dragonfly is up to size 12 month clothes, and into the last outfit from the baby shower that still fits him. We bought him a pair of jeans yesterday – the first clothes we’ve had to purchase for him ourselves.
  4. In a previous post, I lightly touched on the fact that we got Munchkin a Kindle e-reader for his birthday. Well, he absolutely loves it, just like I knew he would. I’m so glad we got it for him. He’s currently working his way through the complete (original) Wizard of Oz series; I think he’s in the 6th or 7th book.
  5. I quit biting my nails about a month ago. This is a huge thing for me – I’ve been a nail biter since I was about 7 years old (I remember the exact moment that drove me to start). I don’t like having long nails, so I’ve been clipping every week or two, but not biting. I’m so proud of myself 🙂


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Parent-Controlled Email for Kids ( review)

The world we live in today is much different from the one I grew up in. When I was the age that my kids are now, email was something very few people had. Today, even children want their own email address. But the traditional internet-based email providers are riddled with ads (among other non-kid-safe things), and we don’t want to expose our children to that. What’s a modern parent to do (besides ignore societal norms and not let your kids have all the technological things they want)? Get them an Annual Subscription from!

I’d heard of this product before, but never really felt the need to explore it very much, because as a rule, we fall into the “ignore societal norms” camp with our children. (They don’t have cell phones, computers, or tablets of their own. Munchkin only just got a Kindle for his birthday last week, and it’s strictly an e-reader with heavy parental controls. It’s literally only for books that we approve.) But when we were chosen to review for the Homeschool Review Crew, we happily started using the service in our home. is a company that provides email addresses very similar to Gmail or Yahoo or Hotmail, but for kids. There are a few things that “for kids” covers. First, it’s completely ad-free, which is important because not all of the advertisements on traditional email servers is kid-friendly. Second, parents can control everything done on the child’s account, without even having to log in to the child’s account. There’s a parent account that’s attached to the children’s accounts and you can control things from there such as

  • receiving a copy of all incoming and outgoing mail in your child’s account
  • setting specific times and/or days your child is allowed (or not allowed) to check their email – you can even “ground” your child for a set period of time if they’re in trouble
  • receiving a copy of incoming mail based on safety issues you set and approving or denying any messages before they get into your child’s inbox
  • blocking senders
  • setting a contact list for your child and allowing only messages (incoming or outgoing) only to that list
  • using the GPS tracker to know where your child is (if your child uses the mobile app)

In addition to these features from the parental controls, the child can choose certain aspects of their own to control, such as the background image and organizing their emails using folders.

Setting up the accounts was really easy. I just had to register for a parent account using my own name, email, and password. From there, I could add children’s accounts. There was a choice between a “normal” account ( or a more grown-up “teen” account ( Other than the ending of the email address, the accounts are the same (as near as I can tell). At ages 10 and 12, I gave the boys each a “kmail” address, and let them choose their own username. They chose based on their interests – Seahawk is {name)likeslegos and Munchkin is {name}likesreading. Neither of those are things I would have chosen for them, so I’m glad I talked to them before setting up their accounts. Having them choose their own username and password makes this much more their “own” thing.


You can see across the top that there are a lot of the normal email settings. The center section shows the sender’s name (which I blacked out for privacy reasons), subject, and when the message arrived.

Once they had their accounts, it was time to get some emailing done. I don’t know if you remember when your email account was new, but messages don’t automatically roll in. There’s the whole “getting the word out” thing you have to do. In order to aid in this, a few of us Homeschool Review Crew members set all of our kids up as E-Pals. I added all of those kids to my kids’ contacts list as well as myself and Will, their grandparents, and a couple of friends who had email accounts already. Since then, they’ve had lots of email each day, and they’ve really enjoyed making new friends and writing short messages back and forth. This has been a good tool in helping them with their writing skills (even though the messages are short, it helps them to remember to use complete sentences), typing (I only did their typing in the very beginning; now they do it themselves), and spelling (the spell checker has been great for Seahawk – he’s learned to spell some more complicated words just by seeing them corrected in his email).


In the “compose” window, you can see the options for sending an email. Children can import the “to” from their contacts list. The subject is non-optional (unlike some other email providers). In the message itself, there are options for changing the font, color, and size. Kids can also send attachments just like a regular email provider.

Overall, this has been a very positive experience for us. The kids enjoy their new correspondence, and I like giving them a bit more responsibility. We’ll likely continue this subscription even after it expires next summer. If you’re not sure you want to take the plunge, offers a 30 day free trial – no credit card required. If you want to continue after the trial, you can choose a monthly plan ($4.95 a month for up to 4 accounts) or the Annual Subscription ($38.95 per year for up to 6 accounts).


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 Annual Subscription
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A Novel About Prayer (The Pray-ers review)

I like to read. I especially like to read Christian fiction. So when I found out about a new novel written by Mark S. Mirza and published by CTM Publishing Atlanta called The Pray-ers / Book 1 Troubles, I immediately went to the website to find out if it was something I wanted to read and review. After reading the synopsis and watching a YouTube video of the author talking about his book, I thought it looked like an interesting book and one that I would enjoy reading and reviewing.

Members of the Homeschool Review Crew had the choice between a paperback ($23.95) or an ePub download ($4.99). I prefer to read books on my Kindle (scandalous, no? I just prefer the lighter weight of the Kindle over a book), so I chose the ePub. I was so surprised when the email arrived and it was over 1100 pages! But as I started reading, it wasn’t such a big deal; the pages were only about a third the length of a normal ebook.

About Mark S. Mirza

As the leader of a men’s ministry in Atlanta, Mr. Mirza started Common Threads ministries to teach individuals to pray. He also coaches men in starting their own prayer groups. He wanted to write a novel to help people to pray because he preferred books and novels that taught him something in the process. Even with a lot of Christian novels, that doesn’t always happen, so he decided to write his own. Because his focus is prayer (even though it’s something he admits doesn’t come easily to him), his debut novel is the first in a series that teaches Christians to pray more effectively. “If I can teach prayer through the fun of a novel, then THAT’S what I want to do,” he says on his website.

About The Pray-ers / Book 1 Troubles

the-pray-ersTroubles tells the stories of three men living in three different eras: Epaphras (from the first century), Alexander Rich (a contemporary of Dwight Moody living in post-Civil War Georgia), and Dr. Dale (modern times). Each of these men faces adversity in their prayer life and find themselves having to rely heavily on the Lord to overcome these problems. There’s a fourth point of view explored in this novel, too: that of the demons who are causing all the problems for these upstanding men of God.

The book shifts around to the different times and places, and it does it well. One chapter might focus on Epaphras, and the next on Dr. Dale. Following that, we’ll follow Alexander Rich, and after that, the demons will make an appearance, plotting their attack on Dr. Dale. (The men from the previous eras are mostly there as examples of the demons’ past attacks.) All throughout the novel, in all the different eras, with all three different men, we see how the fight the adversity caused by the demons and how their prayer life is all the better for it.

My Thoughts


A sample of the random font differences. This picture also shows how footnotes are used in the novel.

I liked this book just as much as I thought I would. When I first started reading, I was a little confused by a word: katepa. I tried using my Kindle dictionary to learn the definition, but it wasn’t there. As I kept reading, I realized that this wasn’t a normal word; it was the name of one of the demons. The lack of capitalization had confused me. Thinking about it, though, I think the author was doing a good thing in keeping demon names (including satan) in lowercase. Even though it takes some getting used to as you read, it’s important not to give those creatures the respect of a capital letter. It’s mentioned in the forward that the author chose to use lowercase letters for demon names on purpose, but with virtually no introduction, it was still tricky to realize that that’s what was happening the first time.

My other issue was with the ePub itself, and it’s possible that there was a glitch with my particular Kindle, but there were random letters, words, sometimes full lines that were in a completely mismatched font to the rest of the book.

That aside, I found this novel quite enjoyable to read (when I turned off my “copy editor’s brain,” that is – but I’m not going to go into that today). I really liked how there were footnotes to scripture references whenever Mr. Mirza wrote about a biblical concept, even if he wasn’t directly quoting the scripture. I think this book would make a really good Bible study basis for an adult or teen group. It is enjoyable to read, and the scripture references would make for a compelling unit.

If you enjoy reading Christian fiction and want to learn more about prayer while you read a novel, give The Prayers / Book 1 Troubles a chance. I don’t think you’ll regret it.


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The Pray-ers / Book 1 Troubles
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