Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Saying Goodbye to 2008

It is hard to believe this year has flown already! Is it just me or does each year go by faster and faster? Every year is a good year if it brings us closer to God (and sometimes that means a tough year:-), but this year brought our family some great things and great times!

This year, we saw the vision for Hope House come into reality. God provided all that we had need of to get the facility ready (thanks to some new friends from Tracy, CA). He brought us a wonderful director that we have confidence in to accomplish the work God has put in her heart as well as ours. He has provided for every need throughout the year - in His time!

He led us to make the move up to the Phoenix area and worked out every little detail to accomplish that move. We are very excited to be able to worship in His awesome presence every week with these folks who have become like family to us!

We have continued to grow as a family and our children have entered those teen years! Our relationships with them have grown and changed, and all for the better! God is so awesome! If we will just learn to WAIT ON HIM, He will accomplish every good work in our lives!

For the past 5 years or so, the main lesson we have been learning is to wait on Him - for everything! For His provision, for His leading, for His timing (which is NEVER the same as ours:-) and for every little thing! He knows all and sees all and is the best to decide the what, where, how and when! We serve an absolutely awesome God!

And as far as this economy goes, well He is in charge and will always take care of us. We have been excited about the low gas prices and grocery prices since stores are competing for our business. When you already live VERY frugally, the downturn in the economy hasn't had that great of an affect, except in ways that have benefited our budget:-). So look on the bright side and take advantage of those lower prices while they are here. And God will take care of us when things change again, too! He has a plan and He ALWAYS provides for His own! Trust in Him, lean on Him, look to Him and you will have a wonderful new year (no matter what the circumstances are)!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Learning through PLAY!!

The basic concept of the Puppetools site - that is learning through play - is something I believe in greatly! The founder, Jeffrey Peyton, has spent many years researching and putting together information for educators about the great advantages of learning through play. He quotes many famous philosophers and educators who stressed the importance of play in learning.

The Puppetools website is designed primarily for the classroom teacher who needs inexpensive and creative ways to bring the joy of learning through play into the classroom. He teaches the basics of the "hinge" which is what all of the puppets are built upon. There are many patterns and ideas for use in learning and teaching that could be very helpful to getting you started in using play as a learning tool.

I truly believe in using play for learning and teaching, and when my kids were little we used puppets as part of that play. Now, we lean more towards games, but the concept is the same. Children will learn and retain more when it is presented in the context of play.

And individual subscription is now available for only $20 for a full year. If your co-op or homeschool group is interested in Puppetools, you could purchase a Group Subscription and share among 30 different families for only $99 for a year. That comes out to only a little over $3.00 per family!!

Whatever your method for including play as a learning and teaching tool, please make sure to incorporate it in your daily teaching to enhance your child's ability to learn and retain the material!! And take a moment to check out Puppetools to see if this may be the way to get you started.


Ok, I am not a big proponent of online education, but this program may be the exception. ALEKS math is not just an online math program. At the heart of ALEKS is an artificial intelligence engine that assesses each student individually and continuously. It avoids multiple choice questions, thereby being more able to assess the student's abilities and challenges. ALEKS offers K-12 grade learning in all the applicable math subjects.

After taking the assessment, each child is given a pie chart showing what areas they need work and how much. Then the student can choose which area of math to work on until they fill up that section of the pie chart completely. They can move freely from topic to topic, thus keeping them from getting bored with one area of math. Also, if they are struggling in one area, they can switch to something they are more comfortable with for awhile.

My children actually like this program, and I sat with them as they worked and was very impressed with the quality of the material. We had a few technical challenges since we are using MACs, but quickly overcame them so that the kids could both work at the same time on different computers. My son loved the fact that it allowed him to use the calculator for long problems, as long as he understood the process and steps taken to figure out the problem. My daughter enjoyed the Geometry sections since she has not done much of this yet in her regular math program.

Here is some more information that I think will be helpful to you from their website:

"To ensure that topics learned are retained in long term memory, ALEKS periodically reassesses the student, using the results to adjust the student's knowledge of the course. Because students are forced to show mastery through mixed question assessments that cannot be predicted, mastery of the ALEKS course means true mastery of the course."

How is ALEKS different from other online learning programs?

  • Uses artificial intelligence to target gaps in student knowledge
  • Provides a cycle of assessment and learning
  • Assesses and instructs with standards-based content
  • Remediates gaps in student preparation
  • Adapts to student needs with individualized instruction
  • Presents only topics the student is ready to learn
  • Provides clear explanations and feedback
  • Monitors learning progress with automated reports
  • Allows students to toggle between English and Spanish
  • Offers unlimited online access from any computer
  • Requires no minimum purchase -- Buy as few or as many subscriptions as needed!
  • Allows you to save unused subscriptions
I encourage you to check out ALEKS for yourself and see if this might be a helpful math program for your children. They have a free trial so you can actually see what it is like.

A subscription to ALEKS is

  • $19.95 per student, per month, or

  • only $99.95 every 6 months, or

  • only $179.95 every 12 months.
They also have a family discount program so that you can get discounts for multiple students.

Time 4 Learning - Online Education

Time 4 Learning is an automated online learning system with K-8th grade material that can be used by homeschoolers. The majority of their program is Language Arts and Math, but it also has some Science and Social Studies for some grades. This program is completely online and the student would do all their schooling on the computer. For me, this is a negative since I strictly limit my childrens' time on the computer and would definitely not want them to do all their schooling online. However, I know that this is not the case for many families. So, with this in mind, I will share what Time 4 Learning has to offer.

For children who love to work on the computer and interact online, Time 4 Learning may be a great incentive to do their schoolwork. The lessons are animated and colorful, although my children thought them a little goofy. Children get to work at their own pace and can repeat lessons whenever desired. There are reports for the parents to check progress, as well as complete lesson plans.

This is a secular program, so evolution is taught and some of the humor may be a little questionable depending on your family:-). Personally, I would not choose an online curriculum. However, if you would like something to supplement what you are teaching, or an educational option for your kids when they have time on the computer, you may want to check out Time 4 Learning. It costs $19.95 per month for the first child, and $14.95 for the second. They offer a risk-free 14 day trial that may be perfect for you to see exactly what Time 4 Learning has to offer.

All About Spelling

For starters, I want to let you know that I have tried several spelling programs, made my own, used those included in my unit studies and used none. I don't believe in using a formal spelling program until around 3rd or 4th grade, when your child can write well. Up until that time, I believe they learn alot of spelling just from reading.

Ok, with this explanation given in advance, I want to tell you how impressed I have been with All About Spelling! This program is set up in such a way as to not be tedious for the child that is not yet comfortable with a lot of writing. It is creatively put together so as to teach spelling without a bunch of repetition and copy work. There are games to make it fun and smaller children can use magnetic letter tiles to spell words rather than always writing them out.

Since my children are older, we quickly reviewed through Levels 1-3 and began working on Level 4. In the first several lessons, there were spelling rules that I had never heard of!! And I am an excellent speller (spelling bee winner and all that:-)! There was some prep work of cutting that they have eliminated by making the cards perforated - so that is a HUGE plus! You have word cards that you can use to keep track of words that your child still needs to work on, as well as Phonogram Cards with all the sounds so you can keep reviewing and keep track of what your child has mastered. All About Spelling brings together the three pathways to learning - auditory, visual and kinesthetic. There is a built-in review system and reinforcement activities to ensure that students retain what they learn and how to apply it in practical situations.

And this program is very reasonably priced! They range between $29.95 and $39.95 for a full year set, which includes the Teacher's Manual, as well as the Student Material Packet. You will need a Student Material Packet for each child to keep track of their progress, but these are only $12.95 - $17.95 each. You will also need to purchase a set of Letter Tiles ($9.95) and their Magnets ($5.95) one time to use with all of your children. The last spelling program I purchased was almost $100!! So this is very reasonable!

They have sample lessons on their website so you can see how it is laid out. Each lesson is very short and simple so spelling won't take a lot of your time each day. And because of the multi-sensory approach, it is much more appealing to all types of students. All in all, I am very impressed with this spelling program and will be continuing to use it with my kids! If you are not thrilled with your current spelling program, I challenge you to check out All About Spelling and see if it isn't just the fit for you!

A Little Grocery Shopping Help in Phoenix, AZ Area

If you are in the Phoenix, AZ area, this might be of help to you in your weekly shopping. For those of you who are too busy to peruse the sales ads and find out what is on special (and truly a good price:-), I am going to make a quick list each week (maybe twice since ads come out at different times) and post it here, as well as send it directly to those who wish to receive it in their email.

So, for the week of December 29, 2008, here are the best buys that I have found:

BEST DEAL: Skinless, boneless chicken breasts - $1.67/lb at Albertsons
Ranchers Reserve Beef Chuck 7-Bone Pot Roast $1.27/lb at Safeway

2 lb baby carrots 2 for $4.00
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts $1.67/lb
Farmer John Refrigerated Maple Bacon Sliced (16 oz) $1.77
Challenge Unsalted or Regular Butter (16 oz) 2/$6.00
Milk $1.88/gallon

Chicken Thighs and Legs $0.99/lb
93% lean Ground Beef in 2 lb Chub $1.88/lb
Dole Salad (in a 1lb bag) 10/$10
2 liter Pepsi products $0.88
1 lb bag of baby carrots 10/$10

2 liter Coke products $0.77
Roma tomatoes $0.88/lb

Safeway skinless, boneless chicken breasts $1.77lb
93% lean ground beef $1.77/lb
Avocados Hass (1 lb) $0.48/lb
Smithfield Bacon (16 oz) Thick Sliced, Hickory Smoked 2 for $2.96
Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ Sauce (18 oz) Hickory/Brown Sugar 2 for $3.19
Ranchers Reserve Beef Chuck 7-Bone Pot Roast $1.27/lb

Peppers Bell, Field Grown Red,Green, Yellow (1 lb) $0.77/lb
Peppers (Capsicums) Banana (Yellow Long) (1 lb) $0.77/lb
Lettuce Red or Green Leaf (1.00 ea) $0.77/lb
Chicken Thighs, boneless / skinless (1.00 lb) $1.69/lb
Pears Bartlett (1.00 lb) $0.88/lb
Grapes Red Globe (1 lb) $0.88/lb
Grapes Blue/Black Seedless (1 lb) $0.88/lb
Apples Fuji (1 lb) $0.88/lb
Apples Braeburn (1 lb) $0.88/lb

Food City usually has the best produce prices, so check there. Their ad is not out yet. And don’t forget 99 Cents Store for produce – they have great prices, too!

You will notice not much processed-type foods on this list. That is because I seldom buy them so am not an expert on what is a good price. Don't forget that WalMart price matches, just make sure it is the same brand. I have found that the cashiers usually keep the sales ads from all the competitors handy to look up prices, so you just need to mention them (from this list even) to get the better price.

If you would like to receive this in an email each week, simply comment on this post leaving your email address and I will add you to my weekly distribution list.

Hope this is helpful for some of you out there! Happy grocery shopping!

Monday, December 22, 2008

What Are You Baking for Christmas?

I began my baking today for Christmas - finally! Life has been a little busy with moving and all, but I am beginning to get settled in and today I began my baking.

First, I made 3 batches of peanut brittle. This was my first time to do it by myself and it turned out great! And I even taught my daughter how to make it.

Then, I had to go and do all my shopping to get all the ingredients for baking and Christmas Eve and Day meals. Then I made 2 Key Lime Pies from the original recipe my mom got from the guy who invented it in Key West, FL. This is such a simple recipe, but SO yummy!

There are only 4 ingredients:
5 egg yolks
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup of key lime juice (I squeeze my own from Mexican limes - the small ones)
1 graham cracker pie shell

Mix the first three ingredients together and pour into the pie shell. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes and you are done!! Top with some freshly whipped cream and you have a winner dessert for any occasion!

Tomorrow I will be baking pumpkin pies and pumpkin roll, as well as pumpkin dinner rolls. Then we will be making snickerdoodles and peanut butter M&M cookies. That will be all for us!

How about you? What are you baking (or have you baked) for Christmas? Care to share a recipe or two?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Did You Know There Was A Little Man in the Map?

Well, I learned something new when I read this delightful book with my children - there is a little man right in the middle of the United States map and he can help you learn all 50 states!

The Little Man in the Map is a delightful and beautiful hardbound book from Schoolside Press that will help your children (and you) learn your U.S. geography. The author is very imaginative in creating clues that will help you to remember the location of all 50 states.

After reading this book, my children said to me, "But the states don't really look like a man." So I took them to another map and showed them that indeed, there is a Little Man in the Map!! They were really shocked! They thought the author changed the shape of the states to make it work, but the states do really look like that! So even though my children thought the book a little corny (they are 12yo and 14yo), they did learn the placement of all 50 states in just a short time through the clues and rhymes in the book.

If you would like a delightful addition to your U.S. geography studies that will also help you to remember the states, The Little Man in the Map is the ideal book for you! There are also free coloring pages you can download from their website, as well as a wall map to aid your children in learning the states. And this beautiful book is only $19.95 and would make a great addition to any home or school library.

Make Multiplication Fun!!

Times Tales is the answer to all your children's struggles with learning their times tables!! I was very skeptical when I first purchased this product several years ago, but after only 30 minutes, I was a believer!! My daughter had struggled so much with trying to memorize her times tables without much success. And after only a few minutes with this story-like program, she only needs a very slight memory prompt in order to remember any of the upper, more difficult times tables. It took so much stress out of our lives and in such a short period of time!!

And when I received the newer version, I found that it also included the more difficult lower multiplication facts ( like 4x6 and 4x8) which my daughter was still struggling with. In minutes, she solved that dilemma forever! I cannot speak highly enough about this simple, yet amazing, method.

I also had the pleasure of checking out the Clean n Flip charts from Trigger Memory Systems: Zone Cleaning for kids, Laundry for kids, and Bedroom Cleaning for kids. Boy, do I wish I had bought these a few years ago - we would have foregone so much aggravation and stress over cleaning up! These charts are laminated and simply designed for ease of use for your kiddos. They are a fantastic way to help your kids learn to be responsible and they can work through the steps on their own without needing Mom to oversee. I am very impressed with these wonderful products. Go to their website and check them out - I promise you won't be disappointed!

Great Old Books for a New Generation

Salem Ridge Press is a publishing company, established in November, 2005, dedicated to bringing back quality children’s books of the 1800’s and early 1900’s for a new generation of readers. They strive to republish books that are well-written, interesting and wholesome. I had the distinct pleasure of checking out several of their books and was very impressed with the quality of the books that they are republishing.

I had the pleasure of reading Glaucia, the Greek Slave and was very pleased with the quality of the story. It is a wonderful story about a slave girl in the first Century who learns about Jesus. It gives a tremendous amount of history and culture of the time in Greece and Italy. This would be a tremendous supplement to any Ancient Greece study!

My daughter read Mary Jane, her Book and was delighted with the simple story. It reminded her a little of the Junie B. Jones books which she thoroughly enjoyed.

I would highly recommend any of the books that Salem Ridge Press has republished, as well as anything they will be republishing in the future since they are a company founded on Godly principles by a homeschool graduate. The
underlying philosophy of Salem Ridge Press is found in the Bible: "Whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things (Philippians 4:8)." Daniel firmly believes that what we read matters and what we take into our minds is a major factor in forming our ideas and character. His goal is to be a blessing to others by providing reading material that fits the qualifications outlined in the Bible. While not every title that Salem Ridge Press publishes is explicitly Christian, all of our titles have strong moral values and encourage positive character.

You can feel safe in letting your children read any of these books since they are carefully screened and edited where necessary to protect your child's purity. I will definitely be looking to Salem Ridge Press for more good family reads as we continue our literature-based unit studies.

Monday, December 15, 2008

New To Homeschooling? Here Is The Ideal Way To Get Started...

If you are new to homeschooling or even just beginning the process of deciding to homeschool your children, this is the perfect way to get started - Homeschooling ABCs! Terri Johnson of Knowledge Quest, Inc. will guide you each step of the way to make your first year of homeschooling a wonderful experience you will want to continue for many years! She has put together a series of weekly email newsletters that will take you by the hand and introduce you to all the different facets of homeschooling, from curriculum choices to socialization, and everything in between.

Homeschooling ABCs consists of 26 weekly lessons (one arriving every 7 days) that will gently guide you through preparing to homeschool your children, what does homeschooling really mean on a daily basis, choosing curriculum, networking with other families and much, much more! Her approach is so similar to mine when I am teaching my Homeschooling 101 workshop, so I can wholeheartedly recommend this to any new homeschoolers! In fact, I think this should be mandatory for all those contemplating or beginning to homeschool:-). It would help alleviate so many fears and worries of those new to the whole world of homeschooling.

And the price for Homeschooling ABCs is so reasonable, I don't know why anyone would turn it down! The cost is $10 per month for the 6 month duration for a total of $60! And you also receive tons of extras like curriculum samples and other products along the way that are worth over $250!! She includes links to many products and/or books that would be helpful to the new homeschooler, as well as a myriad of tips and ideas to make your first year great!

It has been a joy to receive these weekly newsletters and walk the path just like I was a new homeschooler in order to experience it just like a subscriber would! It has brought me back to the basics in my homeschooling. Even after 10 years of homeschooling, it is important to get back to the basics and not get caught up in what everyone else is doing. I have truly appreciated Terri's approach and thoroughness in covering so many different aspects that are important to the new homeschoolers.

If you are new to homeschooling, just contemplating the idea, or have been homeschooling a little while but have begun to get frustrated or overwhelmed, Homeschooling ABCs may be just what you need to help you along the way and help you experience the joy and excitement of homeschooling your children.

Terri Johnson is also offering a free 5-day mini class called

5 Ways to Know That You Are on the Right Track!

This would be a good way to try out what she has to offer and see if Homeschooling ABCs is right for you!

The Best Christmas Story I Have Read in a Long Time!

This morning we finished reading Cootie McKay's Nativity by Todd Wilson and I could hardly finish reading it for crying! It is the most precious and wonderful Christmas story I have read in a very long time. I received this book, along with book 2 of The Familyman's Christmas Treasury (Captain Chaos and the Manger Blaster!) and To Bethlehem - a Christmas Game for the Entire Family. I have been SO impressed with these wonderful products by The Familyman - Todd Wilson. I learned of these products through a weekly email newsletter that I get called The Homeschool Minute. Todd is one of the weekly contributors and has mentioned his game and books, so I just had to check them out. We love to play games, so I was really interested in a game about Christmas.To Bethlehem is so much fun to play and the more players the merrier! It is simple enough for little ones to participate, but fun for anyone at any age. There are silly things and questions that make you really think about the true meaning of Christmas. You use shekels (gold plastic coins) for money and there are times you have to pay fees or other players. You may have to sit on someone else's lap or wear your socks on your hands, but I guarantee that you will have fun and make some treasured memories along the way!

Then we began reading Cootie McKay's Nativity after breakfast together as a family. Wow, what an incredible reminder about the real reason we celebrate Christmas - and I'm not talking about Jesus being born! I don't want to spoil the ending, but we wouldn't be celebrating His birth if He wasn't alive now!! I cried through the last several pages with joy at this wonderful story (it is bringing tears to my eyes just remembering it:-). I can't wait to read Captain Chaos - I think we will start it tomorrow morning.

Todd is an excellent writer and brings the characters to life through his words. My family got a kick out of me reading Cootie's accent! He has a wonderful heart for fathers and families and I am going to have to check out more of his products after seeing how wonderful these are! I hope there are more Christmas Treasury stories in the works!

If you want to make some precious Christmas memories this year, hurry and order To Bethlehem and the 2 Familyman's Christmas Treasury books! I bet they can still get them to you in time if you hurry! You and your family will truly be blessed!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Teach Art From A Christian Perspective with Spears Art Studio

I am very arts/crafts oriented and LOVE to do all kinds of projects. However, we have never really used an art curriculum and was very interested in the Spears Art Studio curriculum when it arrived. I received the K-8th grade curriculum and have been so very impressed with how inclusive it is. There are fantastic themes and projects for every month of the year, and there are separate art projects for each grade K through 8!

The format of
Spears Art Studio K-8 Christian Art Curriculum, A Teacher's Manual© 2008 consists of a main theme (seasonal and holiday recognition included) for each instructional week of the school year, with one or more activities for each grade level based on that main theme, addressing art elements, art principles, design elements, etc.
• expanded Scripture integration
• color format and color illustrations (on CD-Rom in PDF)
• fuller development of themes
• Scripture connections

• core curriculum connections
• 269 art activities (many new and revised)
• 137 patterns and posters
• 498 instructional pages
• analyzed for National Visual Art Standards and TEKS

(Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills)

This art curriculum
supports the grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric stages of Classical education, but is an incredible art program for any style of homeschooling. And for what you get on one CD, it is VERY reasonable priced. The complete curriculum for K-8 is only $39.95 with shipping included. This includes all of the templates for projects, as well as all the teaching materials! If you want to buy the printed copy, you can get a black and white copy in a binder, as well as the full color CD rom, for $134.95. That comes out to about $14.99 per grade year! How reasonable is that!

They also have a high school curriculum which I am sure is fantastic based on what I have seen of the excellence with which Diana Spears has put together the K-8 program. The prices for the High School Art Survey program is only $29.95 for the CD rom, $69.95 for the hard copy in a binder, or a combo of both for only $84.95.

There are sample pages and lesson plans available on their website so you can check it out and see how excellent this program is for teaching art to your children at all levels. Take a minute and check it out today - I promise you won't be disappointed if you are interested in quality art education for your family.

Back in the U.S.A.!!!!

It is so WONDERFUL to be living back in the United States! We have lived in Mexico for the past 5 1/2 years and just moved back stateside a week ago. I just want to share how many little things we are so excited about! First of all, we have hot water any time and enough water pressure to turn on more than one faucet at a time! We have grass in our yard and a driveway and carport! Wow, what luxuries after so many years without these little things I bet you all take for granted:-).

And we get our mail right at our house and every day!!! We used to make a trip once a week to get mail. Our cell phones work all the time (not just intermittently when we got a US signal:-) and I can just run to the store for something without it being an all day trip! We can just jump in the car and be at friends' houses in minutes - don't have to wait for an hour in line just to cross the border! It only takes 10 minutes to get to church to worship - in English - with other believers! I can't even express adequately how thrilled I am each and every day to be able to do all these mundane every day things that most folks just take for granted!

I received a pile of grocery store ads on Wednesday - at my house!!! - and was able to go through and find the best deals and plan our meals around the best specials with one short trip to 5 DIFFERENT grocery stores!!! And they were all within a few minutes of our house!! We have 2 large shopping plaza/malls within 3 miles of our home, as well as a big mall about 4 miles away. There are so many things to do for Christmas that we are truly overwhelmed! Because traffic was so much worse during the month of December crossing the border, we would only get to do ONE thing for Christmas and now we have SO MANY OPTIONS!!!

Please take from this little bit of rejoicing on my part a new sense of all the many blessings and conveniences that God has surrounded you with! I hope for each and every one of you reading this that you will look at things a little more gratefully and realize that there are MANY blessings unique to living where you do and lift up your hearts in thanksgiving to God for all that you have.

I am bubbling over with joy every day as my children, husband and I enjoy the blessings of living here in Arizona in a wonderful home, community and country! I am enjoying every moment of this holiday season, giving thanks for every little thing that I am rediscovering, and I pray daily that I will always hold these things dear and appreciate all these little things that make life such fun! I don't want to take these things for granted every again, even as I get used to them again. I pray God will keep me in this place of thankfulness and joy through all the things He has planned for me. What an awesome God we serve!

Enjoy today and all the little joys it brings you!!!

Rime to Read

Although my children are older now, I wish I would have had this resource available when they were just learning to read. Rime to Read is a virtual program for beginning readers, and it reminds me a little of the Bob Books. However, what I REALLY like about these books is that the characters look like real little kids! My son just couldn't get over the fact that the Bob books had characters with triangle and other shaped heads!LOL

When my children, particularly my son, was beginning to learn to read, it would have been very beneficial to have little books like Rime to Read for him to read so that he could feel like he was accomplishing something. His greatest desire was to actually read a book, but it took a long time before he knew enough sounds to even read a simple reader. So I really feel these little learning booklets would be a great resource for your little ones just beginning to learn their sounds. And you can actually use these books to teach your children to read! The books are organized by rimes (words that look and sound alike, i.e. hat, sat, mat, pat, etc.) and you can purchase all 20 of them or just a vowel set f 4 books. Their prices are very reasonable ($44.99 for all 20, or $9.99 for a vowel set of 4 books) and you can try the first book for free at their website to see if this is something that can help you teach your child to read.

Here is what their site says about the program:
  • Rime to Read is a beginning reading program comprised of 20 short books.

  • The program is carefully structured to ensure success for the youngest readers as well as students needing remedial work.

  • Each of the twenty books, four per short vowel, highlights a specific rime or word family (e.g., bat, cat, rat). Each rime is color-coded throughout the series with a different color.

  • The color-coding of each rime encourages students to use visual similarities and differences to decode,a strategy employed by successful readers.

  • The color-coding also helps students develop phonological awareness by providing cues for sound discrimination and categorization.

  • Thirty-five common sight words are introduced and previewed the first five times they appear. Sight words are distinguished by black type.

So if you have little beginning readers in your family, take a moment to check out this great resource that will help those early readers feel a sense of accomplishment when they can read a whole book!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Great Book Series for Middle Schoolers

I have just finished reading a very interesting book written by a home schooled high schooler! It is the first book in The Truth Seekers Mystery Series called "The Missing Link: FOUND". I began reading this book aloud with my 12yo and 14yo, but due to time and us moving this next week, I wanted to finish it in order to share about it with all of you before the Christmas holiday shopping is all done, because this would be a great gift!

First, I want you to know I really did enjoy this book, and look forward to reading the others. I think it is really cool that a 14 year old homeschooler, Christina Gerwitz, took this on, along with the help of her mother, Felice, and has accomplished such a daunting task as writing a mystery novel, let alone a whole series! Truth be told, there are times when you can tell that it is written by a "non-professional" writer, but that actually added to the novelty of the book. I am sure that her writing skills improve with each book of the series as she matured and learned more about writing. I am looking forward to seeing the growth along the way.

Another very interesting aspect to this book is the large amount of scientific information offered about Creation vs. Evolution. This author did a lot of research and provides many details that my children and I were not aware of regarding paleoanthropological research concerning Creation Science (obviously, there is a scientist in this family!)

The main characters are a homeschooling family, the Murphys, whose oldest two children are teenagers and accompany their father on a archeological dig. There is quite a bit of drama and suspense along the way as they work to solve a mystery surrounding "the missing link". I believe this series would best be suited to middle schoolers who love mystery and adventure books. Both boys and girls would like this series and it is also a fun read-aloud for the whole family. There are many interesting discussion topics raised as they learn about the theory of evolution and the missing link "myths" that have been manufactured over the years.

Felice and Jeff Gerwitz are owners of Media Angels, which is a publishing company dedicated to providing quality materials for parents and children. Media Angels publishes study guides on the topic of Creation Science and has accompanying activity packs. You need to visit their website and check out the great products they have. Felice's newest venture is Scholar Square where she hopes to encourage moms and dads to produce teaching videos for the home education and Christian world.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Since we are in the middle of packing up our belongings to make the move to Phoenix, I will not be able to make very many posts over the next two weeks. I just wanted to let you know the reason there won't be much activity here (and hasn't been the last couple weeks:-). In December, once we get settled, I intend to share lots of frugal ideas, holiday recipes, homeschool product reviews and more with you all. I may get a few things posted during this time, but not sure. So check back in December and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!!

Hope House Update

It has been a while since we have sent out a newsletter, and we wanted to take this opportunity to bring you up to date on what has been happening here in Mexico.

A few weeks ago, we had an official opening of Hope House with a dedication and time of prayer and fellowship at the house. It was a very nice time and there were about 35-40 folks there from the church of our director, Maria Meza. Many of these women are helping out and working at Hope House and have provided many things for our resident family. Maria and her husband, Pastor Mariano, have been blessed and excited to see the fruition of their vision to minister to and help single moms and teen girls. They have taken on this project with all their hearts and energy, even though they were already busy pastoring their congregation and feeding about 100 children each morning Monday through Friday at a local school.

I would like to introduce you to our current resident family. The mom is Diana and she is 20 years old. She has two sons - Arturo who is almost 2 years old, and another baby boy (no name yet) who is about 3 months old. She came to Hope House from a very violent situation and is very timid. She has been hurt a lot and hasn't learned things we take for granted like basic personal hygiene for her and her children. The wonderful ladies at Hope House have been encouraging her and demonstrating proper care for her children, assuring that she feels safe and is learning and growing during her stay there.

Ricardo and the guys at Eliacim (men's rehab center) are doing well. We hope to get some blankets to give to them real soon since it is starting to get a little chilly here at night. We are hoping to begin supporting them financially on a regular basis real soon.Back in the summer, we felt God was releasing us from living in Mexico and bringing about a new season in our lives. After seeking His direction and discussing what He had laid on our hearts, we made the decision to move to the Phoenix area. Well, the time has come and we are making that move the beginning of December. Now that Hope House is up and running, we are only needed for oversight, direction and funding. We will be making monthly trips down here to do just that, as well as trouble shoot any issues that arise. We are hoping to be able to spend some time in the next year fundraising for Hope House in order to get a regular budget established that will cover all the costs as well as be able to pay some of the staff salaries. Right now, everyone is working there voluntarily!

We will also be working with Freedom Gate International Missions with Rick and Susan Bennett in Phoenix, helping in whatever ways we can be of assistance to them at their mission base. We will also be able to offer our assistance in outreaches to the Latino community in the Phoenix area, as well as begin to build relationships in other border towns where we can establish Hope Houses in the future.

We, as a family, are really looking forward to being part of Freedom Gate Church and participating in many areas of their ministry. We have lived in Mexico for the last 5 1/2 years, and the things we missed the most were being part of a vibrant church family and being able to host friends and family at our home on a regular basis. We also felt a great burden for our children. They have sacrificed many things during our time in Mexico, and we feel it is time for them to live in the states and have some of the opportunities that they have missed out on these past 5 1/2 years. They are entering their teen years, and being part of a great church family is very important to us for them.

Last weekend, God led us to a great house to rent in northwest Mesa and Joe is going to be able to transfer to Phoenix with WalMart, thus giving a continuity of income for our family. Then, when we get settled, he will find a better job with more income and consistent hours. Joe has worked at WalMart since January, riding his bicycle 6 miles each way to work in order to free up more monies to support Hope House as it was getting established. His hours have been inconvenient and he has had to work most weekends, but God has provided.

Please keep us in your prayers as we make this move. We are trusting that God will provide all that we have need of and more! He has opened all the doors and provided all that we have needed over the past 5 1/2 years. He has taught us, more than anything, to wait on Him and see His hand at work. And He is in the process of working out all the details for us in this move.

As we approach this holiday season, we are overflowing with thankfulness to Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, for always keeping us, providing for us, loving us and growing us! He is truly awesome!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

An Internet Resource for Teachers, Parents and Students

Help Me To Teach is a subscription-based internet directory of online educational resources designed to aid teachers, parents and students with searching for appropriate and safe websites. In just the few weeks that I have had access to this site, it has grown and increased its number of links tremendously! Elaine, the creator of this site, has over 40 years of teaching experience and has spent a tremendous amount of time finding, checking out and adding these links to her site. She has taken time to find sites that are safe for children to search, as well as a tremendous amount of lesson plan and unit study links to aid in teaching, whether in the classroom or at home. And there are currently over 2,300 safe educational links ranging from PreK through High School. There is a brief description for each link to help you decide if it is what you are looking for, as well as coding for age appropriateness so you can eliminate those not suited for your children.

For those of you who do not like to spend a lot of time searching the internet or weeding through thousands of sites, this would be a great resource and time-saver. It is also pretty reasonably prices, since it is $29.95 for a year and right now you get a second year for free! That is less than $15 per year for a helpful and growing resource for your homeschooling! There are also shorter subscriptions, as well as a 3-day trial for $4.95, so you can check it out for yourself to see if it would be a benefit to you.

Occasionally, I would search for something that did not bring many or any results, but those topics are also more difficult to find links to in Goodsearch. I looked up many things for our upcoming U.S. History study and found many lesson plan pages and unit studies, as well as links for online adventures, state study, etc.

If you would like to save time finding resources for your homeschooling, or like to use all online resources for your curriculum, you will find this a helpful and inexpensive resource.

Black Friday Specials...a Little Advance Notice

The other day when reading The Happy Housewife, I learned about two different websites that will be posting details on Black Friday specials ahead of time. Now, you have to know that I am really a newbie when it comes to shopping on Black Friday, but last year I took my 74 year old great aunt out for a morning of "fun" (i.e. standing in lines:-). It was her first time ever, as well as mine. But the incentive was a Sony camera for my hubby for a Christmas present and I only paid 1/2 of the normal price. To me, that was worth a few hours in line (and the rest of the day dead to the world:-). I found out that I don't do well on 3 hours of sleep, especially at 4:30am!!

However, both of my children want electronics this year, so I have already started keeping my eyes open for sale where I could afford to get them what they want. I am hoping for both at one store - much easier to do first thing in the morning. Also, add to that the fact that I have to cross the border into the U.S., either the evening before and camp out, or VERY early in the am.

You better believe I will be checking out and Black Friday 2008!

They will be posting the ads as soon as they get them. They both already have some of them online like Lowes and KMart.

So, do you shop on Black Friday? Is this a tradition? And have you found it is worth the hassle? I would love to hear your experiences and ideas!

Homeschool Library Builder...Fill Your Bookshelves without Emptying Your Wallet!

I really think their slogan says it all, "Fill Your Bookshelves without Emptying Your Wallet." This is a great resource for homeschooling families! The Homeschool Library Builder is a Christian family-run book business dedicated to providing great literature at affordable prices.

"We stock new and used, hardcover and softcover titles. Most of our new titles are publisher’s remainders and overstocks. Our used books are rated by condition and priced accordingly. Most of our used titles are in very good or better condition. Additionally, we are always on the lookout for hard-to-find or out-of-print titles."

They offer a FREE membership which entitles you to emails notifying you of upcoming sales and specials (they had a Bargain Bin sale a few weeks back with $1 and $2 books!), an account where your purchases earn you points that go toward future purchases, and an opportunity to earn more points when you refer your friends.

If you are using a curriculum that is literature-based, they have a search feature that includes such curricula as Sonlight, Tapestry of Grace, Beautiful Feet, Five In A Row, and much more. They even offer fundraising opportunities for your group by giving 20% of the proceeds during the designated time on the orders placed by members of your group.

I have found this store to be an excellent resource for our literature-based unit study (Learning Adventures) even though they don't have this curriculum as one of their special searches. Their prices are great and they have an excellent selection of "good" books (vs. "twaddle":-). They also have many out-of-print and rare books that I have had difficulty finding elsewhere.

Take some time to check out this website/store and see if they have some of those books you have had a hard time finding elsewhere. And I am sure the prices will be pleasing to you, too!

Recycle Old Electronics and Earn Gift Cards

Thanks to Money Saving Mom, I learned that Sam's Club has a recycling program for computers and other electronics where they will give you gift cards in exchange for your old computers. What a great incentive to recycle and also to make a little spending cash for the holidays!

They take LCD Monitors, Notebook PCs, MP3 Players, Camcorders, Desktop PCs, Printers, Game Systems and Digital Cameras. If you have one of these (or more) lying around, check it out and maybe it will be worth your while to recycle and receive a gift card.

Costco has the same type of program, so you can also check that out to compare or if you don't have a Sam's near you.

Also, has a program through FlipSwap where you can trade in old cell phones or iPods for gift cards - and they pay the shipping!

I am looking around the house to see what old electronics we have to recycle. Let me know if you try this and how it works for you.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Kinderbach - Piano for Your Little Ones

I have had the opportunity to spend some time looking over this online program for teaching 2-7 year olds music foundations and to play the piano. First, let me say that I am a pianist and have taught piano lessons from time to time, so I know a little about this subject and was a little skeptical of an online, web-based program to teach piano. However, after spending some time engaging in several Kinderbach lessons, and browsing through the whole first half of this program, I am convinced this is an extremely delightful and effective method for teaching very young children to play the piano.

Here is what Karri Gregor, creator and founder of Kinderbach, has to say about this program:

KinderBach is piano lessons for 2-7 year olds taught by DVDs, Activity Books, and CDs. Children learn the notes on the piano and staff by characters rather than letters. I have taught hundreds of students, and I know that your child does NOT have to be able to read to learn piano.

KinderBach not only teaches piano, but other factors of music. Music theory, note reading, rhythm, ear training, hand position and much much more!

KinderBach was designed to give your child the over all music foundation. Your child can take everything they have learned from KinderBach and apply it to another instrument or continue further with piano. KinderBach was designed to be a spring board, taking this information and just going to endless bounds with what they have learned!

My children at too old to be interested in Kinderbach, so I had to look at it from the perspective of how I think my children would have liked it when they were little, as well as from a teacher's perspective. I was one of those teachers who required children to read before beginning piano lessons, but I can clearly see that if you engage children in a different way than "traditional" piano instruction, it is very possible to teach them at a much younger age. Both of my children are very musical, but it came about more through listening and desire, than through my instruction (it is difficult to teach your own children a musical instrument:-).

As a homeschool family, I can see that Kinderbach would be a TREMENDOUS asset and addition to the very early education of our children. I believe they learn SO much more than just music, since they are following instructions, learning colors, and so much more. There are wonderful activity pages that go along with most lessons. And it is so much FUN for the little ones! I can imagine it would be difficult to limit them to just one session per day.

If you choose to use the online Learning Center with over 300 sessions included as well as PDF files for the printout activity pages, it will cost you $14.95 per month, billed monthly. That is a HUGE savings over paying a piano teacher about $60 per month (an average rate of $15/hour for 4 lessons each month). And if you choose to pay all of it up front, you can save over 50% of that. It is just $85.95!!! That is 60 weeks of lessons - about 2 years of instruction for just a little more than one month paid to a piano teacher! And don't forget the extra games, songs and coloring pages that are available, too! Ok, that savings is definitely worth it and this program is really great for 2-7 year olds. There is also a choice to purchases DVDs, CDs, and songbooks so that you don't have to use this on the internet, but that is a little more expensive.

Take advantage of their free trial of the first two lessons (weeks) and check it out for yourself. If you have children from 2-7 years old, I believe you will be truly delighted with this product, as will your children. And they will learn in such a fun and engaging setting!

A New Favorite Saying

For many years, my favorite saying and life motto was:
That which does not kill us makes us stronger.

This was quoted in the beginning of the Conan the Barbarian movie that I saw way back in the 80s!

Well, last night I heard a new saying that I really liked - and it was quoted in Kung Fu Panda (funny how movies seem to be where I get inspiration for life:-).

Here is my new favorite saying:

Yesterday is history,
Tomorrow is a mystery,
But today is a gift
And that is why it's called the Present.

How cool is that? I really like that and think it would be really great to remember and apply to my life.

I would LOVE to hear some of your favorite sayings. Share them here.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Review: A Great Nativity Play Set

I recently received this 17 piece Nativity Play Set from One2Believe. Their description is as follows:
Children can make this story come to life with our interactive “Nativity” play set, featuring everything you need to help your child learn about this fascinating Tale of Glory. Set includes a “Birth of Baby Jesus” mini-storybook and 17 PVC pieces (Joseph, Mary, baby Jesus in manger, King #1, King #2, King #3, Angel #1, Angel #2, Shepherd #1, Shepherd #2, male camel, male donkey, male sheep, female sheep, stable, tree, and a barrel of hay). For ages 3+.

Since my children are a little old to "play" with this Nativity Set, we spent some time together looking at the figurines and handling them to see how they are constructed. This set also comes with a little booklet with the Birth of Baby Jesus story in 3 different languages - English, Spanish and French. This would be great for those studying one of these languages to read and learn the Christmas story in Spanish or French.

I love the fact that this Nativity set was made specifically for children to play with and re-enact the birth of our Savior. My children always wanted to play with our Nativity set, but I couldn't let them because it was breakable. So, for even just this one reason, I think this is a fantastic gift! And the price of $24.99 is not bad for so many pieces. The characters are cute - some even have surprised expressions (which made me think that they were probably really surprised to have angels visit and talk to them).

You could keep the Baby Jesus out of the manger until Christmas morning and surprise your kiddos with the Baby that morning. And you could have the wisemen far across the room (or house) traveling the great distance to see the new King. There are so many ways you could use this set to teach your children the great story of our Savior's birth!

This company also has many other Tales of Glory Bible figures depicting stories from the Bible that would be great toys for your little ones, like Noah's Ark, Moses, Daniel, David & Goliath, Jonah and the fish, and more! What a great way to teach your little ones the great stories of the Bible and let them re-enact them time and time again!

You Could Win This New Book!

I am hoping to be 1 of 15 winners for
The Quest for Thunder Mountain
on the HSB Company Porch!
You don't want to miss out on this
great new give-away from the author of
The Terrestria Chronicles!

Readers of the popular Terrestria Chronicles allegory series will be thrilled to learn that Ed Dunlop has just released The Quest for Thunder Mountain, the first book in his new Tales from Terrestria series. The Quest tells the story of a young minstrel whose life is shattered when his career comes to an abrupt end. The book was written to help young adult readers experience the wonder of finding and doing the will of the King. You can see the TOS review of the Terrestria Chronicles at: .

The Quest for Thunder Mountain cover

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Sorry for the Unexpected Break...

Well, it wasn't planned, but I haven't had the time or energy lately to get this blog updated. I apologize for those who have been checking in and wondering what in the world happened to me. We have been very busy - several trips to Phoenix, 2 interns here for a month, preparing to move, working on homeschool products reviews (look for those coming up here soon;-). Whew! It makes me tired even thinking about it all!

But the good news is that things are settling down for a little bit (if you don't count packing in preparation to move at the end of the month:-) and I am hoping to get some posts caught up in the next couple of days.

Just to let you know, two weeks ago we went to Six Flags Magic Mountain and I rode EVERY roller coaster there!! My kids and one other friend joined us, while my hubby and another friend sat and watched (roller coasters are just not their thing:-). It made my head spin sometimes and there were a few times I thought, "Are you CRAZY?", like when they suspended us face down for the start of one ride that swung you around and upside down - all face downward (Tatsu). And then there was X2 - the first and only roller coaster where the cars flip around and throw you into positions you just can't imagine, all the while riding a breathtaking roller coaster ride. There were even flame throwers (but my eyes were closed) and loud music and taunting voices in speakers just behind your head. The worst part was the jarring of your neck - thought I might have whiplash! But the pain went away pretty quickly and I was very proud of myself for making it through every one along with my kiddos. There weren't very many "older" folks like me in those lines:-)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

My kids thought I was crazy...

when I told them I was going to make a tote bag out of the dog food bag. But, now they aren't so sure:-). I think it turned out great! The bag material is like tyvek, very heavy duty and water resistant. I lined the inside with a contrasting, yet coordinating fabric and attached these purse handles that I got on clearance at Michaels. It measures about 16" wide and 12" high.Ok, so this may be going pretty far as far as reusing and repurposing, but I am pretty proud of the final product. What do you think? I have another dog food bag, do you think I should make another? Do you think anyone would buy it? I would LOVE your feedback!
For more inspiring ideas, check out Make It From Scratch over at 11th Heaven's Homemaking Haven.
And for more frugal ideas, visit the Festival of Frugality at The Might Bargain Hunter.

Monday, October 06, 2008

A Great Deal on a Great Homeschool Magazine!

If you want to get a great deal on a great homeschool magazine, now is the time! I have been receiving this magazine for about a year now, and have really enjoyed the articles and resources it always includes. There are articles that will encourage and inspire you, as well as great homeschooling resources like complete unit studies and science experiments.

I wanted to tell you all about The Old Schoolhouse Magazine's Fall Special. You can get two years of the magazine, 6 fabulous physical gifts (no downloads!) worth over $120, plus the current issue of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine that is full of ideas for the new school
year, so you start receiving your magazine in a flash!

It really is one of their best deals ever and you don't want to miss out. In fact, they've got a really cute Homeschooling with Heart tote bag (valued at $13.95) for the first 1000 to subscribe. About half of them are gone, but you should still be able to get one if you hurry!
(They will remove the info from the subscription page when the bags are all gone.) The total value is over $212, but you receive it all for only $39 - 50% off of cover price! Plus subscribers get their online monthly Teacher's Toolbox which focuses on a different topic each month, giving you words of encouragement, hands-on teaching ideas, book recommendations, field trip ideas, and a bonus download item.

Take a minute and check it out today. You can view older issues to see if this is something you are interested in, and the Teacher's Toolbox feature (which is fairly new), is a great resource for your schooling, too.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Need Some Ideas? Here are the Carnivals!

I forgot to link to these Carnivals earlier this week, so better late then never, I say!

Make It From Scratch was hosted by I've Got a Little Space to Fill.

The Homesteading Carnival was hosted by HowToMe.

The Carnival of Homeschooling was hosted by Dana over at Simple Pleasures

Take some time this weekend to browse and get some great ideas that may motivate, inspire and assist you in making your home a sweeter place and your Christmas a homemade one.

Friday, October 03, 2008

How to Have a Sane and Enjoyable Christmas!

A number of years ago, I realized that the only way I could make Christmas a stress-free and enjoyable time was to plan way ahead of time, shop all year, and take the last minute stresses away for my husband. And, of course, put the focus back on Christ our Savior, and reason for this celebration, after all.

Well, I believe this year may be a little different because we will be moving the beginning of December:-), but I wanted to share a great resource that will help you get on the right track. And you need to start NOW!!! It is not too early to plan for a wonderful holiday season. In my Inbox today, I received information about this wonderful resource:

The 12-Week Holiday Planner for the Christian Family
by Sheri Graham

Here is some of what is included for only $12.95:
  • Blank monthly and weekly calendar pages for planning your year

  • Weekly "To Do" lists showing exactly what needs to be done each week

  • Thanksgiving and Christmas Menus forms

  • Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Recipe Card forms

  • A Holiday Self-Evaluation form

  • Shopping Lists

  • "Sheri's Tips"- tips to make your holidays meaningful, shared throughout the ebook

  • Christmas Craft and Gift Ideas

  • Memory Making Ideas for the Family

  • Holiday Journal Pages

  • Many, many forms such as:

    Christmas Gift Shopping List
    Gift Making Checklist
    Christmas Card Checklist
    List of Baked Items to Share/Give Away
    Favorite Meals to Freeze for Later
    Decoration Ideas
    Needed Supplies to Purchase This Week
    Holiday Baking Schedule
    Kids' Gift Idea List
    Christmas Gifts to be Shipped

  • PLUS!!! This ebook includes "The Glorious Coming: A Jesse Tree Celebration of Advent" - Jesse Tree devotionals, ornaments, and instructions to make your own Jesse Tree!

  • PLUS!!! Some of our favorite holiday recipes!

I have to confess that I am in no way being compensated for promoting this item - I haven't even been in contact with these folks. I just saw it and knew it would be a wonderful planning tool for so many of you who get stressed out over the holidays. Since it is an ebook, you can buy it and print it out today to get started. And you will never have to buy it again - just print out new pages each year!

Here is the link, in case you want to check it out more for yourself. And if you are participating in a Jesse Tree devotional/ornament group swap, then you won't even have to buy another book for your devotions - they are all included, too!

I am going to start laying out my planning for the holidays now, since the next two months are going to be a little crazy in our house. I already have almost all my Christmas shopping done, so that is one thing I am WAY ahead on:-) Just a few more things and it will all be done. That takes ALOT of stress out of the holidays!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

The Cutest and Simplest Clothespin Bag Ever!

I decided that I really need to make a clothespin bag and was considering crocheting one out of plarn (plastic yarn made from plastic grocery bags) until I found this one online at The Family Homestead - it is made out of a toddler denim shirt! It is TOO cute and SO simple that I just HAVE to make one like that. Only one problem - no more toddler clothes! My kids are big now and I don't have any of their little clothes left. I guess I will just have to stop at a thrift store and find one for pennies:-)

Tip Nut also had a list of 11 different patterns for clothespin bags just in case you are looking to make one.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Homemade Sloppy Joes

Quite a number of years ago, I wanted to make sloppy joes but didn't have a can of sauce. I posted a question on a board somewhere (can't remember where) asking for a recipe to make from scratch and someone replied very quickly. And I haven't bought the canned sauce again since!

Every time I make it, I change it a little depending on what I have on hand and what I feel like (spicy, mild, etc.), but here is a general idea of my recipe:
2 lbs. ground turkey or lean beef
1/2 cup chopped onion
Optional: chopped green or red pepper, jalapeno
1 can tomato sauce
2 T worcestershire sauce
2 T dijon mustard
2 T honey
2 T cider vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Brown the ground meat and onion. Mix in all the other ingredients. Allow to simmer for at least 15 minutes to thicken sauce. Serve on homemade whole grain buns with a slice of cheese.
My family just loves these! And they are healthy and wholesome, too!

If you would like more kitchen tips, check out Kitchen Tip Tuesdays over at Tammy's Recipes.
For more great ideas, check out Make It From Scratch where creativity and frugality meet!

We All Scream for Ice Cream...Healthy Chocolate Peanut Butter!

Yesterday, I was reading Passionate Homemaking and saw her recipe for Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream. It looked so easy (and my kids are always begging me to make ice cream - that ice cream maker sits around doing nothing most of the time) and I knew my family would love it. So I decided to try it. Yummmmmmmm! And I don't normally like chocolate, but this uses cocoa powder and tastes just like a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup!Here is her recipe, but I made a few changes. First, I don't have access to raw milk, so I just used whole milk and heavy cream (cheap here in Mexico). Also, I just ground up some fresh peanut butter and used honey and sucanat in the ice cream. So all in all, it is pretty healthy - as long as you don't eat a quart in one sitting:-) It is also pretty inexpensive, considering that a 1/2 gallon of good ice cream costs about $5.00! This probably was less than $3.00 total.I can't wait to try her Coconut Ice Cream recipe - that is my FAVORITE flavor!