Greatly Blessed

Greatly Blessed

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

A Beauty Refined

It's hard to believe summer is half over already.  I'm seeing Back to School sales, though, so it must be true.  If you're looking for a good summer read, check out Tracie Peterson's newest offering, A Beauty Refined.

A Beauty Refined is actually book 2 of the Sapphire Brides series, but I read it as a stand alone book, and it really enjoyed it.  There's no feeling of having missed anything from a previous book.  (Although now that I've read this one, I'd happily go back and read the first one.)

Phoebe is the adult daughter of Count Von Bergen.  The two of them are on a buying trip to the United States, Montana, in particular.  The sleepy little town they visit for the purpose of purchasing sapphires and having them faceted holds an explosive secret for Phoebe.  The discovery of this secret changes Phoebe's entire world.

Of course there's a love interest.  And the interactions between Phoebe and Ian are fun to read.  But really, this is a coming of age, finding out what you're made of sort of story.  Will Phoebe capitulate to her father's wishes?  Or is she strong enough to say no to an arranged marriage she does not want?  Little does she imagine the chain of events that unfolds in this riveting, action packed story.

Little does Phoebe know that her father's plans—for the sapphires and his daughter—are not what they seem. If you love historical fiction, romance, and adventure, don't miss Tracie Peterson's A Beauty Refined. When Phoebe meets Ian, everything changes. Yet the more he gets to know her, the more he realizes that her family story is based on a lie—a lie she has no knowledge of. And Ian believes he knows the only path that will lead her to freedom.

Join Tracie in celebrating the release of A Beauty Refined by entering to win her Precious Gems giveaway (details below) and by attending her author chat party on August 9!

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One grand prize winner will receive:
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on 8/9. The winner will be announced at A Beauty Refined Facebook party. RSVP for a chance to connect with Tracie and fellow fans of historical fiction, as well as for a chance to win other prizes!

beauty refined - enterbanner

RSVP today and spread the word—tell your friends about the giveaway via FACEBOOK, TWITTER, or PINTEREST and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 9th!

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Saturday, July 23, 2016

Our 4th of July

Yes, I know, I'm about 3 weeks late.  But I'm just now getting to uploading all these pictures.

First, we took a couple pictures to recreate a shot from 2 years ago.

Then we went to the big celebration!  We played games.

It was windy, and the breeze was picking up bits of cotton candy and whirling them through the air!  You can see a chunk floating over the grass on the bottom left of the picture above.

The girls had snow cones.

Actually, there was tons of good food.  Ribs, chicken, salads, brownies.  I had a churro, but Brianna swiped half from me.

A flock of teens.  One of the things I loved about our trip to Nevada was that my older kids ran with the pack while we were there.  My baby sister and her friends were very welcoming.  My little sister in the white shorts, her friend M in the red pants, and Bri in the mint shirt.

Josiah has always enjoyed going to Nevada, and has talked about moving there someday.

The girls suckered their big brothers into winning them some stuffed animals at the games.  We came home with a couple dogs and a snake.

Sam and my sister, Amy on one of several inflatables.

Oh look, Bri is up there, too.

I think the giraffe was Brianna's, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's migrated into the panda room (Hannah and Katie's bedroom) since the trip.

Jack Jack had a wonderful time going from jumper to game to food to water slide.

After lots and lots of fun, it was time to go home and rest up before the fireworks.

Waiting for the show to begin.

Jack did well this year.  He got burned by a defective firework a couple years back, and was skittish about fireworks the next 2 years, but he was fine this year.

We enjoyed the display, even if the mosquitoes did nibble on some of us.  

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Friday, July 22, 2016

Our Week with Special Visitors

 Is it Friday again already?  This week has flown by!

This was the second and final week of Safety Town, which was a good experience for both Katie as a participant, and Brianna as a teen helper.

I'll post about graduation soon.  I'm not a fan of ceremonies, performances, and the like, but it was short and cute and bearable.

I'm not the only one who had a busy week.  Paul had 3 fires in 4 days at work.

2 grass fires, one structure fire.

My cute girls, being silly.

After dropping Bri and Katie at Safety Town one day, we went to meet friends at the park.

The mommies did a lap around the exterior of the park grounds while the 2 14 year olds kept an eye on younger siblings at the playground.

Eli at Lift a Thon.  His football team has entered dead period, so practice is limited to running and weightlifting for 3 weeks.  This is nice, because it cuts out afternoon practices, and morning practice starts an hour later than usual.

The most exciting part of our week is that our little friends that stayed with us last year have come for a visit!

I haven't seen them in person since October, so it's great fun to see how they've grown and changed.  The kids have been having a blast with them.

We've been in the car a lot the last 3 days, but now that Safety Town is over, things should settle down a bit.  I'm hoping to take the kids to the zoo next week.

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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Beric The Briton

We recently made a road trip to Nevada to visit family.  When the in-the-car-too-long whining started, I pulled out a surprise review item:  Beric The Briton, another fantastic audio drama from Heirloom Audio Productions!

Beric The Briton Heirloom Audio Productions  Review

As we settled in to listen, our minds dropped back in time, and we were soon submerged in the story.  I was impressed by Beric's integrity.  Not only did he not try to escape during a shipwreck, he actually rescued his captor and his captor's son!

Although Beric was a Briton, he had lived among the Romans, and understood their ways.  He had a thirst for knowledge and he transformed the way the Britons fought by imitating the Roman military style.

One of the things in the story that inspired us to further learning was the mention of the Roman golden eagles.  I immediately thought of a movie series I've watched on Netflix where a golden eagle was captured, and we set out to find out why those golden eagles were such a big deal.

You may have noticed an eagle atop a flag pole at some point, and eagles are an American symbol.  But we stole the idea from the Romans.  In addition to being a symbol of power, it was thought that the eagle would carry the soul into the presence of the gods (particularly Zeus).  During battles, the Romans carried the eagle atop a pole, and when the eagle fell, the legion was disbanded.  There were times when an eagle would be removed from the pole and hidden, to protect it from capture.

Beric captured a golden eagle, which was a loss of face for the Romans.  To help cement the idea in my kids minds, we made golden eagles.  I used gold Mod Podge Melts and a silicone eagle mold.  (First I had to get the silver out of the glue gun.)

Voila!  The finished eagles!  Jack was a little more excited when I told him we could make edible golden eagle snacks by pouring yellow chocolate melts in the mold.

Heirloom Audio does a fabulous job with their dramatizations of the books written by G. A. Henty.  We have the entire collection, and I'm looking forward to hearing the next one when it comes out.  We received not only the physical 2 CD set, but also some online bonuses!  The kids especially enjoyed watching the behind the scenes videos showing how the audio drama is made.  There are also a couple of beautiful, printable posters; a study guide with discussion questions, vocabulary, and more; the soundtrack; and an especially nice feature, an ebook version of the story.  This would be great for a more visual person to be able to read along with the CDs and still get the benefit of all the special effects and music.

If you have yet to try any of Heirloom Audio's fantastic recordings of the G. A. Henty books, you're missing out!  Our family has really enjoyed them.  They are a great way to bring history to life, and give kids wonderful heroes to look up to.

Beric The Briton Heirloom Audio Productions  Review

You can connect with Heirloom Audio Productions on Facebook, Twitter, and G+.  There's also a specific Facebook page just for Beric The Briton.  To learn how other Crew families used this 2 CD audio dramatization, please click the box below:

Beric The Briton Heirloom Audio Productions  Review

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Sunday, July 17, 2016

Fun STEM Learning with Circuit Maze

One of the best things about being a reviewer is getting to surprise the kids with cool new stuff.

We've already reviewed several products from ThinkFun, so I was pretty sure this one would be another hit, but Jack's face tells it all.

Circuit Maze is science cleverly disguised as a game.  Kids ages 8 and up can learn how electricity flows and how to route it to light up the 3 included lights.

This is a totally safe way to teach about electricity, since the the components are all sturdy square pieces that snap into the base board.

The game includes 60 cards, from simple to pretty tricky, designed to challenge kids to find a way to add certain pieces to the setup shown on the card and make the light or lights go on.  Jack, who is 12, has not mastered all of them yet, so it's a game that will continue to grow with him for a while.

He actually prefers free play, placing the components wherever he wants and seeing what the results are.  I say he's still learning, so it's all good with me!

Homeschooler or not, you've probably heard about the need for more emphasis on STEM or STEAM activities for kids.  Circuit Maze covers both Science and Technology exposure.

Timberdoodle, a favorite catalog company of many homeschooling families, includes Circuit Maze in their Third Grade Curriculum Kit.

Since Hannah just finished third grade, I asked Jack to show her how Circuit Maze works.

It wasn't long before she was figuring things out.

Circuit Maze has been a big hit with both of them, and is a great activity for our daily "nap" time, since it's a quiet game that can be played by one person.  It always makes me happy to have the kids come to me, saying, "Mom!  Look what I made!" with their latest configuration of pieces.  Their smiles shine brighter than the little bulbs do.

If you're planning to homeschool this year, please check out the curriculum kits that Timberdoodle has compiled with some of their most popular choices.  Checking out their lists reminded me of a subject that I had forgotten to include in my own planning for the coming school year.  If you have a child age 8 or older, I hope you'll consider adding Circuit Maze to your order for fun science enrichment.

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