Greatly Blessed

Greatly Blessed

Saturday, February 6, 2016

A Son's Vow

You know those books that make your chest ache when you read them?  This is one of those.  A small, Amish community is rocked by a terrible accident that takes 5 lives at the local lumber mill.  Accusations are flung, and families of those lost are at odds with each other.

This is a huge obstacle between longtime friends, Lukas and Darla.  Lukas is forced to step into his father's shoes and take over running the mill.  Darla faces overwhelming responsibilities caring for her siblings, since her father's death proved to be more than her mother could bear.

This book tackles domestic violence from an unusual angle.  Darla's brother is taking his grief and anger out on Darla, and leaving marks.  Lukas tries to put a stop to it, but Aaron won't listen to him.  Aaron finally snaps and accosts someone else, forcing him to admit there's a problem.

I enjoyed this book.  I particularly like the sideline of Hannah, the sweet Amish girl who works as a nanny for an "Englisher" couple.  While she's enjoying their baby boy, she's also starting to appreciate the virtues of their handsome next door neighbor.  A Son's Vow is book 1 in The Charmed Amish Life series from Shelley Shepard Gray.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

GrubMarket Fresh Produce Box #giveaway

We received a lovely 12# box of fresh fruits from GrubMarket to review.

The box looked a little battered, so I was a bit apprehensive opening it, but I was pleasantly surprised that the contents were well packed, and in good shape.

GrubMarket uses lots of crinkle paper to ensure your fresh fruits reach you in good shape.

Everything around here is a group activity.  As soon as I started taking things out of the box, I had an audience.

We affectionately call Josiah (18) the Fruit Bat because he eats a ton of fruit, and his first question upon learning this was a review box was, "How long until I can eat it?"

About GrubMarket: GrubMarket is all about providing accessibility, by delivering the following key benefits to their stakeholders:
  • Unbeatable prices:  While many food delivery services and premium grocers cater to high-income earners, GrubMarket is committed to making fresh and delicious food accessible to all people by keeping their prices consistently lower than all comparable grocers.
  • Convenience:  Through their reliable operations, GrubMarket is committed to providing people in food deserts (ie. areas without farmers' markets and fresh grocery stores) with access to high-quality, freshly-harvested items that they would typically find at a farmers' market or Whole Foods store.  Additionally, they offer free delivery across the U.S. for all orders above $59.
  • Food Discovery:  GrubMarket provides a platform for their partnering small farms and vendors to sell their items directly to customers.  Many of these food producers have challenges getting shelf space at grocery stores, and/or may not want to pay the upfront costs of hosting farmers' market tables.  GrubMarket gives these food producers access to tens of thousands of customers through a robust online marketplace, regardless of the food producers' production scale. 

GrubMarket firmly believes that you, your family, and your friends should always have the opportunity to eat well, and that price should never be a barrier between you and healthy, delicious, and freshly-harvested food.  They are committed to providing you with the best grocery experience possible, by regularly offering you wholesome foods at wholesale prices.  They work with a variety of farms and artisan producers to bring you high-quality foods and other items at prices that are up to 50% OFF what you'd typically find at Whole Foods and other grocers. 

GrubMarket offers a wide variety of box types, including meats, vegetables, college care boxes, and even an office snack box.  So how did we enjoy our GrubMarket produce box?

Immensely!  Paul cut up the pineapple for us to have with our dinner one night.

Fresh pineapple is amazing, and this was super yummy.  We had fresh fruit with our lunches, and enjoyed mixing things up a bit with fruits we don't normally gravitate to in the store.  

How would you like to win a box of your very own from GrubMarket??  It's easy!  Just leave a comment telling me your favorite fruit or your favorite fruit recipe, and one of my lovely assistants will draw a name on 2/10.  Be sure to include your email address in your comment so I can notify you if you win!  

Imagine my girls' surprise when I gave them this red orange!  Part of the fun was getting to try new to us things, like the pomelo and the dates.

You can connect with GrubMarket on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest.  Please comment below with your favorite fruit and your email address to enter to win your very own GrubMarket Box!

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

Brianna and her friend enjoy a pomegranate on the porch swing.

If you decide to order, be sure to use coupon code GRUB20 to take an extra 20% off your first order!

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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Beyond the Silence book review and Kindle Fire #giveaway

Prolific author Tracie Peterson has another winner on her hands with new book, Beyond the Silence.

From the tear-jerker prologue to the happily ever after, this was one of those books I just didn't want to put down.

It's the tale of a sheltered rich girl deciding to make her own way, and taking a grand adventure to far-off California.  It's the tale of a widower shadowed by his wife's unsolved, brutal murder.  And most of all, it's the tale of a little boy, threatened and traumatized by witnessing his mother's death, who hasn't spoken a word since.

When Lillian Porter answers an advertisement to become nanny to young Jimmy Colton, she doesn't know about the cloud of suspicion that hangs over her employer, Woody Colton, the boy's father.  Upon arrival in 1891 Angel's Camp, she hears from gossipy townsfolk that going out to that olive farm would be dangerous for her, because her new boss is a cold-blooded killer.  Only one person sticks up for him in the malicious mob, and while Lillian is understandably wary, she decides to give the situation a chance.  After all, she burned her bridges back home in Indiana.

Little Jimmy is a sweet but silent boy, and the two become fast friends quickly.  Lillian is also reassured by the presence of the grandmotherly housekeeper, Mrs. Goodman.   Jimmy and Lillian run across a "simple minded" man on the vast property, and befriend him.  Unfortunately, as sweet as their new friend, Harry, is, he's nearby because his wicked brother, Darwin, wants something on their farm.

The authors' graphic descriptions make it easy to imagine the desperate anguish of a dying mother and the euphoria Lillian felt upon hearing Jimmy's voice for the first time.  Beyond the Silence has strong themes of loyalty, perseverance, and good overcoming evil.  It's a good book to curl up with on a cold winter's day.  Just be sure to have tissues nearby!  There was more than one scene that made me cry.

Lillian Porter takes a chance on a new job and a new future . . . but rumors surrounding her job make Lillian begin to wonder if she made the right choice in Tracie Peterson and Kimberley Woodhouse's Beyond the Silence. There are rumors in town that her new employer, Woodward Colton, caused the death of his wife. This accusation doesn't match the man Lillian comes to know . . . but soon the Colton olive farm is no longer a safe place. Lillian encounters suspicious characters on their land and mysterious damage done to the farm. Will Mrs. Goodman and Jimmy be able to speak what they know in time to save Lillian from tragedy?

Tracie and Kimberley are celebrating the launch of Beyond the Silence with a Loaded Fire Prize Pack giveaway (details below) and an author chat party on February 11!

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One grand prize winner will receive:
  • One copy of Beyond the Silence
  • A Kindle Fire 7
  • A $50 Amazon gift card to load your Fire with books
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on 2/11. The winner will be announced at the Beyond the Silence Facebook party. RSVP for a chance to connect with Tracie, Kimberley, and other readers, as well as for a chance to win other prizes!

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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 11th!

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Monday, February 1, 2016

If I Run book review and Fitbit #giveaway

Last year, I got to review Terri Blackstock's Twisted Innocence, which I really enjoyed.  So I was happy to receive her new book, If I Run, and ended up devouring it in just two days.  

First things first:  This is Book One of a trilogy.  It has a bit of a cliff-hanger ending, which left me a little frustrated, as I want to know what happens next!  I guess I'll have to be patient and wait for the next two books to come out.  

You sort of come into the middle of the story, with the author giving you the center point (Brent's murder) first, and then filling in the backstory (Casey's father's suspicious death, years ago, and it's impact on their family) as you go along.  It's well done, though, so it feels seamless.  

If I Run is told from two perspectives:  Casey's, who is a fugitive, accused of a crime she didn't commit; and Dylan's, the investigator hunting her down.  This helps you get to know both characters and what they're thinking.  If you've watched the movie Catch Me if You Can (2002, Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio) you understand the mutual respect that can build between fugitive and hunter, and we see that developing in If I Run.  

There is sideline to the story, which I'm sure will be explored further in an upcoming book, that is both frightening and fascinating.  I hope we hear more about Laura and her experiences.  

I enjoyed If I Run, and am looking forward to the final two books of the trilogy.  You can watch a video interview with Terri Blackstock about If I Run.

Casey Cox doesn’t fit the profile of a killer . . . but her DNA is all over the crime scene, and she's now a fugitive. Don't miss Terri Blackstock's next page-turner, If I Run. Unraveling her past and the evidence that condemns her will take more time than Dylan has, the war-weary veteran hired to find Casey. But as Dylan’s damaged soul intersects with hers, he is faced with two choices. The girl who occupies his every thought is a psychopathic killer . . . or a selfless hero. And the truth could be the most deadly weapon yet.

Join Terri in celebrating her new book with a Fitbit giveaway and a special $4.99 digital pre-order deal!

if i run-400 

One grand prize winner will receive:
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry! The giveaway ends on February 16th. The winner will be announced February 17th on the Litfuse blog.

Plus don't miss out on the special $4.99 digital pre-order pricing, now through February 15. Pre-order the book through your favorite e-book retailer; details here.

if i run - enterbanner

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Friday, January 29, 2016

Our Week - end of January

Hard to believe it's time for another weekly wrap up, let alone the last one of January!  It's gone by quickly, with 3 appointments and with Paul only being home 3 days.

I was wrong!  I thought Katie would finish her ABC coloring book in February, but she finished it this week.  This actually works out well, because she's suddenly doing more coloring in math, and I think her hand gets weary after a while.  Although the link above in not an affiliate link, there are affiliate links within this post.

In botany, we're enjoying seeing our plants popping up.  We've been amused by the clump of dirt clinging to a lima bean stalk.

The pumpkin plants are showing their first true leaves now, and we've observed how seed leaves are different than true leaves.  It's always so fun to watch kids get into growing things.  I hope the kids will want to be involved when it comes time to replant the porch planters soon.

Eli wants to build a small light hut and do a time lapse stop motion video of a plant growing.  I think that would be really cool!

Teenagers.  I love watching my kids grow up.  And I like my teens (and many of their friends, too, like Miss A, above).  But some of the issues that come up are a little scary.

Another botany project this week was to make a flower from clay.

Jack's been enjoying playing with the clay ever since.  Sometimes I need to be reminded to get "the cool stuff" in the school room out and actually use it.

We learned about the Declaration of Independence this week, and practiced writing with feathers.

We did NOT make ink from crushed berries, because I'm lazy.  We used brown liquid watercolor.

We got a package from Annaliese this week!  A fun little box of Australia trinkets including kangaroo jerky, Vegemite, animals, boomerang (I promised Josiah I wouldn't put his face on the blog), koala t-shirts, and pencils.  She seems to be having a great time in Australia.  I'm thrilled for her, and maybe a tiny bit envious as I see her post photos of fireworks over Sydney harbor on New Year's Eve.

Back to plant science.  We've started noticing and collecting seeds in our botany notebooks.  Both from dying flowers (always an abundance of those around me) and from the foods we eat.  We've also observed seeds from various seed packets.

This week, because Hannah was at the eye doctor one day and I was at the dentist 2 days, we did not do a whole lot of artsy crafty stuff, but we did do one project.

We used liquid watercolors to paint a whole sheet of watercolor paper one day.  Then a few days later, we used the leftover sticky hearts from the girls' glitter heart shirts to stick in the center of the page, and then we use oil pastels to color bands around the hearts.  After removing the sticky heart, the original watercolor color shows.

Luke used to lean forward and slam his head into the floor when he got upset.  Now he's scooting over to a wall and slamming his head into walls instead.

I saw these dice ages ago and thought they'd be a fun addition to our homeschool.  I'm embarrassed to admit how long they sat, unopened.  I recently saw a couple of blog posts about using them and finally decided to open them.  Since Jack was reviewing verbs, we started with the action story cubes.  I gave Jack 4 and Hannah 4 and asked them to pick a picture from each and write a sentence about it.  The kids liked the dice, and we have several more Creative Writing ideas planned for them.

Miss Hannah should have new glasses in the next week or two.  I've had to write a little larger on the board for her, but other than that, we're getting by.  My new glasses have arrived, although, I keep forgetting to wear them to drive the kids to school in the morning!

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Sunday, January 24, 2016

Reinforcing Concepts with Learning Placemats #ReadYourWorld

Although I've chosen to make today's craft China themed, this project can be customized for a wide variety of learning themes.  

As part of Multicultural Children's Book Day, we recently got the opportunity to review the book What Was It Like, Mr. Emperor? Life in China's Forbidden City.  This hardcover 102 page book by Chiu Kwon-chiu and Eileen Ng is packed full of fascinating little tidbits about the place that was home to China's leaders for nearly 600 years.  

The Forbidden City today is a very popular tourist attraction in Beijing.  But in it's day, it was home to the Emperor, his wife, his consorts, his concubines, his officials, his slaves (both maids and eunichs) and more.

When I was there in 2010, I was in awe of the architecture and the carvings and furnishings.  It's all slightly overwhelming.

But reading through this book, with it's whimsical illustrations, makes it easier to imagine what life was like for the real people who lived there.

This book helps kids put themselves in someone else's shoes for a little while and think about a very different way of life.

Intended for kids in third grade and up, it held the interest of even my teenagers.  One of my teens picked the book up in the school room and got completely absorbed in it, pausing to ask, "Hey mom, how would you like to be the guy who has to examine the emperor's poop?!"  Um, no thanks!

Our family has a deep love for China and this seemed like a good time to do a fun craft with the kids to celebrate China and reinforce some of the things they know about it.  

contact paper (I used black contact paper for the back and clear for the front)
China themed stickers (I used these and these and these.)
odds & ends for decoration, such as ribbon or ric rac, reproduction coins and glitter
maps or brochures
red envelope

I cut a placemat sized piece of black contact paper (you could also use large construction paper) and peeled the backing off.  Then we sprinkled red and gold glitter.

The map is one that I printed from Super Teacher Worksheets.  We colored in the provinces that I've been to.  Since the map and the envelope were our biggest items, we placed those first to make sure they'd fit.  Then we added stickers, including the Forbidden City, like in our book.  Last of all were the coin and the yellow ric rac boarder at the top and bottom.

After everything was arranged the way we liked it, I covered our placemat with clear contact paper.

It's difficult to photograph a shiny surface, but you get the idea.  The great thing about this craft is that you can take any theme and run with it.  Holidays, dinosaurs, books, countries, science concepts... almost anything can become a theme for a placemat that not only looks cool but also reminds children of what they've learned.  

The MCCBD team’s mission to spread the word and raise awareness about the importance of diversity in children’s literature. Our young readers need to see themselves within the pages of a book and experience other cultures, languages, traditions and religions within the pages of a book. We encourage readers, parents, teachers, caregivers and librarians to follow along the fun book reviews, author visits, event details, a multicultural children’s book linky and via our hashtag (#ReadYourWorld) on Twitter and other social media.

The co-creators of this unique event are Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom and Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book/Audrey Press. 

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2016 Medallion Level Sponsors! #ReadYourWorld
Tuttle Publishing * NY Media Works * LLC/KidLit TV

Multicultural Children’s Book Day has 12 amazing Co-Hosts (All Done Monkey, Crafty Moms Share, Educators Spin on it, Growing Book by Book, Imagination Soup, I’m Not the Nanny, InCultural Parent, Kid World Citizen, Mama Smiles, Multicultural Kid Blogs, Spanish Playground) and you can view them here.  

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