Greatly Blessed

Greatly Blessed

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

TravelWise Packing Cubes

I am really excited about this review!  I first heard about "packing cubes" on the China adoption forums, where people were talking about packing for the adoption trip.  I thought they sounded really cool, but money was stretched so tight with the fees, I couldn't justify splurging on something extra.

Imagine my excitement when I saw them come up for review!  I was thrilled to be chosen to try out a set, and I got pretty purple ones.

As soon as I received them, I realized that not only would they be great for their intended purpose in a suitcase, but they'd also work in my larger Thirty One bags!

2 of the medium packing cubes fit easily in my utility tote.

I can pack a spare outfit for Katie (just in case!)

 in the small packing cube,

and the rest of the "stuff" we'll need for a day out in a keep it caddy, and know just what one thing to grab if an accident occurs.

And for travel?  Fluffy dress, hair bow, shoes, sweater, and unmentionables...

...all fit easily inside a packing cube.  These things are really handy!  I can imagine keeping an emergency kit in the car in one, or using one to pack medical supplies for special needs.  And they'd be super on an adoption trip, when your mind is in a haze, and the last thing you need to be thinking about is, "Where did I pack the...?"

I love that I can pack matching outfits for the girls in a cube, and when we travel, I'll be able to just pull out one thing in the morning and have everything they need to get dressed!

TravelWise Packing Cubes are currently on sale at Amazon for $32.95 for the set of 5.  They come in 5 colors, to match any luggage set:  black, red, purple, teal, and silver.

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Abundant Harvest #GIVEAWAY #honesty @Stand4Character

We recently received Abundant Harvest For Kids, a conversation game from Harvest Time Partners to review, and I get to give one away, as well, so be sure to enter below!

Abundant Harvest can be played by 2-8 players, ages 7 & up.  I first played with Jack & Eli, ages 10 and 13.

The game is easy to set up and easy to understand, although, I missed that there were two stickers with each virtue, so our pieces only have stickers on one side, since I needed to put a second sticker over a couple of the ones that I misapplied.

You play by rolling a die and moving your marker that many spaces.  When you land, you earn 5, 10, or 20 points, depending on the action there.  The points cards are similar to "money" in most board games, but there's nothing to purchase.

After you get your points, you draw a card from one of the 3 card piles, based on the color of the space you landed on.  The categories are Parent, Child, and School.

Many of the school cards were not directly applicable to us, since we homeschool, but we could still discuss what someone in that situation could do.

Actually, even some of the other cards were not applicable to our family.  I drew one that said, "Your daughter comes to you crying, wishing you were home more like her friends' parents."  My initial response was, "If I was home any more, I'd develop rickets from lack of vitamin K!" (meaning I'd never see the sun)  However, what we decided as a group was that maybe the child needed some one on one attention, and the parent in the scenario should make a point of doing something special with them, like going out for ice cream and getting a chance to talk.

We got to discuss Child Development a little bit, when Jack drew a parent card about having a 6 year old child that didn't want to sleep in their own bed.  When asked what he (as a parent) should do, he had no ideas, so I explained that at 6, a child is old enough to use incentives with, and suggested a sticker chart, with a reward after a certain number of nights sleeping in their own bed.

Abundant Harvest For Kids has a list price of $24.99, but is currently selling on Amazon for $19.99, with free shipping for Prime members.

Although designed as a board game, I was thinking about taking just the cards with us the next time we go on a road trip, as it would be interesting to get the whole family talking about some of the scenarios presented.

Harvest Time Partners is a veteran-owned company, and all their products are made in the USA.  In addition to two versions of Abundant Harvest (kids and teen/adult), they also have Face to Face in 3 versions, and character books for children.

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You can connect with Harvest Time Partners on FacebookYouTubeTwitter, and Pinterest!  Thanks for entering, and good luck!

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

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The Daughter of Highland Hall

If you like Downton Abbey, you'll feel right at home within the pages of The Daughter of Highland Hall.  Most of this book actually takes place at Ramsey House, in London, but you'll recognize the time period, the lifestyle, and the life situations that come the way of the characters in this story.

Katherine is the somewhat spoiled, pampered aristocrat, whose life circumstances have changed, and needs to make a good match in order to continue living the lifestyle to which she's accustomed.

Edward is the socially acceptable, handsome young man set to inherit a large estate and become an Earl.

Jon is the missionary raised abroad, in London training to become a doctor.

The Daughter of Highland Hall is a sweet story about Katherine's journey to finding what really matters in life.

This is actually book 2 of the Edwardian Brides series by Carrie Turansky.  I liked this enough to get book one, The Governess of Highland Hall.  Book 3, which I am looking forward to, will be A Refuge At Highland Hall.  I'm not seeing a release date for the last one yet, but I'll keep an eye out.

You can connect with author Carrie Turansky on her blog, or through Facebook or Twitter.

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Monday, October 20, 2014

Forever Thankful book review

I just finished Forever Thankful, by Sherrilyn Polf, and I wanted to share it with you.

The book starts out action packed, as a female pilot is forced to make an emergency landing in a blizzard on the side of a mountain.

You can imagine her husband's concern when she goes missing, especially since she's pregnant!

Fortunately, Dena lands safely and is well cared for by the strangers who spot her plane, and she gets reunited with her family.

The book talks a lot about Carl's job in the aviation industry.  Their baby arrives safely, and is a girl, to everyone's delight.  They have twin boys from Dena's first marriage.  With Dena being a pilot, and Carl an executive, the family travels a lot more than most people in the WW2 era.

The book weaves a timeline of historical events into a family story.  I found the reactions of the characters to various happenings touching and thought provoking.  It's easy to see, on this side of history, that the war in Europe would end with the death of Hitler and Mussolini, but for the people living in that time period, it represented still more uncertainty.

Please join us for us Facebook Launch Party with PRIZES Thursday evening!

The full list of titles in this series:

  • A Matter of Trust (Engineers of Flight Series Book 1) 
  • If in Doubt Believe (Engineers of Flight Series Book 2) 
  • A Faithful Soul (Engineers of Flight Series Book 3) 
  • WWII: Home Front (Engineers of Flight Series Book 4) 
  • Christmas 1943 (Engineers of Flight Series Book 5) 
  • Forever Thankful (Engineers of Flight Series Book 6)

  • 1944. War was still going on. Three years and no end could be seen by Dena. She was weary of rationing food, fuel, and clothing. She was tired of men being killed. Every family had a loss, it seemed. Blue stars and flags hung on every home. After three months away from Carl and her boys, Dena enjoyed the chance to sit and watch her sons play. She was expecting another child in early August. So far she felt great, but… 1945. Changes came to Dena’s household and to the nation. Both Roosevelt and Mussolini die while Hitler commits suicide. Dena wonders how the world will cope and will this end or escalate the war? Carl takes a job a Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA. More changes. Dena will move across country. Her heart is raising three children yet she still wants to fly. Will she ever fly again?

    You can connect with author Sherrilyn Polf on Facebook and Twitter, or at her blog.

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    Sunday, October 19, 2014

    The Brickmaker's Bride

    This was a cute book!  It ended with me hoping that there will be a sequel.  I'd love to see what happens next with Ewan and Laura.

    The story was a little predictable, in that, I knew exactly who she was going to end up with in the first chapter, but it takes enough twists to keep things interesting.  I also foresaw Kathleen's predicament.

    Being a family built by birth and by adoption, I didn't see Laura's Big Bad Secret as something insurmountable.  Fortunately for her, neither does Ewan, who really comes across as a good guy.

    All in all, this is a sweet story, that I'm happy to pass along to Brianna (age 14) to read, too.

    Don't miss Judith Miller's latest novel, The Brickmaker's Bride. CBA Retailers + Resources raves, ". . . a wonderful story about faith and love throughout life’s trials."

    Judith is celebrating with a Kindle HDX giveaway and  a "Refined by Love" Facebook author event on November 4th.


     One winner will receive:
    • A Kindle HDX
    • The Brickmaker's Bride by Judith Miller
    Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on November 4th. Winner will be announced at the Refined by Love Facebook Author Event. Connect with Judith for a fascinating evening centered around her new Civil War-era series. She'll be hosting a book club discussion, giving away prizes, answering your questions, offering an exclusive peek at the next book in the Refined by Love series, and much more!

    So grab your copy of The Brickmaker's Bride and join Judith and friends on the evening of November 4th for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book, don't let that stop you from coming!)


    Don't miss a moment of the fun; RSVP today by signing up for a reminder. Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 4th!

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    I Get It Now

    In order to adopt, you have to jump through a lot of hoops.  They want every address you've lived at since you turned 18, they want your cat's shot records, they want to know how many square feet your house is, and how many smoke detectors you have.  Additionally, you have to do Parent Education during the process.  Everyone needs 12 hours of Hague compliant training, which can be done through live classes at an agency, or via online videos and quizzes.  Many agencies also have suggested or required reading.  Ours requires 3 book reports from each parent.

    There's a story in one of the books I read, about a frustrated newly-adoptive mom, who snapped, "I have given enough!" when asked to donate to something at the grocery store.

    I say all this as background for where I find myself these days.  It's political season.  Which means telemarketers wanting us to "Vote for Soandso!" or "take a brief survey about the issues."  I'm so over it.

    Most of these folks call while I'm homeschooling.  Picture this:  I'm sitting in the school room, book in hand, reading aloud, "Tiberius Caesar would become the second Emporer of..."  RING!  I put the book down, leap up, run down the hall into the master bedroom, and breathlessly answer the phone, only to have it be one of these dumb political calls.

    As an aside, it occurs to me, that in a house this size, we probably ought to have more than 2 telephones (one upstairs and one downstairs).

    I always found the story above slighty amusing, but the other night, when yet another election-related call came in, I snapped, too.  "Do you have children?" I asked the caller.  "Um, no ma'am," they stammered.  "I have 8 kids in this house, and you call in the middle of bedtime and think I'm going to support your candidate??"  "Uh, you have a nice night."  It's not often you can get a telemarketer to hang up on you.

    The vast majority of adoption stories feature a "happily ever after" ending.  And that's wonderful!  But not all of them do.  Post adoption depression, unrealistic expectations, surprise special needs, attachment issues, and other hard realities do exist.  When I read about the mom who struggled, I had no way of truly understanding what she was going through until I started walking through my own hard reality.  I was listening to a webcast of another adoptive mom today, who said, "I understand why adoptive family implode, why they put their kid on an airplane, or worse."  She wasn't advocating it or condoning it, she was speaking from the depth of having been to a place as a parent that is beyond all the roses and sunshine that we hope for in adoption.

    If I've learned nothing else from walking through our own hard stuff this past year, it's given me empathy for other adoptive families whose stories aren't at the happily ever after, at least not yet.

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    Saturday, October 18, 2014

    Standard Deviants Accelerate

    Our family was selected to review an online learning program called Standard Deviants Accelerate.  Standard Deviants Accelerate is used in schools and homeschool settings.  Because of this, the initial setup is a little intimidating.  I think it was designed more with the classroom in mind, and courses are added by the students.  I would have liked to have the option of adding my students from the teacher account, as Jack would not have been able to do the setup on his own, and does not have his own email address yet, which is required.  However, Jack is on the lower end of the age spectrum this program is intended for.  Jack is 10.  Although there are Standard Deviant courses starting at 3rd and 4th grade (both math programs), most of the subjects available are for older kids.

    My reviewers are in 5th and 8th grade, and I was able to use some of the biology videos as a helpful supplement to what we were learning.  We also worked through the Nutrition course, which I found interesting.  Some of the material was over their heads, but it's presented in a very engaging manner, by a group of college aged actors.  Also, there are full transcripts of the videos available, so if you have a student who learns better by reading than by hearing, they can read instead of, or along with, watching the videos.

    The homeschool courses available are:
    Arithmetic - Grades 3+
    Fundamental Math - Grades 4+
    Earth Science - Grades 6+
    Nutrition - Grades 6+
    Algebra - Grades 7+
    Biology* - Grades 7+
    Chemistry - Grades 9+
    English Comp. - Grades 9+
    U.S. History - Grades 9+
    AP Biolody* - Grades 11+ AP
    Chemistry - Grades 11+ AP
    U.S. Government & Politics - Grades 11+
    AP U.S. History - Grades 11+
    AP Eng. Composition - Grades 11+

    *This is secular material, so the biology does contain evolutionary content.

    The format for each topic is an introduction, a pre-quiz to see what the student knows about the topic, then videos, and a test at the end.  There are some group activities, which were not applicable to our home setting.  We went over some of the end tests orally, since we watched the videos together.

    I think this would be a great program for a self motivated high school student, and especially students who want to take AP courses.  The online grading and record keeping features would make it easy to show the courses on a transcript.

    Homeschoolers can purchase a single course for one student for $99/year, or $24.95 per month.  The AP courses are $14.95 per month for a single student.  Since AP courses prepare students for official AP tests, which provide college credit, this is a very affordable way to give your high schooler a head start on college.

    Standard Deviants Accelerate Review

    My students are not self motivated, and although I asked Eli to give the math program a shot to see what he thought of it, he made very little effort and then told me he "couldn't figure it out."  This was not a fault of the program, but a user issue.  I'm finding that we seem to do better with offline programs most of the time, but we did enjoy watching the science videos together, and I plan to have us continue using the Nutrition course.

    You can connect with Standard Deviants Accelerate on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.  To read what other Crew families have to say about Standard Deviants Accelerate, please click the box below.

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