Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Familyman Christmas Treasury {Homeschool Crew Review}

The Familyman's Christmas Treasury - Audio Collection {The Familyman} Reviews

In past years, I've been kind of a Scrooge when it comes to early Christmas celebrations. I wouldn't let my family put up the tree or listen to any Christmas music until the day after Thanksgiving. For the past two years, however, Lauren started playing Christmas music several months before Thanksgiving. She has a CD copy of the Christmas musical for church so she could start practicing in early September, and it's been played countless times since then.

Now that I've broken my ban on Christmas music before Thanksgiving, I decided to whole-heartedly embrace early Christmas. I've heard of The Familyman for years, and we recently had the opportunity to review The Familyman's Christmas Treasury - Audio Collection (also available as Digital Downloads).

The Familyman's Christmas Treasury - Audio Collection {The Familyman} Reviews

We downloaded all eight of the stories included in The Familyman's Christmas Treasury; the first six are available on the CD collection.
  1. Captain Chaos and the Manger Blaster
  2. Cootie McKay's Nativity
  3. The Stranger
  4. The Bishop's Dream
  5. Harold Grubbs and the Christmas Vest
  6. Gladys Remembers Christmas
  7. The Secret of Snow Village
  8. It's Called Christmas
My favorite story is "Cootie McKay's Nativity" because it captures the sheer excitement and joy when an adult hears the gospel message for the very first time. Many of us have grown up hearing the Christmas story from Luke 2 and then months later the story of Jesus' crucifixion. I suspect I'm not the only one who doesn't remember a time before I knew about Jesus, and it's a special treat to hear the story of Jesus through the eyes of a character experiencing it for the first time.

Lauren also liked "Cootie McKay's Nativity" but said "It's Called Christmas" is also her favorite. The story takes place hundreds of years in the future, and the narrator is telling the tale to warn people of our time. He warns people to continue to remember Jesus and remember the reason for our Christmas season by telling the story of a futuristic time when the government has outlawed any talk of religion. "The Bishop's Dream" conveys a similar warning, only this time it's told from the perspective of St. Nicholas who is looking at how Santa Claus is treated in a modern day society.

Although the characters and the plot changes with each story, each one clearly shows that Jesus is the true reason for the Christmas holiday season. In addition, I found that the collection of stories had such a wide variety of characters that it seems impossible that someone could listen to them all without finding a character to relate to. We heard about a young girl peering into her grandmother's snow village, the young boy adding superhero sound effects to the Christmas story, a stranger visiting town during a blizzard, and a middle-aged woman reminiscing about the last Christmas she spent with her mother.

I highly recommend this collection of Christmas stories. Each story was approximately 20-30 minutes long which made them perfect for listening to when we were running errands around town. It will be an easy and enjoyable way to keep the true meaning of Christmas in the forefront of our minds as the holiday season gets busy.

The Familyman's Christmas Treasury is available as a 6 CD set (including the first six stories listed above) for $25. The individual titles are also available as mp3 downloads for $3.99 each. These stories are also available in printed form if you'd like to read them to your children yourself.

The Familyman's Christmas Treasury - Audio Collection {The Familyman} Reviews

Crew Disclaimer

©2009-2016 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may not be reproduced.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Sometimes we all just need a break

Lauren has always been a bit obsessed with calendars and dates (and is amazing at remembering dates). My problem lately is that she wanted to see a nice block of dates labeled "Fall Break" on my calendar since she knows that one of her friends is currently traveling during her school's fall break.

As the homeschool mom and principal, I cannot fathom taking a day off of school this early in the year. What if we need to take days off this winter because she gets sick? What opportunities will I have to turn down because we took a break now and don't have more school days to spare next spring?

Lauren wants to make sure she gets finished with school for the year the same time her friends do, but we're facing a more difficult challenge. In Colorado, we are required to do school for 172 separate days. Her friend in a charter school only has to go to school 163 days, hence the long fall break. Basically, we're already starting the year nine days behind her friend, and we have to figure out a way to make up any/all sick days that Lauren may need.

This week, I reached a compromise that appeased both of us. First of all, I declared our official Fall Break to be the weekend in November that we go visit Addison in Oklahoma. It's only one school day, but since I'm calling it Fall Break, Lauren is happy.

Secondly, I declared last Monday as a Game Day. Tim was home from work for Columbus Day, and the three of us played games pretty much all day long. (Brennan was invited to play, but he had a lot of other assignments to catch up on that day.)

We started our day with Disney Scene It! and then moved on to Rummikub (one of my childhood favorites).

We then played Pandemic, a game we were borrowing from a friend. It has quickly become a new family favorite, and we're all hoping to find one of our own under the Christmas tree.

In the afternoon, we played both Ticket to Ride (using the board instead of just doing the iPad/iPhone version) and Scotland Yard.

In between games, Tim and Lauren took several breaks to read more of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. They're almost finished, and I suspect we'll be scheduling a movie night in the near future.

Our game day was a wonderful way to meet both mine and Lauren's needs. She needed at least one day to take a break from our regular school routine, and I was still able to count last Monday as a school day. She did more critical thinking on Monday than she often does in a day of our regular assignments. That's a win in my book.

One of my friends on the Homeschool Review Crew has started a new "Homeschool Highlights" link-up this week. I'm sharing our game day post this week, and I hope to share some of my weekend summary posts in the future.

Homeschool Coffee Break

©2009-2016 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may nt be reproduced.

Monday, October 10, 2016

MyFreezEasy {Homeschool Review Crew} Freezer Meal Plan Membership {MyFreezEasy}

The past few weeks have been very busy around here -- packed full of schoolwork, chorale rehearsals, baseball games, and a few scattered doctor's appointments. Perhaps the only thing that's saved my sanity is MyFreezEasy.

I received a Freezer Meal Plan Membership to see how their freezer cooking meal plans could work for our family. My Premium Annual Membership gave me access to eight different meal plans each month and the ability to create meal plans customized to meet my family's needs. Freezer Meal Plan Membership {MyFreezEasy}

One of my biggest concerns with trying new recipe plans is how adaptable it will be for food allergies. The only major allergen that Lauren's allowed to have right now is eggs, and she's also avoiding all corn and corn products. It's become almost second nature for me to cook that way, but it's definitely not common to find meals that fit those restrictions. MyFreezEasy offers a gluten-free meal plan option each month, and many of those recipes can be made dairy-free as well.

I found that my easiest option was to pick-and-choose among all the available recipes and create my own meal plans. When creating my own meal plan, I could choose recipes based on type of protein (ground beef, chicken, vegetarian, etc), cooking style (slow cooker, grilled, skillet, etc), or dietary preferences. For someone new to food allergies, the dietary preferences would be an amazing help. They offer recipes that are gluten-free, dairy-free, gluten dairy soy-free, or top-8 allergy free. I glanced through those sections, but also looked through the other recipes to see if I could find other options that would just require a bit of tweaking.

For my first meal plan, I looked at my calendar, panicked a bit, and decided I needed to pick five crock-pot meal options. From there everything was simple.

I printed out a twelve page document that had the five recipes, shopping lists, assembly prep instructions, and meal assembly instructions. The shopping list came organized in a couple different ways. I chose to follow the complete shopping list because I wanted to go ahead and purchase any necessary side items or garnishes while I was at the store. (A different option has just the items that you need to prep the meals for the freezer.) I knew I needed a few more things while I was at the store so I jotted them down in the margins and headed out the door.

Because my shopping list was organized by store section, I went through the Commissary as fast or faster than I've ever done a weekly shopping trip. I can't say with 100% certainty that I saved money on this trip, but I know that the total didn't seem outrageous and I was buying enough for 10 meals instead of just enough for a week.

After putting away most of the groceries, I followed step-by-step instructions to prepare all the ingredients. This is where I did all the chopping, opening cans, browning ground beef, etc. The directions said it should take approximately 30 minutes. It took me a bit longer, but I was slow when it comes to peeling and slicing apples.

From there, all I had to do was package up all the meals to put them in the freezer. MyFreezEasy gives instructions for making two batches of each recipe at a time. I only needed five crock pot recipes to make it through the week, but I put ten in the freezer. I guesstimate that it took me about an hour and a half to do all the prep work, put all the meals in the freezer, and clean up my mess.

I was reasonably impressed with the meals the first week. Part of the problem is that I was just getting used to the way the recipes and shopping lists were written. On one night, I missed a step that called for adding a cup of water to the crockpot if you knew your crockpot was prone to overheating. Our chili burned a little around the edges, but still tasted okay. (I later fixed the second batch with the cup of water and didn't have any problems.) I also found that I needed to double check the amount of meat in the recipes. Generally speaking, the portion sizes were generous, but I didn't do the correct pork chop calculations and bought very thin pork chops. Our meat-hungry family wished I had gotten thick-cut chops or two per person.

My second meal plan was even more of a success. I had some leftovers on hand and a few meal requests. I made up a meal plan with just three recipes -- one for a night I'd be home to cook, one for my husband to grill, and one to throw in the crock pot.

Again, my time in the grocery store was quick and it only took me an hour to get everything in the freezer. One of my favorite dishes that week was the Mediterranean Chicken Thighs. The next night, we had Slow Cooker French Dip Sandwiches and my husband declared them "awesomeness on a sandwich."

My FreezEasy has made my life so much easier over the past few weeks. So far I've made recipes from three meal plans that I've created -- a total of 25 meals in my freezer. I've done freezer cooking in the past and it's never been as quick and painless as these meal plans.

I've found many benefits to having a freezer stocked with healthy meals for my family. First of all, I have less stress every day when I start thinking about what's for dinner. I pull a meal out of the freezer before I go to bed each night, and it's ready to be fixed the next day. If the next day is going to be crazy, I'll pick a slow cooker meal that will just take me just a minute (literally) to throw into the crock pot before I run out the door.

We've also found that we have far less kitchen clean-up now that I'm using MyFreezEasy. Since everything is chopped when I do the preparation, I don't have dirty cutting boards and knives to wash every night. Moreover, I tend to leave a trail of messy counters and floors when I cook. Nearly all of my mess is done on the single day that I put meals in the freezer, leaving the kitchen clean (well, cleaner than usual) the other days of the week.

Of course, cooking for my family doesn't really count for much if it isn't food that they're willing to eat. So far, we've all been satisfied with every meal. We have found new favorites, and even the ones that aren't favorites were still quite good. In addition, the wide range of recipe options on MyFreezEasy helps me find enough new ideas to keep my pickiest eater happy -- Lauren eats better when I serve new meals and not foods that she's seen too many times in the past. These meals are a win all around!

The Premium Membership to MyFreezEasy costs $95 for a year or $10 per month. It's well worth that much in terms of the frustration it's saved in my house in the past month alone. Freezer Meal Plan Membership {MyFreezEasy}

Crew Disclaimer

©2009-2016 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may not be reproduced.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Another Saturday Update

What I'm wearing:

My running buddy on the East Coast sent me this t-shirt from the virtual race we ran a month or so ago.

What I'm reading:

How We Love by Milan & Kay Yerkovich (for our Bible class)
Matilda by Roald Dahl (read-aloud with Lauren, finished this week)
The BFG by Roald Dahl (read-aloud with Lauren)

I want to start a new fun novel for myself, but I probably should start reading A Tale of Two Cities so that I can discuss it with Brennan.

What I'm cooking:

We tried more MyFreezEasy meals. I'll share more details in a review next week, but Tim declared the Slow Cooker French Dip Sandwiches "awesomeness in a sandwich."

What's working in our homeschool:

Lauren is doing awesome learning names of the minerals she's studying for Science Olympiad. In fact, the other day we accidentally dumped a box of 15 samples in the floor of our car, and she was able to identify them and put them back in their places.

What's not working in our homeschool:

We've been very busy going places -- chemistry class for Brennan, a few doctor's appointments, some Science Olympiad study sessions, physical therapy, etc. We're getting all the "must do's" done every day, but I'm afraid that too much of the other subjects are getting lost in the shuffle. I need to look closely at our days so that I make sure I don't spend our at-home time doing subjects that could easily be done in the car (math practice problems).

What we're playing:

We borrowed the game Pandemic from friends and are having a blast with it. Tonight, Tim and I also cracked open the box for Commissioned -- a new game from Chara Games. We're still figuring this one out.

What we're listening to:

Lauren and I listened to another few stories from The Familyman's Christmas Treasury in the car this week. Also, a friend and I just swapped CDs from Heirloom Audio Productions. I'm looking forward to hearing The Dragon and The Raven the next time I have a long car ride.

Some things that made me smile:

Watching Brennan perform as part of the FX Worship Experience for children and families at church Wednesday night. If only I had gotten a picture of him flexing his muscles for one of the songs.

Also, I found out that my blog was listed on Healthy Moms Magazine as one of their Top 100 Homeschooling Blogs. I'm very flattered!

©2009-2016 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may nt be reproduced.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Carole P. Roman Books {Homeschool Crew Review}

One of the things I've enjoyed about homeschooling my children is learning history alongside them. I don't necessarily have fond memories of learning history in school. I primarily remember learning names and dates, not the stories behind the events. History is a lot more fun as a homeschool family because we can focus on the stories without worrying so much about names and specific dates.

Recently we received an awesome collection of books that bring history to life. These books and this review is brought to you by Carole P. Roman and

My first choices both covered periods of U. S. History because Lauren is already familiar with these times. We received If You Were Me and Lived in . . . Colonial America (An Introduction to Civilizations Throughout Time) (Volume 4) and If You Were Me and Lived in . . . the American West (Volume 7). In addition, the company also graciously included If You Were Me and Lived in . . . Ancient Greece (An Introduction to Civilizations Throughout Time) (Volume 1) and If You Were Me and Lived in . . . the Middle Ages (An Introduction to Civilizations Throughout Time) (Volume 6).

I was caught a bit off guard when I picked up If You Were Me and Lived in . . . Colonial America because I made a bad assumption without looking at the cover of the book. Technically America's colonial days stretch from the 1620s all the way up to the Revolution. The If You Were book focuses on a family that came to America on the Mayflower in 1620, and I was expecting a family in Williamsburg in the mid-1700s. After I reframed my expectations, I was very pleased with the materials. The book included lots of child-friendly details about life in those times -- popular names, foods, clothes, chores, and leisure activities. Lauren and I read the book together, and it took us about half an hour (including some discussion time).

If You Were Me and Lived in . . . the American West tells the story of a twelve year old boy who left Ohio with his family in 1863 to travel along the Oregon Trail. Even though I consider myself fairly knowledgable about American History, I found interesting new facts within the first few pages of this book. I had often heard about brave Americans that traveled along the Oregon Trail in search of more land, prosperity, or whatever. I had never heard that there was record flooding in the eastern U.S. in 1862 which led to harsh the economic conditions that encouraged people to relocate further west. The story chronicles the trip one particular family took in 1863 and continues to share details of their first year or two in the Oregon territory.

If You Were Me and Lived in . . . Colonial America is 64 pages long, and If You Were Me and Lived in . . . the American West is 58 pages long. Both of them have colorful illustrations that would appeal to elementary aged students. The text in these two books was a bit more difficult than I expected, generally testing at a 7th or 8th grade level when I checked the readability. For us, that simply meant that I read the books with Lauren instead of handing them over for her to read independently.

Lauren and I enjoyed reading these two books and fleshing out our familiarity with these two time periods. History truly comes alive when we can talk about what children in that time period wore, what their houses looked like, their typical meals, and even their chores. One thing to note about these books is that they are definitely more fact-based than story based. They focus on a particular child, but they don't necessarily tell a narrative story. They're more like reading a child-friendly encyclopedia article focused on a particular time period than a historical fiction novel.

Lauren hasn't yet studied much world history so I've set the other two books aside until we start some intentional world history studies next Spring. If You Were Me and Lived in . . . Ancient Greece is approximately the same length as our books about Colonial America and the American West -- 54 pages. If You Were Me and Lived in . . . the Middle Ages was significantly longer at 98 pages. We'll read that one over the course of a few days. Both of these books seemed to have more words per page than the ones about America. Although all four books are appropriate for upper elementary students, I think the two with a world history focus would be more appropriate for older students or very proficient readers.

The two If You Were Me and Lived in . . . books about America each cost $14.99. The Ancient Greece one is also $14.99, but the longer Middle Ages book is $19.99. If you're prefer an ebook over a paperback copy, all four of these books are available for Kindle for only $2.99. In addition to the If You Were Me books about historical time periods, Carole P. Roman has also written If You Were Me and Lived in . . . books about different countries (our review of four books) and many other books for children.

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

Crew Disclaimer
©2009-2016 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may not be reproduced.


Saturday, October 1, 2016

A Quick Weekly Update

What I'm reading:

Find Her by Lisa Gardner (just finished)
How We Love by Milan & Kay Yerkovich (for a class at church)
Warriors Don't Cry by Melba Pattillo Beals (one of Brennan's books)
Spark Joy by Marie Kondo
Matilda by Roald Dahl (read-aloud)

What I'm cooking:

I'm trying some new recipes from MyFreezEasy for an upcoming review. Last week we had four new crock pot recipes -- Beef & Black Bean Chili, Green Chili Chicken, Pork Chops with Apples & Sweet Potatoes, and Spicy Sausage & Peppers. This week I picked Grilled Greek Chicken Kebabs, Mediterranean Chicken Thighs, and French Dip Sandwiches. The best part about MyFreezEasy is that I have a second batch of each recipe in my freezer to use when our schedule gets even crazier.

What I'm watching:

Brennan has double-header baseball games every weekend (for one more week). I also watched a lot of the OU vs TCU football game this afternoon. Boomer Sooner!

What we're studying:

I've been working with Lauren to learn some of the minerals that she needs to know for her Rocks & Minerals event for Science Olympiad. So far she's made note cards for about 10 of them and can consistently match the sample mineral to the name.

When we're in the car, I make Brennan practice Spanish flash cards. I've forgotten a lot of the Spanish I learned in high school, but I can help him with a lot of the pronunciations.

What we're listening to:

Music: "Stand" by The ZOE Group
Audiobooks: The Familyman's Christmas Treasury (for a review, otherwise I'd say it's too early for Christmas)

How I'm keeping my hands busy:

I finished my latest cardigan sweater. All the seams are stitched and all the loose ends are sewn in. I just need to wash/block it before I can take pictures and wear it. I'm partway through a baby blanket, and I just bought more yarn to make this sweater for Lauren.

What I'm enjoying:

I love running in the cooler weather. I've put on a jacket a few mornings, and I once wished that I had grabbed some gloves before I headed out.

Pumpkin spice coffee -- I can't have the milk in a PSL from Starbucks, but I love pumpkin flavored coffee at home.

©2009-2016 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may nt be reproduced.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Random Five (or Six) on Friday September 23

1. Earlier this week, we toured the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. Very impressive!

2. Nearly all of the Science Olympiad events have been assigned, and the kids are already busy studying. Brennan has one study event -- Rocks and Minerals, and two building events -- Hovercraft and Robot Arm. Lauren's studying Rocks and Minerals and Food Science. I think I'm going to be learning a lot about rocks this year.

3. I've been making steady progress on some of my knitting projects lately. I pulled out this part of a knit satchel/purse and blocked it to size. Now I just need to knit the handle and sew it together.

Meanwhile, my cardigan project is inching towards completion. I have about five or six more inches to go on the hood before I can start seaming it together. It shouldn't take too long to sew the seams because it'll just be a seam for each of the sleeves and another for the top of the hood.

4. Addison is performing in Freshman Fanfare this weekend. Although I'm sad we aren't there to see her, I was happy to stream tonight's show and catch a few glimpses of her. It definitely looked like she was having a great time!

5. We had company this week, and they came bearing home grown okra from a friend. Eight pounds of okra. After eating all we could for dinner one night, I made the rest into patties to put in the freezer. I'm not sure which was more strange -- me frying okra patties at 9:30 one night or Brennan walking through to grab a plateful for a late-night snack.

6. According to RunKeeper, I'm still making progress towards my yearly running goal. When I finished this morning, my total was 399 miles (out of 600). Knowing I'm close to reaching a big milestone means I'll lace up my shoes again tomorrow morning.

©2009-2016 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may nt be reproduced.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...