Tuesday, November 13, 2018


We've been trying to get down to the History Museum to see the spider exhibit they have right now, but for whatever reason, we haven't been able to.  The first time we made plans, the kids got sick and were running fever so we had to stay home.   We made plans to go this weekend, but with the very large wildfires burning close by, we opted to stay home. As it is, I'm severely congested and dealing with a sore throat, enlarged glands, and a sinus infection from all the smoke. Lots of fun, let me tell ya.

However, I wanted to make it up to the kids and do something with them.  We decided to head to the Exotic Feeling Breeding Compound (EFBC) located in Rosamond, California and spend some time up close and personal with some amazing cats. 

Unlike a zoo, the EFBC does not exist to entertain the public by putting animals on display.  While the do support themselves by allowing visitors to come in, the compound is dedicated to the protection and preservation of the world's endangered feline species. They are primarily a breeding and research facility, however, a small percentage of their animals are rescues who needed placement. 

This was our second visit to the cat house.  Our first visit was during the summer and many of the cats were hot and not very active.  This time around, with the cooler temperatures, the kitties were very active.  They were also anticipating dinner (we were able to observe dinner time) so they were pacing and getting rather ancy. 

The EFBC is a very intimate setting with small but well designed enclosures with plenty of places for the cats to either hide, climb or relax.  The staff is well knowledgeable in regards to the care of the animals and even the volunteers are more than happy to help educate visitors.

Each cat has a name and a history.  For example, about is Kyoke, a 7 year old Clouded Leopard who was sent to the facility from another facility in Kansas.  

This beautiful boy below is Serrano, who was captured in Whiting Ranch in California but could not be released due to the fact that he showed no fear of humans.  Obviously someone either had him as a pet and let him go or at least someone had been feeding him.

Serrano put on a little show for us, vocalizing in small meows and padding back and forth waiting for his food.  It totally blew my mind that even when she was right in front of us, you couldn't hear him at all.  Charles didn't realize that Mountain Lions were so big.

This girl has been on of our favorites for both of our trips.  She's a Bobcat named Willow and she's about 18 years old. 

But I have to say,  I absolutely love the Jaguarundis .  If you've never seen a Jaguarundi they look like a cross between a cat and an otter.  The EFBC has two of them, a pair of sisters named Maya and Aztec that are 12 years old.  They are so neat to watch as they slink around and make little chirping noises.

Batari - a 4 year old Malasian Tiger 

Sand Cat waiting for Dinner

Maya getting some dinner
Willow coming over to say Goodbye before we leave

Batari relaxing on a log

As we we leaving, we saw this duo hanging out in front of the building.    A desert cottontail only feet away from kitties that would make it their dinner.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Weekend Meal Planning

Another week is about to start which means another post for our weekly menu.  We had to venture from our original plans for the weekend.  We were suppose to head down to the Natural History Museum, as we didn't get to go a few weeks ago because the kids got sick.  This time, we were prevented due to the wildfires here in California. 

The skies here were already pretty smokey and we're quite a ways from the fires.. The pic above was taken yesterday and thankfully the winds blew the smoke the other direction today so it wasn't nearly as bad but we still didn't feel that heading that direction would be in our best interest.  Instead, we headed to the Exotic Feline Breeding Compound and had a great time seeing all the gorgeous cats (I'll make a post about that tomorrow with lots of photographs)..    So, dinner today was at one of our favorite diners in town - J's Hideaway..

Dinner at J's Hideaway

Portabello Shepherd's Pie with salad (10SP)

Skillet Chicken Cordon Bleu with asparagus and salad (7SP)

Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Baked Beans

Chicken Angel Hair Pasta with Salad

Pork Tenderloin with Acorn Squash and Brussels Sprouts (5SP)

Chili Glazed Salmon with Siracha Cream Sauce (2SP)

Grilled Jerk Shrimp and Pineapple Skewers with pancit (7SP)

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Kidzaw.Com (A Homeschool Crew Review)

"Starry, starry night.  Paint your palette blue and gray.  Look out on a summer's day with eyes that know the darkness in my soul."  Lyrics from one of my favorite songs from the early 70's by Don McLean and was a tribute to the artist Vincent van Gogh. It's a song that is played quiet often in my home and my kids have heard it so many times that they can sing it word perfect. 

The fact that Vincent van Gogh is one of my favorite artists and The Starry Night happens to be my favorite piece by him.  When Ashleigh was given the opportunity to review  Master Kitz The Starry Night,an art kit from Kidzaw.com, I couldn't help but feel just a bit of excitement in getting the opportunity to share my favorite artist, as well as my favorite painting by that artist, using a hands on learning experience I knew she would enjoy. 

Inside the sturdy art box are all the items necessary for your student to create their own interpretation of Van Gogh's The Starry Night.  There are two pieces of thick art paper measuring 20x16 inches, 3 plastic bottles of acrylic paint in black, blue and yellow, 5 oil pastels, 1 van Gogh Roller, 1 standard paint roller, 1 resuable Stary Night stencil, 1 sheet of Stars masking stickers, step by step instructions  (printed in different languages) and a van Gogh lesson sheet. 

The full color instruction sheet is a two sides, fold out that first gives a short lesson about the life of Vincent van Gogh and discusses the different artistic styles that influenced his artwork and resulted in the progression to what his artistic style would become.  Inside is a lesson in regards to Realism, Impressionism and Post-Impressionism.  Finally, the inside of the fold out includes the detailed, step by step instructions on how to recreate van Gogh's masterpiece, The Starry Night.

Everything needed to create the art project is included, with exception to tape if you wish to tape the paper and stencil down as well as a paper plate to pour the paint on.  By following the steps, the end result is a pretty impressive version of van Gogh's artwork.

How We Used It

We had a really nice temperate day one weekend and determined that it would be the perfect time to bring out the art kit.  First, we sat down and read the lesson together so that Ashleigh could learn a bit about the life of Vincent van Gogh.  As said, we have listened to the song Vincent by Don McLean so many times that she already knew part of the story (that van Gogh took his life) and the lesson does talk briefly about this.  However, the section on van Gogh's personal life is very brief and written for a younger student's understanding and handles the subject material well.

Still inside, we also talked about the differences between Realism, Impressionism and Post- Impressionism.  The kids have done some art studies in the past and we somewhat familiar with these styles of art but it was a good discussion on the techniques each of these styles display.

After these discussions, it was time to head outside and have some fun.  Ashleigh put on some older play clothes  so as not to get paint on her good clothes, Mom took a bit of tape and tapes down the paper to the sidewalk outside and Ashleigh got busy.

After placing the star masks (stickers to keep the paint from the area where the stars will be located), we poured some of the blue paint in a paper plate and Ashleigh used the van Gogh roller to create a texture that resembled van Gogh's distinct brush strokes onto the paper.  After the blue, we poured the white paint into the plate and Ashleigh used the same roller with that paint.

She did have a bit of difficulty removing the star masks from the paper as the texture of the paper adhered really well to the adhesive of the stickers.  Removing the masks slowly and from different angles to meet in the middle worked the best for us.

After that, we taped the stencil over the paper and poured some black paint into the plate.  Using the standard paint roller, she covered the area of the stencil with the black paint and allowed that a few minutes to dry.  (Since it was in the mid 80's that day, it dried fairly quickly).

Ashleigh checking to see if the paint was dry before moving on to the next step with the pastels.

 With the instructions in front of her, it was time to use the pastels to add the brighter colors into the picture.  The instructions have a color picture of The Starry Night to give her an idea of what colors to use where on her picture.

Even her big sister came out at some point and started helping her with the pastels.

After all was dried and done, Ashleigh was rather proud of the final picture. 

The smile says it all :)

Final Thoughts

I REALLY liked this art kit and not just because it was based on van Gogh.  I found the learning materials to be just enough to teach but not enough to overwhelm.  There's enough provided that if a child wants to learn more, they can do their own research using the information provided as a spring board.  I also liked the use of a variety of art techniques, from the two rollers, the stencil, and sticker masks to the use of acrylic paints and pastels to create a piece of art a child can be proud of.  Of course I really like the fact that it gave Ashleigh an excuse to get out of the house, enjoy some nice weather while learning in the process.

Master Kitz offers seven other Kitz, including a second van Gogh kit that replicates Sunflowers. These kits would make great Christmas presents for the art loving child in your household and the Monet's Water Lilies kit is likely to be under the Christmas tree for us this year.

#hsreviews #art #homeschoolart #masterkitz

For more information about Kitzaw.com and their wide selection of art kits including Master Kitz, visit their website.  You can also find more information at the following social media sites:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Kidzaw-160167827376266/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/kidzaw
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/kidzaw123?blend=1&ob=5
Master Kitz The Starry Night {Kidzaw.com Reviews}

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Weekend Meal Planning

Thank Goodness that Halloween is over.  I'll be honest, I have NO idea how many calories worth of mini Snickers I have eaten since Wednesday.  Yeah, it wasn't pretty..  My diet pretty much went right out the window.

Typically, I go grocery shopping on Sunday but nobody felt like going anywhere.  Instead, we're going to head out to the store tomorrow evening since Charles is on Training Day tomorrow and will be going in during the day.  However, I did head over to the commissary to pick up some ingredients and made a really nice soup for tonight that everyone enjoyed.

I mentioned in one of my last reviews that we are using one of the suggestions to start working towards an annual menu.  I'm not sure if I will ever get to actually planning a full year, btu I did manage to plan the entire month using the idea of theme nights.   We sat down as a family and decided on the following themes - with us alternating between each meal type for a given day: 

Monday - Asian/Vegetarian
Tuesday - Fiesta/Ethnic
Wednesday - Alyssa's choice  
Thursday - Potato bar/Pasta
Friday - Comfort Foods
Saturday - Breakfast for Dinner/Grilling
Sunday - Soup&Sandwiches/Seafood 

This Weeks Menu:

Sunday -  Chicken, Vegetable and Orzo Soup with french bread (8SP)

Monday -  Beef and Broccoli with Rice

Tuesday -   Picadillo with Brown Rice (6SP)

Wednesday  -  Instant Pot cheeseburger macaroni

Thursday -   Steakhouse Potatoes

Friday - Chicken and Dumplings with Salad (3PS)

Saturday  -  Ham Steaks with Fried Eggs and Hashbrowns (4SP)

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Balancing Diapers and Deadlines (A Homeschool Crew Review)

Going from being childless to becoming a mother creates a whole set of difficulties when trying to balance business endeavors.  Before children, one can devote as much time as they want to reach their goals throughout the day, week or year.  However, once children come into the picture, those goals get sidelined by on the hour feedings, diaper changes, fish stick lunches and early bedtimes.

Many homeschooling mothers don't want to sideline their goals and aspirations just because they have children but they do not necessarily want to work outside the home and put their children into the public school system.  Maybe they want to help contribute financially to the family or wants to take some of the burden off the working spouse.  However, with no direction on how to start a business from the home, many woman fail before they ever get off the ground.  Balancing Diapers and Deadlines is a course from Lisa Tanner Writing    that is designed to help with time management, productivity and family management for the busy homeschool mom.
Balancing Diapers and Deadlines is written by Lisa Tanner, a homeschool mother of 8, who wanted to share with other moms the tips and tricks that she learned through the years to help you feel less stressed and more productive.  This 30 lesson course is broken down into 8 sections.

Units included are:

Building Your Foundation with the Basics
Minimizing your Decisions
Minimizing your Decisions: The Annual Meal Plan
Sustainable Growth
Growing a Business with Your Kids Around
Boost Your Productivity

What I Thought:

At this point in my life, I'm not interested in starting a business.  That's not to say that later down the road, things might change but right now, it's not on my agenda.  Because of this, I went into this course more with the train of thinking as to what type of information would I be interested in IF I were interested in starting my own business or working from the home.

Each portion is written as short but informative passages broken down into bite sized pieces.  This is great for just being able to read one or two sections when the opportunity arises as they are short enough to take around 5-10 minutes to read through. Some lessons

What I found was lots of information that could be applied to almost any aspect of trying to manage a family.  From tips in regards to time management to learning to actively communicate with all members of the family, including the children, in regards to making decisions that would ultimately affect the family as a whole.   Each lesson also includes an Action Plan, an activity to incorporate into your daily routines.

Balancing Diapers and DeadlinesSome of these lessons also focus on particular age groups.  How to approach a business with smaller children is much different than with older children in the home and because of this, the approach is different.  Oldest children in the home can actually be included in growing the home business and used as a teaching tool to help develop work ethics. The author gives many different tips on how to either include your children into the business or ways to instead keep those students entertained as to keep them busy while you work.

One thing I really enjoyed was the section in regards to meal planning.  The course suggests creating an annual meal plan.  This might seem very overwhelming - I typically spend a few hours planning on my weekly/two week menus but the author gives some great tips such as using theme nights to do this quickly.  I've been trying to work towards the annual meal planning for 2019.  For starting, I did a full month planning for just dinner for the month of October.  This worked really well for us.   For November, I'm incorporating more of the tips Lisa Tanner suggests, including planning for lunch and breakfast which are two meals I completely neglect for myself.  It will be nice to share all three meals with the families instead of our typical "fend for yourself" mentality.

Overall, there's lots of helpful tools, suggestions and tips that anyone could benefit from, not just those considering working in the home.

For more information about Balancing Diapers and Deadlines, visit the website.  You can also find more information about Lisa Tanner Writing at the following social media sites:

Balancing Diapers and Deadlines {Lisa Tanner Writing Reviews}

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Math Whizz (A Homeschool Crew Review)

When I was in school, I really struggled with math.  I always excelled in English and in Science, but numbers and formulas have always eluded me.  Even today, I have to rely on a calculator or apps on my phone to figure out equations that require math.  Because of this, I fear that my struggles with math will carry on to my children because I don't have the proper foundations in my own knowledge to help them build their own, causing them years of frustration.  I often worry that if they fail to understand important skills early on, they will struggle with other concepts that build upon those skills.  

For the last few weeks, the kids have been using  Math-Whizz  from Whizz Education.  Designed as an online math
tutoring system, Math-Whizz helps to first identify gaps in a student's mathematical foundations and then helps to fix those gaps in math learning.   For this review, we were given a 12 month subscription to Math-Whizz for both Ashleigh and Garrett. 

Math-Whizz is designed for ages 5-13 years old and is tailored to identify your child's particular math knowledge so that the program can then providing the right lessons at the right time and in the right order to improve math learning and understanding. 

Getting started with the program was fairly simple.  After creating an account for both Ashleigh and Garrett, they were each asked to take an assessment that gauged what they knew.  These assessments took roughly 20-30 minutes for the kids to complete.  Fortunately, they could take a break from the testing and pick up where they left off if they got overwhelmed.  

Ashleigh and Garrett are both at different levels when it comes to where their learning gaps are.  Because of this, they were both given different lessons to work on.  Garrett needed to work on his multiplication tables, which I already knew was where he was struggling while Ashleigh struggles with measurements like telling time and counting money. Once the assessments for both kids were completed, Math-Whizz then provided tutoring lessons based on what their assessment results showed. 

I really liked the set up of how the lessons were designed on this program.   The kids log into their account and are brought to their dashboard where they can select the tutor and start practicing.  Students are encouraged to use the program at least 30 minutes a week.  

We tried to use the program at least 15 minutes a day each day and the kids often would do more than an hour each week.   Usually in that 15 minutes, they could finish a full lesson as well as the skills test that followed.  

As they work thru lessons, they receive incentive coins as well as bonus coins for time spent.  These coins can be spent on virtual trinkets and pets the student can purchase in the shop to decorate their room.

Garrett was super excited to see Halloween Decorations in his study 
The lessons themselves are very interactive.  The concept is shown and then students doing various activities that help them gain understanding as to what is being taught.  Here is one of Garrett's lessons on Properties of Numbers where he was having to skip count backwards.  

Once the student answers at least four questions correctly, they are given a skip button (the fast forward button under the OK on the screenshot above).  This allows the student to skip the remaining questions for that lesson and go straight to the test.  This might be great for some students, but I'm a "mean mom" and did not allow the kids to use this function and instead made them complete all the activities just so I knew for sure they understood the concepts they were learning. 

Ashleigh working on reading an analog clock
Both kids really have enjoyed using Math-Whizz and I think it has quickly become a favorite math supplement for the both of them.  I really like the fact that I can log into my parent account and view reports for both kids to see what lessons they worked on, how well they did on those lessons, and what progress they have made overall.   These reports show that both kids have made improvements on the math skills that they have worked on and I can indeed see how using this program will them to fill in the gaps in their learning. 

This is definitely a program that we will keep using in the future.

For more information about Math-Whizz from Whizz Education, connect with them on the following social media sites:

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