Tuesday, April 28, 2015

La La Logic (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

In my household, my son typically is the one who likes to play electronic games.  My son discovered Minecraft on Playstation 4 about 6 months ago and it has been non stop ever since. Ashleigh on the other hand likes to use her Dreamtab to watch cartoons on Netflix. She rarely plays games at all, it’s just not her thing. However, all that changed when we were given the opportunity to review La La Logic's online  Preschool Curriculum.

Ashleigh doing La La Logic
La La Logic is an online program designed to develop crucial critical thinking skills in early childhood. Composed of 100 weeks, children ages 3-6 work first online at a weekly brain challenge and then work on various activities that are printed out and worked on offline. Each week gets progressively more difficult as the child progresses through the curriculum. Purchase of the curriculum gives parents a lifetime membership so students are not limited to only 100 weeks of using the program, they can repeat or return to previous weeks if needed without any time restraints.

The brain challenge activities usually take about 5-10 minutes and the enrichment activities take roughly 20 minutes.  The brain challenge activities are similar to the types of puzzles used by many of the top children's IQ tests. These enrichment activities cover things such as reading comprehension, sorting and event orders. Some activities also help to improve fine motor skills through cutting and gluing.  Parents are able to keep track of progress by checking off the week which marks it off the “chalkboard”.

20 Chalkboards help keep track of the 100 Weekly lessons so you don't lose track

Ashleigh is on the older side of the 3-6 year age range but that didn’t seem to bother her at all.  She asked me to set it up so that she would be able to play it anytime she wanted on her Dreamtab so I made it an approved website for her.  Weeks later, this is still her favorite thing to do during her electronics time and while most other applications on her Dreamtab have gone unused since.  She also enjoys the enrichment activities as they are a good way for the two of us to spend some one on one time together during the school day.  We had no issues with running the program on the Dreamtab table or on my computer; both ran the program flawlessly and there was no lag.

In addition to the weekly lessons, there is also an option to do the continuous brain challenge mode. This allows the child to do all the 500 activities of the weekly brain challenges at one time.  While very time consuming, it makes for a great distraction when I'm cooking dinner.   

A sample of some of the printable enrichment activities

Bright colorful graphics keep children entertained

This did not seem like school at all to Ashleigh.  She treated this curriculum as she would a very entertaining game.  The graphics for the brain challenge are bright and cheerful and the sound effects and encouraging narrations aren't too annoying ;)  The transitions between each individual activity of the brain challenge is seamless and quick loading so I didn't have to deal with Ashleigh complaining it takes too long.

What typically happened is that Ash would curl up on the couch with her Dreampad and would sit and play during her quiet time after dinner before bed, in addition to the time she and I worked together on the enrichment activities. I won't tell Ashleigh that she's actually learning critical thinking skills in the process of having fun - let her go on thinking Mom is being super nice allowing her extra video game time.

How Ashleigh typically does her La La Logic

You can try La La Logic for yourself for free by visiting their website and putting in your email address. No credit card is required for the free trial so there's no worrying about your card being charged if you decide La La Logic is not for you. Even after the free trial, if you do sign up at the $29 dollar lifetime membership and decide you are not happy with the program, La La Logic offers a full money back guarantee for the first 30 days.  Each membership tracks the progress of up to 5 children which is great for larger families or if you buy it for one child and later want to use it with another younger sibling.

Be sure to visit La La Logic on Facebook.

La La Logic Review

Monday, April 27, 2015

Garden Update: April

Things are coming along very nicely in our garden and the kids are so excited.. We went out this weekend to put cages around our tomatoes and to everyone's surprise, we have several plants starting to actually produce.

The first thing we noticed was that there are a number of tomatoes starting on each of our tomato plants. We currently have three varieties of tomato plants in our garden: 1 Big Boy, 1 Solar Fire, and 2 Purple Cherokees. We've left room to add 4 more plants and have seedlings still indoors for Pink Accordians, Carbon and more Purple Cherokees. We have not moved these particular seedings out to ground just yet because of the high winds we experience - the last few days we've been having 70 mile per hour gusts so we wanted to allow the stems on our plants to get stronger.   Of the 4 tomato plants currently in the ground, all but the Solar Fire is producing.  The kids really enjoyed looking at how the fruit looks different between the two different varieties currently growing tomatoes. The Purple Cherokee is more of a striped green where the Big Boy is just a solid green fruit at this point.  The Big Boy is also much more round in shape then the PC which is a big flatter.

Big Boy Variety
Purple Cherokee

The next thing the kids got excited about is that we're producing strawberries.. We've been watching the plants making flowers over the last week and now we are beginning to see the development of the fruit in the center of the buds.  

Our Onions are almost ready for harvest.. We're noticing that the tips are starting to turn brown and now we're just waiting for the greens to start falling over..

 We weren't sure how well the Kohlrabi was going to grow as we found out that we planted it at the absolute wrong time, but it is looking pretty amazing.. 

Garrett is super excited about the carrots.. They should be ready for harvesting sometime in the middle of next month..   I need to get some jars ready so that I can clean and can them for storage once they are ready :)

Our jalapeno plant has some VERY small peppers starting to grow. 

Our Loose leaf lettus is just about ready and looks absolutely amazing.. I think sometime this week we might go ahead and harvest some of it to try in a salad..  I've already started looking into buying some butter lettuce for our fall harvests. 

Our crisp head lettuce is looking equally as nice..   And one of our ladybugs decided to make an appearance while I was taking pictures.. lol

Our Brussels Sprouts are finally starting to make the stalk that will start lifting them off the ground and hopefully will start making some sprouts (these were another "mistake" we made as these were planted way too early). 

And my lone artichoke plant is doing great as well.. LOL

And here's our second round of radishes which are just about ready for harvest.. We will put another round in the ground once these are up (this particular type of radishes take about 22 days from seed to harvest). 

Things are also advancing inside the house with the Aerogarden as well as all the seeds that were started indoors in the hotbox.    When I first started the tomato seedlings, I honestly did not expect any of them to grow.  Tomato seeds are so tiny and fragile and I have typically don't have much luck with growing indoors.. But all have done really well and we have had to thin out our seedlings twice now as well as transplant to much bigger pots.. We're down to 2-4 seedings per pot and will most likely be thinning them out again in the next week or so.

Purple Cherokee

Purple Cherokees
Carbon seedlings

Seedlings in the hotbox
Okra seedlings in the hotbox

I have already had to harvest and thin out the Aerogarden on numerous occasions and it just keeps growing like crazy.  Last night we had tacos and used handfuls of cilantro that today I think it all grew back. LOL    We have potted the coleus that we had growing and now have two new coleus pods staring in the back.

Potted Coleus

The indoor tomatoes are in overload.. The aerogarden plant has grown much bigger and has a lot more tomatoes on it then the sunny window version which really hasn't changed since the last posting.   However, this plant is going crazy nuts with growth..  This is a view from the back of the aerogarden. The plant actually wrapped around the back edge of the unit and started growing downward. 

And here's a look at my counter in its current state.. LOL  Eventually I hope to transplant most of these plants outdoors into planters or into our garden itself. 

My husband and I have been talking over the last few days about actually renting a tiller and explanding the garden for the fall season.  The ground here is so hard and rocky that it just seems like a smarter move then trying to break it up ourselves..  Also, sometime next month, we will be planting some pumpkins which we hope will be ready by Halloween :)

Saturday, April 25, 2015

What A Girl Needs From Her Mom By Cheri Fuller


As a mother of two daughters, one who is currently in her difficult teenage years, when I saw this book I knew it was something I wanted to read. Honestly, this book should be required reading for anyone who has daughters – they should put a copy of it in your gift bag at the hospital upon birth of said daughter (there’s a second book for mother’s of boys as well).

The Reasons I Have to Dye My Hair

Let’s face it – when you bring home that little bundle of sweetness wrapped up in a pink blanket, you think it’s going to be easy.   Boys are the hard ones – those rambunctious tornados who can’t sit still for a moment.  The truth is, girls can be just as difficult as boys are but on a totally different level.  Boys are difficult because of their curiosity and adventurism; girls are difficult because of their need for social interaction and because of their emotions.

Cheri Fuller does a great job of providing insight into the mother/daughter relationship as well as walking the reader step by step through the many perils of raising a daughter. She also pinpoints the many ways we as mother's fail our daughters.  As she does so, she weaves in humor and stories of her own mistakes and situations in raising her own daughter as well as those of other families.  She points out how things are much different now then when many of us were young girls and what mothers really need to be aware of in this jungle of the technological age.

The book is divided up into 14 points of interest as to what we need to be for our daughters. Each of these points are covered in entirety in its own chapter, which makes a great place to go if you bought this book to pinpoint one particular are to work on..   Some of the topics that are covered are : Being a mom who is present and engaged, being a mom who encourages and builds confidence, being a mom who prays for her daughter, being a mom who is a good role model, being a mom who helps develops a daughter of character, and being a mom who listens with her heart.

The book is far from being a dry textbook and really connects with the readers heart.  Each chapter concludes with questions for journaling to dig deeper into your thoughts and to provide a moment of self reflection in your own mother/daughter relationship.

Me with both of my beautiful daughters
Over all, I found this to be a great book for any mother to read, regardless to the age of her daughter.  My oldest daughter and I have a pretty good relationship, however I found much information here that I can bring into our relationship to make it not a “pretty good” but a strong connection that will endure the years. It will also help me to avoid many of the same mistakes that I made in my relationship with my oldest daughter when it comes to my youngest daughter.

Read it early on when your daughters are young to avoid much of the emotional conflict that comes when they get old. Read it when your daughters are older in order to lesson that conflict and rebuild the mother/daughter relationship that has might have been damaged. 
I would give this book a 4.5 out of 5.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Finding Me by Kathryn Cushman – A Book Review

What would you do if you learned your life was a lie? 

All her life, Kelli Huddleston has been told the story of a fire–a fire that killed her mother and two siblings when she was an infant. After her father’s death though, she uncovers evidence of a different story, including clippings about a boat accident that killed a young father and his infant daughter. And Kelli quietly realizes the story of her life has been a fiction.

How far would you go to discover the truth?

Armed with only a few pictures of what she thinks might be her family, Kelli crosses the country to Tennessee, determined to uncover the truth about what happened over twenty years ago in a small southern town. When the trip threatens to open doors to the past better left shut, and her plans for the future are jeopardized, Kelli is faced with an agonizing choice that will change her life forever.
My Thoughts
We open the story with a very brief look into the mind of David Waters/Don Huddleston prior to the “accident” that this entire book revolves around.  This glimpse into David’s thoughts is the only time we see anything from his point of view but his thoughts and actions of that moment has a lasting impact on lives of so many people 25 years later when he dies in a car accident.

While cleaning out his belongings, Kelli finds an envelope that contains her father’s biggest secret – that he had faked his and Kelli’s death and walked away from a wife and two other children. Kelli is determined to meet this family she never knew existed and find what about her mother would excuse what her father did all those years ago.

Right out of the gate, this book captured my attention.  Kelli is a likable character and is well developed.  The author does a great job of bringing the reader through the many emotions that Kelli is feeling; fear, elation, love, respect.  The other character who is well developed is that of Kenmore, David Water’s business partner and friend.  I really enjoyed getting to know Kenmore and I found he acted almost like a guide for Kelli.

There are a number of other characters throughout the book but I felt the most attachment to these two particular characters. Unfortunately, there are a few very critical characters to this story that I just could not get a feel for, one being Allison, Kelli’s biological mother.  Luckily, there’s enough “meat” to this story to allow this to slide.  A couple of other minor characters such as Miss Birdyshaw just didn’t seem to be needed in this story and served as a distraction more than anything else. Other minor characters, such as Opal, would have been great except again, they were never developed for us to really understand them and a few we see one time and never hear anything about them again.

The romance between Kelli and Shane is also an aspect that seems to distract from the story. Either the romance should have been developed more or left out entirely; as it stood it seemed to be only a filler, as if the author needed to throw it in there to make a certain set of readers happy. I always say, if you can take it out of the book and the story doesn’t change, then it’s not needed. That was indeed the case with this particular situation, especially the two moments where Amy, the girl from Shane’s past, enters the story. Those pages would have been better dedicated to maybe developing Allison a bit more.
Overall, the book is a wonderful read that hits on themes of family, atonement and redemption, as well as not repeating the mistakes of the past.  I’d easily give this book a 3.5 out of 5.
I received a copy of this book from Bethany House Publishing in exchange for an honest review. The thoughts expressed here are my own.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

When Calls The Heart Season 2 Premiere and Giveaway


It’s been a long wait since March 29th, 2014 when the final episode of Season 1 of “When Calls the Heart” aired on the Hallmark channel.   For over a year, loyal fans of the TV series have been waiting (not so) patiently to find out what happened after that LONG awaited kiss between Elizabeth and Mountie Jack and what will become of Mr Avery’s investigation into what really happened in the mines of Coal Valley.

In Case You Need A Reminder

For those who might not be familiar with the series, here’s the basics:  Based on the bestselling book of the same name by Janette, this story takes place in the Canadian West. “When Calls the Heart” tells the captivating story of Elizabeth Thatcher (played by Erin Krakow), a young teacher accustomed to her high society life, who receives her first classroom assignment in Coal Valley, a small coalmining town where life is simple, but often fraught with challenges. Lori Loughlin plays Abigail Stanton, a wife and mother whose husband, the foreman of the mine, along with a dozen other miners, including her son, were killed in an explosion. Elizabeth charms most everyone in Coal Valley, except Constable Jack Thornton (Daniel Lissing) who believes Thatcher’s wealthy father has doomed the lawman’s career by insisting he be assigned in town to protect the shipping magnate’s daughter. Living in a turn of the century coal town, Elizabeth will have to learn the ways of the frontier if she wishes to thrive in the rural west on her own.

My suggestion, binge watch the first season over the next two days before the season 2 premiere ;)

Thankfully, much to everyone’s excitement, Saturday is the long awaited two hour premiere of Season 2. It will air at 8/7c on the Hallmark channel and with it will come some pretty huge changes in Coal Valley.  And TRUST ME, you’re going to want to watch because there will be plenty of discussions among the Hearties after it airs. (Be sure to follow on When Calls The Heart's official Twitter and Facebook with hashtags #FaithTV & #Hearties during the premiere and don't forget to join up with the Hearties Facebook as well ).

The season premiere sets the tone for two recurrent themes this season: Family and Hope.

Jack and his younger brother Tom
This season will introduce us to the Thatcher family when an illness brings Elizabeth home to visit in Hamilton. Accompanied by Jack, Elizabeth introduces him to her older sister and her parents. We also get to meet Jack’s younger brother Tom who catches the eye of one of Elizabeth’s sister.  Season 2 will also bring a bit of competition for our favorite Mountie.

Change is also in the air for Coal Valley as a new judge arrives to replace tough as nails Judge Jedidiah Black who Mr Gowan knows couldn’t be bought.  This new Judge is just a bit too friendly with Mr. Gowen and his defense team.

Tension also mounts when the Prosecutor arrives in coal valley wearing a skirt much to the
disappointment of many of the widows whom feel that a woman doesn’t have much chance in the courtroom.  Lies are abound and a huge secret revealed during the trial will affect the memory of Abigail’s loved ones. How will that secret affect Abigail’s life in the future?

A tall, dark and handsome mysterious man on a motorcycle arrives in Coal Valley who just might be what the town needs to pull Rosemary’s attention away from Jack. Who is he, why is he there and is he up to no good?

Unfortunately, I can’t give more away then these teasers (no spoilers, sorry guys) but hopefully it is enough to get your mind wondering.   To answer these questions and more, be sure to watch the season premiere when it airs on the Hallmark Channel on Saturday April 25th at 8/7c.

Now the fun part..

dvd  Word Films and Flyby Promotions has provided me with 1 set of When Calls The Heart Season 1 on DVD ($60 value!!) to give away to one of my lucky readers.  Relive Jack and Elizabeth’s first kiss, the spider in the boat scene or any of your favorite Season 1 moments any time you want with this 10 DVD collectors edition. This giveaway is for residents of the US and Canada.  Just enter through my rafflecopter giveaway following all the legal stuff :)

"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.”


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