Friday, May 29, 2015

Easy Piano Basics by JazzEdge (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

Pick up any journal of child psychology today and you'll see the recommendation of getting children to learn to play a musical instrument at an early age.  Studies show that children who receive a music education are generally smarter than their non-musical counterparts and do better in academics, helps students to relieve stress, helps builds the students self confidence, and helps to foster creativity, self discipline and patience while improving memory.  However, unless we as the parent are musically inclined ourselves, music lessons require an instructor which may be a bit difficult to find.

I was given the opportunity to review the Easy Piano Basics program provided by JazzEdge, an online program that provides 32 lessons designed to take a student who has never touched a piano in their life and have them reading music and playing in a short period of time. Taught by Willie Myette, this program helps to develop a foundation in the fundamentals of piano to build upon.  Starting from the finding of "Middle C",  progressing though the musical alphabet, and continuing to learning to play basic rhythms, each lesson runs about 5 to 10 minutes long and concentrates on one particular skill as it builds upon itself.

JazzEdge  Review
How We Used It

When we found out we would be reviewing Easy Piano Basics, the kids were pretty excited to find out they would be learning to play the piano. My oldest daughter is self taught and the kids have often wanted to learn to play as well.

Perfect Portability
The only inconvenient part of Easy Piano Basics was moving the keyboard from my oldest's room to either the living room or my room for the kids to do their lessons (it's a big keyboard).. However, the portability of Easy Piano Basics was completely opposite. I could play it on my computer, my kindle, my phone and my Smart TV. I could download it to my devices to play later if I knew I wouldn't have internet access and maybe wanted the kids to review while we were in the car.

The ability to play the lessons on various tablets and smart devices is one we found very hand, as we could do a lesson in the bedroom by just putting the Kindle in the music tray of the keyboard so the kids could watch and work on keyboard fingering at the same time.

The kids have really enjoyed using this program. After completing each lesson, the smiles on their
Garrett working hard on proper fingering
faces knowing they were learning and progressing was evident. Both Garrett and Ashleigh were driven to practice during the week and Ashleigh could be heard on a number of occasions reciting the musical alphabet both forward and backwards and practicing scales.  Out of both kids, while Ashleigh was more quick to want to "practice", Garrett was the one who was extremely precise and wanted to get things perfect..  They both seem to love the piano and adapted well to the Easy Piano Basics style of learning and while we have not finished the 32 lessons as of now, I have no doubt this is something they will continue with until they master all that is offered in the program.   The even better thing is that there's no time limit for the program;  if something happens and they need to take a break, they can come back to it whenever they want to and pick up where they left off or even start over again for a refresher.   This is a great self paced program for any age trying to teach themselves the piano.

But what happens when they finish this program. Obviously, this is a basics program and they will not be playing the Liszt Sonata once they are finished with it.  However, JazzEdge offers another subscription, PianoWithWillie which offers much more difficult lessons for those who are beyond the basics.  Considering the kids would already be familiar with Willie and his style of teaching, this would be a great option to move beyond and apply the skills they will have learned upon completing Easy Piano Basics.

If piano is not your thing but you have a desire to grab a pair of drumsticks and bang around like Rick Allen, then JazzEdge offers DrumsWithWillie to teach you to play the drums as well.

The Excitement of a Lesson Completed

Jazzedge and PianoWithWillie can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, and Vimeo.

Want to learn more about each of the three programs offered by JazzEdge?  Click the banner below for more information and to read other's reviews of each program.

JazzEdge Review

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Wordless Wednesday

Exactly twenty years ago, I graduated from high school. I was suppose to graduate C/O 94 but I repeated my senior year and instead graduated C/O 95.. Man I feel OLD!!!

Wordless Wednesday at Life at Rossmont

Sky Spills Over Video Release - Michael W Smith

I remember the first time I heard Michael W Smith like it was yesterday.  It was the end of church camp, we were packing up the vans and saying goodbye to everyone, about to make the drive from J Bar J Ranch in Sealey, Texas back to our homes.  Many of us had been close friends for years because of youth group but only got to see each other during the few weeks we were all together at youth camp.  So as we came together one last time, we played the song "Friends" by Michael W Smith, cried on each others shoulders and promised to be friends forever. That week, I rushed to the record store (yes, we had record stores back then) and I bought a copy of "Michael W. Smith Project", the very first album released by Michael W Smith.   That was over 30 years ago and still, I cannot hear "Friends" without crying, that's how much emotion Michael W Smith put into his music back then.

Thirty two years later and Michael W. Smith is showing that he is still a strong force in the Christian Music world with the release of his new album "Sovereign". He has managed to change with the times, keeping his music current and relatable to both the younger generation of music lovers all the way to those of us who have been with him since the beginning.

Today marks the release of the newest video for the single "Sky Spills Over".  Check it out and see what you think! 

And here's what Michael W. Smith himself has to say about the video:

"I’m really passionate about the song SKY SPILLS OVER.  It was fun creating it in the studio and I’ve been overwhelmed at the response it gets when we perform it live every night.  My son Ryan is a really talented filmmaker so I always enjoy working with him on a project.  But what made this project even more special was that 3 of my own grandkids were in the video.  This video was a lot of fun to make.  I hope people enjoy it!"

Now here's the awesome news.  Capitol Records along with Flyby promotions is allowing me to give one of my lucky readers a copy of "Sovereign".  

But first, 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.”

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Taco Pizzas

Five years ago when we still lived in Michigan, we would make the trip up to Battle Creek to go eat at CiCi's Pizza.  Cici's was great because for a very cheap price, we could have an all you could eat pizza buffet and salad bar. So if the kids wanted Mac and Cheese and Pepperoni pizza, they could have it. But for me, I almost always ordered a Taco Pizza.  They would make it for me while I waited and would usually bring at least half of the fresh pizza directly to my table for me.. I absolutely loved the taco pizza.

And then we moved..  And of course, the nearest Cici's pizza to where we moved is 104 miles away.. As much as I love Cici's Taco Pizza, I can't see myself driving 208 miles for it. So I had to learn to make my own version of it..   And honestly, it's probably much better for you because the ingredients are fresher.

What you're going to need is two 12 inch pizza crusts (I used Boboli's crusts ), a pound of ground meat (either beef or turkey will do, whichever you prefer), taco sauce, taco seasoning, and Mexican style blend cheese.  For toppings we are using shredded lettuce, tomato and black olives. (I forgot my jalapenos tonight).

All the ingredients gathered together
 Brown your meat and drain away all the grease.

 Add your taco seasoning and your water, mix and cook down until water is cooked out ..

Garrett doesn't eat Taco Pizza so he wanted pepperoni.. So, Little Man is in the kitchen today making his own dinner :)

Using about a quarter cup of taco sauce, spread over pizza crust.   The back of a spoon is great for doing this.

Using half the cheese and half the taco meat mixture, spread evenly on the crust.  

Pop it in the oven for 10 minutes. 

Almost looks good enough to eat just like that.. 

Now top it with lettuce, tomato, black olives, jalapenos, cheese, crunched up tortilla chips.. Whatever you think would be good ;)   Drizzle a bit of taco sauce over the top and your good to go...  

And as always.. Here's the full recipe

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Texas Hash

Here in the Mojave Desert, it's been significantly cooler then normal for this time of the year.  Typically by this time of the year, the sun is baking and the temperatures are soaring well into the triple digits. Instead, its been in the 60's and 70's during the daytime and much cooler in the evenings and into the night.  Since it has been chillier then normal, I decided a pot of Texas Hash along with some corn bread would make for a great meal.   This is a really great one pot meal that's easy to fix up in a skillet, takes about 30 minutes (depending on how long it takes you to chop the veggies) and is very filling.   It's very much like a deconstructed stuffed pepper but much, much easier :) 

First thing I always do is gather my ingredients so that they are within reach..   For this recipe you will need Rice, two cans of diced tomatoes, paprika, chili powder, black pepper, and garlic salt in addition to 1 chopped onion, 1 bell pepper and 1 lb of ground beef.  (As this is a TEXAS recipe, using anything except beef would be an insult ;) lol)
Ingredients you will need from the cupboard

 Brown up your meat, onions and bell peppers

One the beef is no longer pink and the onions are translucent , mix in 2 cups of water, 2 cans of diced tomatoes (with juice), rice and all your dry seasonings.. Mix together and bring to a boil.. Once boiling, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes until most of the liquid has been absorbed into the rice.  Be sure to stir occasionally to avoid the rice sticking to the pan. 

Serve with some sweet cornbread, a salad or some corn on the cob.. 

And of course, here's the recipe to save for later :) 

Friday, May 22, 2015

A Night at the Museum

Warning:  Some of these photographs of students reenacting events in history might be disturbing to some people.

For the past three years the middle and high school students here on base host an event called "A Night at the Museum".  In lieu of taking an actual final for their history classes, each class must put together and perform a live presentation that they will perform multiple times over a period of 2 hours.  Each presentation is approximately 10 minutes long and there are about 20 different presentations. So despite it being a cool 66 degrees outside and extremely windy, we loaded the kids up in the car and headed over to the high school to see what the classes had put together. 

This year, Alyssa's class presented Auschwitz concentration camp.  We rode along with two Jewish prisoners from the Ghettos onto the trains (a truck pulling a flatbed trailer) until we arrived at the gates of Auschwitz.  Once we got off the trains, we were arranged into lines and divided up.  Those of us who were in the A line (which we were) headed off to the work yard where those sorted into the B line were sent off to the "showers"..  Then after hearing some about life at the camp, we switched and headed to the showers where "gas" was coming from the crack under the door.

Alyssa's roll was that of one of the medical doctors who made sure that we were "healthy" enough for work in the camp. Unfortunately, my camera settings were wrong when I took most of the pics of Auschwitz :( 

Jewish Prisoners being brought to the train by a Nazi soldier
Behind the fences of Auschwitz

 Following Alyssa's class we moved on to a presentation in regards to Nazi Germany where the presentation showed how Jewish people as well as those they felt were Jewish sympathizers were captured, their businesses given to Germans and then executed.

Listening to Nazi Propaganda

 Death seemed to be a huge part of this year's night at the museum and we were once again presented with a macabre display at our next presentation, which was about the Russian Revolution.  This was honestly one of the best presentations of the night for me and dad, we bought found it very interesting. I believe Garrett enjoying it very much as well. (Ashleigh's favorite is the next one) 

We started the Russian Revolution with a student who asked us to wait for a few moments for our guide to arrive.  We all found him to be very enjoyable as he found Russian based puns to tell us "Don't be "russian" off..  I'm just "Stalin"..". Ashleigh asked him questions in regards to his weapon (which is one of the practice riles the JROTC uses) and he allowed her to touch it while we waited.

Once we were on the tennis courts, were were walked through six different scenes of the Russian revolution.   We learned that because of budget and lack of funds, the military often trained with brooms as guns and rocks as grenades.. 

And we learned how Grigori Rasputin basically ran the country while Nicolas II was away by influencing the Emperess, Alexandra.  (Yes, tonight, Rasputin was a female with a very bad beard.. lol)

We observed how bread was being rationed out becuase food was so scares and how it created animosity and fighting between the people of Russia.

We saw the execution of the royal family by the Bolsheviks and an order possibly given by Vladimir Lenin.

Moving on from Russia we decided to hit up the roaring 20's.. There was a demonstration going on in regards to Women's Rights while we waited in line. 

 There was also protestors against segregation on the other side of us.

The wind is starting to get to Ash, as well as the temp.. Her lips are slightly blue.

Finally, we went on a "tour of a grocery store" during the roaring 20's..  Luckily, our guide knew the special word to get us into the run so off to the local SpeakEasy for some Shirley Temples.   The music (Provided by a few players of the high school band) was hopping, the flapper girls were dancing away and we mingled with the likes of George Herman "Babe" Ruth, Charlie Chaplin, Charles Lindbergh, and Amelia Earhart.  But then a teetotaler came in and tried to ruin the party..  She was tossed out but the next thing you know, the club was raided and Al Capone was being arrested.  So we got out of there quick as we could before we were cuffed and booked. 

Our host into the Speak Easy

The Bartender and waitstaff keeping the drinks flowing

Meeting Babe Ruth

Ashleigh speaking with Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart

Gotta watch out for those Teetotalers.

Al Capone being taken away in cuffs

After we made our way out of the Speakeasy without any problems from law enforcement, we decided to hang out in the gym area for a few minutes to allow the kids to warm up and to let Ashleigh finish her Shirley Temple.. I had to wonder if maybe her's wasn't spiked ;)

"Ashleigh, are you drunk? Have you been to that Speakeasy?"

"No Mom, not me.. I was at Bible Study"

Moving on to the 60's we decided to head over and check out Woodstock for a few.. Ashleigh enjoyed watching the hippies and flower children and we got to watch "Jimmy Hendrix" playing the National Anthem as well as watch a protest against the Vietnam war. 

Peaceful Protest

Jimmy Hendrix jamming out the Star Spangled Banner

7PM was coming quick so we headed back to Auschwitz to pick up Alyssa..  All the presentations were shutting down and it was time for the final exhibit to end our night.

It's tiring work to decide who lives and who dies.

The final presentation as the firing of a Trebuchet built by one of the classes.  Alyssa tells me that the kids were building this in the wood shop class.  They had a target set up at the other end of the field and took 6 attempts trying to hit the target. Unfortunately, while they came very close, they missed the target. However, it was still very impressive that they even built this thing, much less had it working for multiple launches.  They celebrated it's success by running down and knocking over the target boxes themselves.

This really was such a wonderful way to look at history.  I think as long as we live on this base, we will be attending Night At the Museum even after Alyssa graduates. It was a lot of fun for the kids and even Charles said he was very impressed with all of it - but his favorites was the Russian Revolution and the Trebuchet.. Ash says her favorite was the Speakeasy (she said she liked the jazz music) and Garrett loved watching the Russian Army training with the brooms.. :)


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