Chicken Magic

Homemade chicken broth is a staple food in our kitchen. The secrets... save onion skins carrot tops and other assorted veggie treasures in a bag in the freezer, make it in an instant pot, and stir in a little chicken magic.

I’m not sure how the name started, but that’s what is written on the lid of the mason jar, and that’s what we call it. It’s never the same. Each time I mix up a new batch I just use whatever we have in the pantry at that time. I don’t measure. At this point I don’t add salt. 

Combine in a quart jar:
Poultry seasoning 
Assorted peppers
Onion powder
Garlic powder 



52 Uncommon Family Adventures

Book Description: 
Connect with your family without breaking the bank.

When you dreamed of having a family you pictured outings, adventures, laughing around the kitchen table. But then the kids actually came and most of the time you’re too busy trying to keep up to figure out how to create a magical, screen-free environment where everyone feels loved, is having fun, and can connect. That’s why 52 Uncommon Family Adventures was written, it helps you do just that, without all the hassle and stress.

Whether it’s a family pillow fight, a lip-sync competition, or Toilet Paper Olympics, give your family the gift of lifelong memories while having fun, connecting spiritually, and speaking each other’s love languages. Enjoy all the benefits of the quality time you dreamed of without all the pressure of advanced planning.

Put down the phones, turn off the TV, and start making some memories together today.

Some of our best family memories are just times together without extra planning. This book is about having fun together. And of course, with input from Gary Chapman it incorporates the five love languages. 

Do you need some fresh ideas for your family? 

Purchase Link:  Pick up your life-saving copy of fun at:  https://amzn.to/2SyNfgM

See a sneak peek at the content/ adventures:

But don't just take my word for it, have a look yourself at just how easy , FUN, and helpful this book is:https://www.moodypublishers.com/mpimages/Marketing/WEB%20Resources/ProductExcerpts/9780802419392-TOC-CH1-3.pdf 

Disclosure: B&H Publishing by Frontgate Media provided a copy of this book for this review. No other compensation was provided. All opinions shared are my own and that of my family.


Brain Blox

The following is a review of Brain Blox Wooden Building Planks from Brain Blox with the TOS Homeschool Review Crew. 

Brain Blox Wooden Building Planks are unique New Zealand pine blocks that can be stacked and arranged way beyond basic forms. At first I thought they would be a fun open ended toy for us to offer young guests, which they are. But as we started reading more about them and trying them out for ourselves we learned they also offer more complex challenges even for my older children and me. 

Before our box of 200 Brain Blox Wooden Building Planks arrived, I received a helpful email from the owner of the Brain Blox company sharing creative ways to use their blocks. Brian Sweet shared that he and his wife Christine are also a homeschool family. He shared this link: https://mybrainblox.com/pages/free-stuff-for-blocks to free resources including printable build ideas. They have visual perceptual challenges, brain puzzles, and complex 3D designs. Once we received the blocks and tried them out for ourselves, we came up with even more ideas of our own. 

The brain blox wooden building planks are uniformly cut smooth thin rectangular pine blocks. They offer three different size boxes containing 100, 200, or 300 Blox. We received the box of 200 Brain Blox. Each box of Brain Blox Wooden Building Planks also includes a brochure of ideas and a big red canvas bag for convenient block storage. Each rectangular block is 120 mm long by 24 mm wide by 8 mm thick. (That is appropriately 4 and 3/4 inches long.) 

I encouraged my son to try them out without giving him any directions. He opened the box and said “That’s not how gravity works” when looking at the robot made of blocks pictured in the enclosed brochure. He then immediately built his own gravity defying creation. He also noticed “It doesn’t smell like pine.” It was fun to watch him and see his own unique designs. 

Gravity-defying tower!

We poured out the box of blocks on the floor for siblings of my daughter’s piano students to play with during lessons. I included a small table and the same brochure originally included with the box. Some of the kids tried recreating the pictures. Others demonstrated more vivid imaginations. One kept putting them in my hands with instructions like “build a dog.” 

These blocks provide open ended creative play for all ages. The Brain Blox company’s “toys for happy brains” also includes Family Fun Chess which others on the Homeschool Review Crew reviewed. (Click the link below and then back to view the post before it to read the crew’s Family Fun Chess reviews.)

I have enjoyed seeing what other Homeschool Review Crew families have created with Brain Blox as they shared pictures on Instagram. Connect with Brain Blox online: 
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mybrainblox
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/brainblox
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCpUttakNtthj_haX8LwRlwA 

and be sure to tell them hi from Jennifer at A Glimpse of Our Life. 

Click here to read more reviews and see what others on the crew made with Brain Blox:

Brain Blox Wooden Building Planks {Brain Blox Reviews}


What Would You Do?

Imagine your blank slate was a block of wood... a three inch cube of solid maple wood to be precise. What would you etch on each side? 

We have personalized baby blocks in our Cuts By Laser Etsy shop, but we can etch them for other occasions, too. 


High School Grammar

The following is a review of Easy Grammar Ultimate Series: Grade 11 from Easy Grammar Systems with the TOS Homeschool Review Crew. 

We received both the Teacher Edition of the lesson book and the smaller book with assessments and answers. 

Now that we are down to only one student in our homeschool, I no longer need curriculum that works for everyone. For high school, my son is getting a completely individualized plan that works specifically for him. I know his likes, his dislikes, his strengths, and his weaknesses. This method of teaching grammar is working for him, and I plan to continue with it as long as it works. The format has him completing just one page a day except for the days that he also does assessments. This simple and consistent plan has kept him from getting frustrated, even when something new is presented. 

The Teacher Edition which we received is not an instruction booklet for teaching, instead it contains both the complete student lessons and the answer keys for each daily lesson. Permission is granted to copy the daily lessons, and we did this by easily tearing out the pages from the cover. The answers are all in order in the back of the book. 

My son completed a page each day. I graded the pages and discussed with him anything he missed. Because the information is presented in a cyclical manner, each concept is repeated, so he can address again anything missed. Although some explanations are given, complete lessons are no built into each problem. These lessons assume that students already have some understanding of the content covered.
Easy Grammar Ultimate Series (Grades 8-12+) provides daily teaching by following the same format as Daily GRAMS. The 180 lessons provide high-school students with continued learning and application in daily, 10-minute lessons and have been designed cyclically. This allows students more class time for literature and writing.”

Specifically what works: it is easily portable. As much of our homeschool is not at home, have the five pages he needs to complete in his folder makes it simple to grab and go. It’s repetitive. For the topics he needs more practice with, that is built in. For things he does well, the quick success is rewarding. 

There is a short explanation when new things (participial phrases, direct objects, and indirect objects for example) are briefly explained. An example is provided then the activities use the new knowledge as explained. 

The answers vary in format from crossing out and replacing capital letters, filling in the blank with part of speech, tense, or even code symbols corresponding to answers, and each page ends with a sentence combining activity requiring the student to write out the complete answer. For neatness, I ended up asking him to continue writing below the lines provided for answers as his writing rarely could all fit in the spaces provided. 

Read more reviews by clicking below. Others on the crew reviewed this and the ninth grade version, third and seventh grade Daily Grams, or first or third grade Easy Grammar. 

Easy Grammar, Daily GRAMS & Easy Grammar Ultimate {Easy Grammar Systems Reviews}


Eighteen Years Ago

My life is very different than it was then.

Early morning wake up. My husband had already left for work. I worked part-time. My just-turned four year old daughter was already at preschool.

At home in our living room with my two year old daughter, I had Good Morning America playing. Maybe you’ve seen this timeline:

What was that? I saw the crash in the background of the show. People started to question. Such brief moments then more destruction. I picked up my baby and wished I had her sister there with us that morning. More questions. Suggestions of terrorism in our country.

I learned later, much later as she couldn’t reach me right away, that my mom’s travel survey job had taken her to a nursing home close enough to see the smoke when the pentagon was hit that morning. Thankfully my daddy had recently retired and was traveling with her. Their rental car instead of bringing them home allowed them to travel more and her to work more when air travel stopped.

Our house was near both an air force base and an airport. We always heard planes...until we didn’t for a few weeks. That abnormal silence was not peaceful. The silence was filled with questions. Later we heard more. We learned of suicide bombers and courageous stories of heroes who tried to stop them. “Let’s roll.”

My fifteen year old was not yet born. We had not yet moved to the farm. Our lives were much different then. Our country was much different then.

I will never forget.


Music Appreciation

The following is a review of Music Appreciation Book 2: For The Middle Grades from Zeezok Publishing with the TOS Homeschool Review Crew. 

This Music Appreciation Book 2 set is such a delightful way to learn about composers. This includes the readers (Great Musicians biographies) and the Student Activity Book.  The consumable Student Activity Book includes instructions for creating a journal and for accessing the online component. In addition to the Student Activity Book, the set includes these nine composer books: 
  • Frederic Chopin, Early Years
  • Frederic Chopin, Later Years
  • Robert Schumann and Mascot Ziff
  • Adventures of Richard Wagner
  • Stephen Foster and His Little Dog Tray
  • The Young Brahms
  • The Story of Peter Tchaikovsky 
  • Peter Tchaikovsky and the Nutcracker Ballet
  • Edward MacDowell and His Cabin in the Pines
The consumable pages of the student activity book are three-hole punched for creating a music binder. The lessons can turn into a resource, once completed. 

My daughter Emily plays the piano and, we enjoyed listening as she played several selections from the books. One thing she commented was that the binding made it hard for the book to remain open as she played. For this purpose, the printed copy of our downloaded book actually worked best. 

     She is currently in college as a music education major and shared her viewpoint regarding this collection: 
The Music Appreciation book is geared toward the middle grades. It features chapters on 7 composers and spreads information over multiple weeks. The book contains much more than simple information. It contains vocabulary words, recipes, history, and musical terminology. All components are centered around each composer. The composer books are in story format and include popular and lesser known music compositions by the composers. The stories are easily readable and the information is put in a way which makes it enjoyable for younger children. All of these books would be an excellent addition to any music teacher's library or any family's home. I especially appreciate the compositions spread throughout the composers books and the fact that an online recording of each is accessible through this company. Children can play and listen as they read along.“ 
The books include scannable QR codes which open web pages with additional information and songs related to the lessons. We found this to be a great bonus as we scanned them with our cellphone. Our musical family enjoyed listening to the songs together which incorporated the lessons into family time. 

The download we received through Dropbox was the ebook about Tchaikovsky and The Nutcracker Ballet. It is written in an engaging storybook style with charming black and white pictures. 
My daughter was happy to see Edward MacDowell included in the composers; in fact, his music was the first that she played from the biographies. The open student book picture d shows a sample of the lessons about MacDowell. The student book includes full color illustrations throughout. 

After reading through these books, I hope to complete our collection by adding the first set, too. We were surprised to receive a download copy instead of print version of one of the books in the set. As we are reviewers and not direct customers, I don’t know how this experience would translate for someone actually purchasing the set. A coordinating coloring book and lap-book are also available for purchase. 

Click below to read other TOS Crew reviews of this set. 

Music Appreciation Book 2: for the Middle Grades {Zeezok Publishing Reviews} 


Several friends plan their menus. I'm not that organized yet. My meals are usually either based on what I see in or pantry or freezer or else someone's suggestion that sounds good to us. This morning, a Facebook memory inspired our brunch. My aunt first shared a Dutch baby with us. I double this recipe from Martha Stewart.




“Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.”

     We are the third generation at the camp. This is not our home, but it is where we have come for most of our family vacations since my dad married my mom. They even honeymooned here. This weekend my husband has been continuing the repairs on the piers and now rebuilding the rail. Repairs and work to be done never ends. How precious are the promises of our Lord that He never changes, never leaves us; His love never ends generation after generation. 


Pier Repair

Over fifty years ago my Pappow and Daddy and family built what has since been lovingly called “the camp” at Toledo Bend. This weekend my husband is continuing to rebuild the piers. Maybe these revisions will last another fifty years. 


Homeschool Record Keeping Review

The following is a review of an Annual Membership Plan from My School Year Homeschool Record Keeping with the TOS Homeschool Review Crew. 
My School Year Homeschool Record Keeping offers an online program that aims to simplify the planning and follow-through that make homeschool moms successful. It aims to fit families of all sizes. 

After the frustrating hiccups of setup, the routine became repetitive. Emails were received initially telling me of sections needing to be completed then daily showing the established lesson plans. Later though, daily emails were received which contained the plans for the day. 

One of the things that drew me to the product is that not only can I keep up with the day to day educational activities and lessons for my son, I can also keep up with outside jobs he may have and extracurricular activities he chooses to participate in.  I can also add the enrichment classes that he takes through our local homeschooling co-op. I can track his assignments and grades and help keep him focused.

As a homeschool mom for the last sixteen years, I can testify to the fact that one of the most difficult things about home education is the planning and record-keeping aspect of making sure that your children have just what they need when they need it.  My School Year Homeschool Record Keeping offers an online program that aims to simplify the planning and follow-through process to help make homeschool moms successful.  For purposes of review, I was given the opportunity to utilize their Annual Membership Plan and see how it would best benefit our homeschool. 

The Annual Membership Plan aims to aid families of all sizes with unlimited spots for students in Pre-Kindergarten through 12th grades. Smaller families will like that they can plan while larger families will enjoy being able to see the scope and sequence for all 13 kids in one simple spreadsheet.

Another benefit of the program is that it is 100% mobile friendly! I was able to completely access it from my phone. The program is still in active development; I heard that user feedback led to changes. 

We have one student remaining in our homeschool high school, but when I initially signed up for My School Year, I noticed the extracurricular activity section. It showed a job among other extra activities, and I thought it could be useful for tracking things for my daughters in college, too. Unfortunately the program is just set up for K-12 students so did not work for our entire family. I like the convenience of having everything in one place, so was hoping this program would provide that option. 

I did try to get around that option by setting up accounts for my college students as pre-K, but that was not a great idea. 

Parents set up the account then can add students and even allow students their own access. As lessons are set up, they can be saved and duplicated for other students. 

Where as we are in the final stages of our homeschooling season, I can see how this product would greatly benefit families that are just starting out on the homeschooling journey.   It offers them a one-stop spot for all things homeschooling and will help them to keep track of where they have been, where they are, and where they are going.  It can be a great overview of the big picture and will help make preparing transcripts easier as students head off to college.  

In conclusion, this might work for a younger homeschooling family or ones just a little less technologically challenged than me. Their website actually encouraged continued use of paper and pen (or pencil) record keeping. In our case, I’m glad that I did. 

Click here to read more reviews.


Years Go By

     When my girls were very young and we lived in another place, I bought this bench. Through the years the boards broke and the metal rusted. 

       My husband surprised me by completely restoring it for me. He cut and milled boards from a pine tree my Powpow planted years ago. He sandblasted the iron parts of the bench, got rid of all the rust, even remade one part that couldn’t be repaired. He painted the metal and sanded the wood and it looks absolutely wonderful! 


High School Literature

The following is a review of the Ninth Grade Literature Guide Set from Memoria Press with the TOS Homeschool Review Crew. Affiliate links are included. 

When options were shared for this review, I chose the set featuring Old English and Medieval Works for my son as they paralleled some of the works also covered in my daughter’s summer semester college English literature class. Because of the content she has already completed, I knew she would be able to discuss his assignments with him. 

We received the entire ninth grade level set minus the books. (It is available to purchase both with and without the books.) Our box included four consumable student guides and four corresponding non-consumable teacher guides written by David M. Wright for The Canterbury Tales, Henry V, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and Beowulf the WarriorWe obtained the corresponding books from our library, our bookshelves, and online. I would recommend if you order these, go ahead and invest in either the complete set or specific editions and editors of each book. We were unable to complete assignments related to introductions written in specific editions of books that we did not have. Two additional books are also available and required if you choose to follow their lesson plans exactly: Poetry, Prose, & Drama Book One: Old English and Medieval Periods and The Book of the Middle Ages.  

It has been interesting studying historical literature and comparing real life to works of fiction. The Henry V Literature Guide Shakespeare’s Henry V does tell the story of a real king, but with the author’s own style. So many places in it have been used to name streets in New Orleans that I started craving beignets as we read. Simple things affect our personal preference. I liked the small size of the Henry V student guide best as we just tucked it inside the book. The other three student guides are full size workbooks which match the teacher guides. 

I appreciate the depth of these lessons. Students are required to do much more than just reading assignments. They have to analyze what they have read, answer questions, learn vocabulary, and more. This follows Memoria Press’s Trivium based learning. Completion of the set will definitely count for a high school English credit. 
The Upper School guides require students to think in increasingly rigorous and complex ways, to make connections from the particular to abstractions and back again, to compare and contrast, and to sort and classify. 
  The guides feature helpful reading notes, extensive vocabulary training, comprehension questions, Socratic discussion questions, work with quotes, and literary and rhetorical devices presented in bold to prepare students for sophisticated literary analysis and/or future work in AP Literature and college classes.
 The guides also feature essay prompts with space for students to write the essay. The prompts are related to their work in the guide, and in particular to what they have determined to be the Central One Idea of the story or poem. This then becomes their thesis which they must argue for and defend in their essay.
Active reading and thinking leads to good writing; and these three to wisdom and virtue – the directed aim and purpose of the Upper School literature guides.”

Visit Memoria Press on FacebookTwitterPinterestGoogle+You Tube, and Instagram, and be sure to tell them hi from Jennifer at A Glimpse of Our Life. Read other Crew reviews by clicking here

First to Tenth Grade Literature Guides {Memoria Press Reviews}