Thursday, January 29, 2015

Critical Thinking Company Coupon Code

If you like to develop good thinking skills in your child, then you have probably used materials from Critical Thinking Company! They have really interesting programs that inspire creativity and learning in a fun way.

Spoiler alert....we are actually reviewing a program for elementary math right now from Critical Thinking Company!!!

Today and tomorrow, Critical Thinking Company is offering a great coupon code for 15% off any size order or free shipping plus 10% off any order over $75. (See Code below)

You can visit the Critical Thinking Company Website to see all the wonderful products that are available!

I have my eye on some Latin flashcards that I would really like to own :-)

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

'Skinny' Root Beer Float

Recently I had a taste for a root beer float, but needed to find one without the calories and sugar! I searched through my recipe collection and Pinterest, but could not come up with a suitable recipe. Shocking!  So I decided to create my own. After several failed experiments, I came up with a pretty tasty THM friendly version of a root beer float. Enjoy!

In your blender or Bullet, combine the following:

1 c. unsweetened Almond/Coconut Milk (I used unsweetened coconut/almond blend)
1/4 c. water
1 scoop vanilla protein powder (I use whey powder, but use your favorite)
1/2 tsp. Glucomannan powder (this makes it very frothy & creamy)
2 tsp. root beer concentrate (found at Wal-Mart or most grocery stores, with the extracts)
2 tiny squirts of liquid stevia (or 1/8 tsp. stevia - to taste)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1 c. ice

The longer you run the bullet/blender, the creamier your root beer float will get. Mine was SO close to tasting like ice cream, that it was a real treat!

Copyright 2012-2015 - "Be The One" -  All rights are reserved. No text, photos, or content may be reproduced without direct permission from the author.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Taking Back My Home Week Three

I'm working and posting a few days late on this linkup, thanks to illness and some other things that just took up the bulk of my free time this week. Despite all the extra busyness of the week,  I was happy to still get the pantry cleaned out and organized, to keep up with 34 Weeks of Clean.  

I am posting some before/after shots of my pantry cabinet. Most of my food storage is in a pantry in my basement which received a recent overhaul and happily didn't need any extra attention. Our day to day stuff is kept in a small cabinet in the kitchen, which, for some reason, gets out of control very quickly.

Not too long ago I had gone through and removed any expired food, so the project turned into more of an 'organizational' one than a deep cleaning one, although the pantry can always benefit from a little scrubdown!

While I am still working through the Declutter 365 Project I was happy that the tasks overlapped each other this week, so I was able to slowly work through both projects. Even though I'm a little behind, I am anticipating getting all caught up this coming week, and ending January in a cleaner, more organized fashion.

One big change I have implemented, after decluttering my counters, was to really work at keeping them clean, cleared off,  and polished. It has been working well and making everyone's life easier.

This week's tasks continue to be working through the kitchen cabinets and drawers, focusing on decluttering and organizing food and supplies. By the end of January, I am going to have one really functional kitchen!

Copyright 2012-2015 - "Be The One" -  All rights are reserved. No text, photos, or content may be reproduced without direct permission from the author.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Virtual Refrigerator - Painting Lessons

My youngest loves painting and has been taking lessons with her grandma. Here is her latest work. It looks warm and inviting, especially when we are experiencing snow and freezing temps!

To enjoy other home school art work, check out the virtual refrigerator blog hop at Homeschool Coffee Break.

Copyright 2012-2015 - "Be The One" -  All rights are reserved. No text, photos, or content may be reproduced without direct permission from the author.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

How 'Once A Month Cooking' Has Changed My Life

Occasionally I have written a little about freezer cooking - the phenomenon where one crazy organized person will perform one mega shopping trip, then cook till they drop, stocking their freezer with delicious, healthy meals for their family for the coming month.

I have been freezer cooking for two years now. I first tried it more out of curiosity than anything else, to see if it actually worked. Once I found out how well it worked, it became a necessity that I depend on to keep my family eating healthy even when we are having a busy life.

While I have spent many hours searching out freezable recipes, or adapting my own, I have found a wonderful resource that supplies me with a fresh supply of tested, tried and true recipes to use. There are even plenty of gluten and dairy free recipes that fit the needs of my family.

Why Freezer Cooking?  Our family is very busy. It's not just because of home schooling, though that certainly plays a big part in it. I often found that by the time the girls finished their work, and I finished correcting it, everyone was hungry and dinner was nowhere to be found. This was a problem. Also, we often have activities or appointments in the afternoon. Because we have limited diets and a limited budget, grabbing dollar items from the local fast food joint is not an option. (Not to mention it's the least healthiest option!) I needed to come up with a way that cooking and meals were cared for without consuming my day. 

How does it work? Since I am now a veteran 'freezer cooker', I have a pretty good idea what items I will be using every month, and I watch for them to go on sale. Each week when I grocery shop, I stock up on several things: fresh produce and dairy, sale items that we need for food or household use, and items that will be needed for my next big cooking day. Once a month, or as my schedule allows, I compile a cooking menu, print out my shopping list, and hit up the local grocery stores, filling in whatever items are still needed to fulfill the list for the big cooking day.

With the program I use, I am able to create a shopping list that tells me exactly how much is needed for all the recipes, so I am able to purchase exact amounts without waste. It also gives me a prep list.

Cooking Day works the best when I am able to take the time to prep meat and veggies the night before, then start in early on the actual meal preparation.

How long does a cooking day take? I have found that if I am able to spend 2 hours prepping veggies the night before, then setting up ground beef and chicken to cook overnight in the crock pots, that I can get an actual cooking day done in about 8 hours. (Including cleanup!)

How are the meals stored?  I have purchased extra 9x13 pans and pie pans whenever I see them at garage sales or thrift stores. I often use those to store freezer meals such as chicken dishes or quiche, wrapped in several layers of foil. Many meals can be placed into gallon size freezer bags as well. I try to do a lot of flash freezing, so that my meals are not all 'stuck together' in the freezer.

What types of meals are made? We do a lot of vegetables and meat here. I make nearly everything gluten free, and many of the meals are both gluten and dairy free as well. That way, everyone in my family can eat it, and I don't have to worry about cooking separate meals every time we eat. Some of the meals are breakfast items, while others are crock pot meals, or soups and stews.

Does it really save money?  Yes! Undeniably so. I have to say that sticking with a consistent once a month cooking schedule has cut our grocery bill in half. That is even with making specialty items gluten free. I am able to buy many of my food items and spices in bulk which gives me a cheaper price overall. Also, I watch for sales or clearance meats, and will stock up on those. This past week my grocery store had "buy one get one free" sirloin roasts. The week before, they had half price chicken. Prior to that, there was a huge after-holiday meat clearance which I took advantage of.

What else does it save? Time! On my cooking day, I am able to cook all my meats at once. Using my food processor, I can chop up an entire bag of onions in just minutes. I usually will prep all the veggies and line them up in bowls, taking out what I need for each recipe as I put it together. While it may take 8 hours to do a big cooking day, I then have approximately 25-30 meals stocked up in my freezer. That means I get a free pass on cooking for most of the breakfasts and dinners for the next month. I try to make the dinners large enough that the leftovers can be used for the following days' lunch. It also saves a ton of time in cleanup. On those days that we eat a prepared meal from the freezer, the only cleanup I have is whatever pot was used to cook it, rather than all the prep materials.

Where can recipes be found?  While I do have a pretty amazing collection of recipes on Pinterest, my go-to website for freezer recipes is Once A Month Meals because it is so user friendly.

The perks of membership at Once A Month Meals are pretty amazing. First of all, there are so many choices of different menus: traditional, whole foods, paleo, gluten/dairy free, diet, vegetarian, allergen, baby food, and mini.  With the exception of the mini menu, each of the others includes about 12 new recipes every month. All of them have been tested already, so they are fine tuned and ready to cook. My favorite perk of having the Pro membership is that the menus are swappable, meaning I can choose recipes from several different menus, or favorites from past months, and replace any of the current month's offerings.

When I log in, I enter how many people I need the recipes to serve, and the planner automatically adjusts the amounts of ingredients to fit that. It also gives me a precise shopping list, and recipe cards for each recipe that I have selected.

I recently signed up as an affiliate with Once A Month Cooking, because being a member for two years now has definitely made me a believer! I wish to promote their site to help others who are striving to feed their family a healthy lifestyle frugally.

If you wish to try out their program, a monthly basic membership is $10/month or $99/year.  A Pro membership is $16/month or $170/year. While the basic gives you access to all the great recipes, I really like the Pro because it comes with the swappable recipe features. I currently have three menus customized and saved. Several of the recipes have become family favorites that we use repeatedly.

This year I will be posting regularly about our freezer cooking journey. It's not just all about casseroles and crock pot meals. Actually, my family pretty much hates casseroles, so that was my main reason for taking so long to actually try out freezer cooking. I was so surprised to learn that crock pots and casseroles are really a very small part of it that can be easily avoided if you wish.

Again, if you would like to check out and try ONCE A MONTH MEALS please use my affiliate link to support my blog.

In the meantime, I would like to offer a chance for you to try out Once A Month Meals for FREE! Please see the giveaway below for an opportunity to win a one month membership and try it for yourself! (starts at midnight on 1/18 and runs through 2/1)

I am sharing this post with the Living Frugally Roundup at the Old Schoolhouse. Click the banner to be inspired with some other great frugal ideas! (Link will be active starting 1/21/15)

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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Taking Back My Home Week Two

Hope everyone has had a good week, and that no one has fallen off the "organizing and decluttering" wagon already! I had a few hectic days but was able to work a little extra on some others, which pretty much balanced things out.  And I even received a compliment about my clean and uncluttered counters from my hubby! That felt good.

My challenges from last week came from two sources:

Michele, who is hosting "34 Weeks of Clean" challenged us to clean up all the Christmas stuff. Even though the kids protested a bit, I worked on it and over two days, was able to get everything from Christmas packed up and put away. The cookies are gone and the containers are stacked in their storage spots. All the Christmas stuff is packed neatly in totes in the attic. The hardest part was taking down the stockings - for some reason the kids just love having them hung in the living room, and one of the kids stores little candy and treats in hers.... I was determined to meet this challenge head on and have all of Christmas packed away, felt good!

Along with this, I also made a challenge to have all our thank you notes finished and mailed out, and that was accomplished as well. I updated a few addresses on the Christmas card list, and saved only the photo cards, recycling the rest of the cards.

I have also been making great strides all week in my Declutter 365 Mission from Home Storage Solutions 101.

I printed out the January calendar of daily tasks and put it up on my fridge. It is such a good feeling to mark days off when I have completed the tasks. Again, I have not accomplished everything, but I am feeling good about what has gotten done. 

My best accomplishment of the week was setting up a portable file system for managing the daily mail and piles of paperwork that our household generates.

Here is a picture of my project:

I took an empty magazine file and filled it with file folders of the most relevant and common paperwork that I have. One file is marked "bills to be paid" and another is "receipts to be filed". Those two are probably the most important. As soon as the mail comes, I go through it immediately and stick everything right into it's proper file. When it's time to pay bills or make insurance phone calls, everything is in one place for me and it saves me time having to look for papers. I also have a file for things that I have to take care of for our business. This file sits on my shelf along with all my school files (one for each grade/child) and I am able to easily access it at any time. All my work is now in one place.

Another helpful suggestion I followed from Home Storage Solutions 101 was setting up a large box in the basement for a "donating" center. As I am decluttering things, those items that are still in good shape and useful make their way into this box. Once a week when I go near the thrift store, I take the donation box with me and drop it off there. Everyone benefits.

Challenges for this week: 

The focus is still on the kitchen. 

Week Two at 34 Weeks of Clean has issued a challenge to declutter, deep clean, and organize the pantry.  My main pantry storage is in my basement and is very well organized, so while I may get a free pass on that part, my everyday pantry consists of a large cabinet in our kitchen, and it is in desperate need of attention though. I will post a before and after picture next week to show off my completed project.

Other kitchen declutter tasks for this week include:

  • the kitchen junk drawer
  • the kitchen silverware and cooking utensil drawers
  • food storage containers
  • under the kitchen sink
  • pots, pans, and lids
  • kitchen cabinets
Some of these areas are pretty high maintenance and I don't know if I will get them all accomplished....but I sure am going to try! 

One thing I have noticed is that by thinning out items and having specific places to put things away, I can easily sweep through my kitchen and spend ten minutes before going to bed at night just tidying things up. I am trying to make that a good nightly habit. It allows me to start fresh every morning with a positive outlook and has eliminated the frustration of not being able to find counter space to do menial tasks throughout the day. I am really trying to have almost nothing stored on the counters, and so far it's working!

Need more inspiration?  Check out some of the other blogs this week on the 34 Weeks of Clean Linkup!

Copyright 2012-2015 - "Be The One" -  All rights are reserved. No text, photos, or content may be reproduced without direct permission from the author.

Friday, January 9, 2015

On My Bookshelf: A Child's Book About the Holocaust


Yellow Star

History is my favorite subject, and World War II and the Holocaust is a topic that I am very fond of reading about. Often it can be intense reading material though. While I strive to educate my children about the Holocaust, it is difficult to find appropriate reading material that will teach the younger ones without being completely unsettling to them. There is no way around it - the Holocaust was a horrifying time in history. Reading about the atrocities committed against humanity is very difficult, albeit necessary.

Because I am an Amazon Prime member, I am allowed access to the Lending Library For Prime Members: Free Ebooks, Movie Downloads And TV Series For Kindle Owners With Amazon Prime

With the Lending Library, Prime members can borrow a Kindle book for free every month. I have come across some really neat books that I would never have read if it weren't for this neat feature. 

Yellow Star is one of those books that I read as a result of it being in my "recommended reading" list from Amazon. Because of another book I had read about the Holocaust, this one came up. Because I could borrow it for free, I downloaded it. I was completely and pleasantly surprised by this book - the magnitude of it's story and how deeply it touched me.

About the Book: Yellow Star is a 242 page book written in a prose style. The author, Jennifer Roy, interviewed her aunt, Sylvia Perlmutter, who was a survivor of the Lodz Ghetto in Poland during World War II.

Age Appropriate: While the book does describe some of the horrors the Jews experienced living under Nazi rule, it is told from the perspective of a child, based on the memories of Sylvia, who was four years old when the Nazi's invaded Poland and forced the Jews into the ghettos. Because of the way it is written, this book is appropriate for middle school age students. While some of the killings are mentioned, they are described in a somewhat abstract manner.

Highlights:  Sylvia recalls particular memories she had as a young girl growing up in the Polish Lodz ghetto. All the Jews were gathered together, forced to leave their homes, and live in very trying circumstances in the ghetto. Of the tens of thousands who lived there, only 800 survived until the end, and of that 800, only 12 were children. It is heartbreaking to read of the many families who were told that they were moving to work in another area, only to be sent to their deaths at concentration camps. The amazing circumstances that surround Sylvia's family, allowing them to escape certain death and deportment on multiple occasions, are nothing short of miraculous.  While much of the time spent was tedious and repetitive, certain memories vividly stand out in Sylvia's mind all these years later when her niece interviews her. Memories such as losing her favorite doll, a close friend, a hole dug in the cemetery where she hid at night from the Nazi guards, and certain songs are described in detail.

My opinion: I simply could not stop reading this story. It is very easy reading - more like poetry than a novel. I was completely drawn in to this family, and felt like I knew each of them well by the end of the book. Viewing life in the ghetto through the eyes of a young girl gave an amazing perspective on the reality of the circumstances. I laughed, cried, and cheered the family on throughout the story. I love that it is a real story with real people, and that at the end of the book, the author follows up by telling what each family member went on to do after the war's end. I was thrilled to know that some of the people in the book live in upstate New York now, which is near my home.

I would highly recommend this book as a living history addition to a middle school or high school study on the Holocaust. Students can read through the story and learn of real people who lived and triumphed through these trying times. It's a story that needs to be told. This book tells it in a way that even children can understand and parents can trust to not be too graphic or sensitive.

Price: If you would like to purchase the book the current prices are: $8.36 for Kindle (with Word Wise narration enabled and available) or $8.80 for a new paperback version.

{Please note - this post does contain Amazon affiliate links}  The opinions expressed here are completely my own. I did not receive any compensation for this review - it is provided as a service to my fellow home schoolers.

Copyright 2012-2015 - "Be The One" -  All rights are reserved. No text, photos, or content may be reproduced without direct permission from the author.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Taking Back My Home Week 1

Most moms can relate to feeling like clutter and chaos are taking over their home. Some people, like me, are just prone to having 'stuff'. Add in busy family members who have a lot going on, and the stuff seems to multiply exponentially. Often when our family is busy, our stuff piles up and the clutter perpetuates.

I find it particularly stressful to spend time looking for things. I long for organization amidst our busy schedule.

I am setting out to make 2015 the year I "take back my home" from the grips of clutter. While there are some things that we must hang onto, there is also a lot that I can part with, to make life easier. I am determined to conquer our clutter and organize our home, to help us be more useful and effective.

I am joining up with two weekly challenges, and plan on blogging the journey here. Blogging about it will help me be more accountable, and perhaps will even inspire someone else to join the journey and take back their home from the grips of clutter as well!

I like weekly challenges because they give me the flexibility to work the tasks over a week's time rather than missing a day here and there, and getting discouraged. Some days I have more time to spend, and can easily accomplish several days' worth of goals.

Here are the challenges for this first full week of January. If you would like to join in, mention it on the comments section! Together we can take back our homes and lives. :-)

My first challenge is joining up with blogger Michele for 34 Weeks of Clean 

Because I am a glutton for punishment  overachiever, I am also joining the Declutter 365 challenge at Home Storage Solutions 101.My hope and prayer is that by the end of this year, my home will be organized and efficient, and I will have successfully "taken back my home" from the grips of clutter. For the things that I absolutely must store - I hope to have them conquered and in their right places, instead of letting them stress me.
Home Storage Solutions 101 has a free printable calendar that assigns a 15 minute declutter challenge to each day. I printed the calendar out to get started. While I appreciate the daily assignments, I have decided to make them weekly challenges instead, to fit my lifestyle.
Would you care to join in? 

  1. Clean up every last scrap of Christmas stuff. This includes putting away all the cookie containers, cleaning up the Christmas cards, and packing all the lights and decorations away into the storage area in the attic. 
  2. Record any new addresses into my Christmas cards address file for next year.
  3. Finish all our thank you notes for Christmas gifts. Mail them out.
  4. Write down any new cookie recipes in the Christmas Baking notebook for next year.
  5. Complete the week one mission for Declutter 365, which focuses on the kitchen! This week I will be decluttering kitchen counters, under the kitchen sink, and the utensil and silverware drawers. I get a free pass on decluttering the kitchen table. Because the table is pretty much the center of everything, and is used daily for school and meals, it goes through daily renewal already. 
  6. I am also catching up on the first few days of Declutter 365, which includes setting up my daily planner and updating my household notebook. I am adding in a necessary task for myself - setting up an easy desktop filing system to deal with the vast amounts of paperwork I receive on a weekly basis, rather than leaving those papers in stacks on my desk. 
I will plan on posting some pictures next week to record my progress. 

Happy organizing!

Copyright 2012-2014 - "Be The One" -  All rights are reserved. No text, photos, or content may be reproduced without direct permission from the author.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

2015 My Word for the Year

Many bloggers I follow are choosing a word for the year - something to focus on in their life and in their home. I thought and thought about this, and finally decided to join up with a word of my own.

There are so many different areas that need attention in my life - I could focus on my home and family, my role as wife and mother, or I could choose an area of interest such as homeschooling, cooking and healthy eating, crafts and list is pretty much endless BUT the hours in my day are not!

Because I often struggle with taking on so many different things, some by my own choosing and others that are placed on me, I decided that the one thing I really needed to focus on was PRIORITIES. That is, keeping them straight so that I can actually accomplish that which I ought to.

It is one thing to be busy and accomplish many tasks. Any "Martha" can do that. It is another thing entirely to do those tasks well. Doing the things you are supposed to do, and doing those tasks well, takes it to a whole other level though.

I want 2015 to be a year where I know what tasks I am supposed to be giving my attention to, and I do those well for the glory of God. I don't want to run endlessly on fumes and vapors, spinning my wheels and getting a lot done, but taking a chance on missing what is important.

There are some things that I have no choice in. Our family owns a small business, and I have responsibilities there. We manage chronic illness, so I must deal with endless health insurance issues. We have chosen to home school, and though it is a joy, it also brings a daily supply of tasks that must be done.  And strangely family still needs to eat and wear clean clothes on a daily basis!

While I am juggling all these responsibilities, I don't want to lose sight of the fact that as a child of God, my very foremost obligation is to honor Him and spread the Gospel. While I do believe that serving my family is also service to my Lord, I also want to make sure that I am putting myself in a place where my paths will cross with those who need to be reached, so I can point them to the Cross.

The verse I have chosen, Matthew 6:33, sums it up pretty well:

"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."

I want to focus my priorities in 2015 on seeking first the kingdom of God. I can certainly enjoy serving in the ministry and witnessing together with my family, which actually helps fulfill another responsibility, that of teaching my children how to introduce people to the Lord Jesus Christ. So 2015 will be a year for involvement in soul winning and outreach ministry.

I also know that to be my best, I need to focus on a daily walk with the Lord, so 2015 will be a year of focusing on daily devotions.

In order to stay healthy and on track, I need to eat right and get enough sleep, which makes personal care a priority as well.

My desire is to make all that I do fit the end goal - to seek first the Kingdom of God. Practically, there are areas that need help such as meal planning or household organization, but they are not the 'end all' goal. The end goal is to honor the Lord with my life - the practical side is just a means to reach that end.

My prayer is that I will be able to stay focused on seeking first the Lord's will. I look forward to His fulfillment of the promise that "all these things" shall be added. I know that if I take care of my end, that God can certainly take care of His!

Check out the Word of the Year link up on The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew!

Copyright 2012-2014 - "Be The One" -  All rights are reserved. No text, photos, or content may be reproduced without direct permission from the author.