Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Lobster Network

Several weeks ago I was asked to review Lobster Network on this blog because I am part of the Homeschool Crew.  When I was asked to do the review I received a thorough explanation of Lobster Network from its founders.  You, however, are just reading my blog and have no idea what I'm talking about.  So the first thing you need to know is the acronym used to name this website/tool: 

What you learn from reading the acronym is all the features available to you from Lobster Network.  It is an interesting concept.  Here's how I think it would be most useful in my life:

I have a TON of books.  I've even gotten rid of a bunch of books in a yard sale and donating them to the library, but I still have a TON of books.  I would like to be able to share what I have with our homeschool support group.  There may be another mom in the group who would like to use something I have on my shelf.  With Lobster Network, you can enter all of your books under your account and then share them with the friends that you have established.  Then anyone can contact you and borrow the book.  Lobster Network keeps track of who has borrowed it and even begins to remind that person that it's time to return the book after a certain period of time.

I think the sharing feature is what makes Lobster Network the most unique.  There are other features.  You can sell thinks using Lobster Network.  You can connect with friends via Lobster Network.  In order for you to really understand all that Lobster Network is capable of, sign-on and get yourself started.  Then let all your friends know that you have a new place to "hang out."  Don't forget to let me know too!  Oh and I didn't tell you the best part...it's free!

As always, please look at the reviews of my other crew-mates here.  Mine is NEVER the only opinion.

What An Adventure!

The title of this blog entry could mean so many things, couldn't it?  Being on the Homeschool Crew has been an adventure.  Reviewing products I NEVER would have even considered for our little homeschool has been an adventure.  But I'll have to write about those another time.  Today I want to tell you about the adventure novel we read together.

Andrea Carter and the Trouble with Treasure was a wonderful adventure story for boys and girls.  I would say this could be read aloud to a child as young as 8.  I'm not sure about the upper range.  I can tell you that our 13-year-old and our 11-year-old were rivetted.  And this 43-year-old thought it was pretty great too.

Our guys have this thing they do when they love a book.  As I'm reading aloud, when I get to the end of a chapter, they will start chanting, "Read another chapter!"  "Read Another Chapter!"  They will chant that, and sometimes bang on the table until I give in and read another chapter.  Well, there was a lot of chanting going on with Andrea Carter and the Trouble with Treasure.  The other comment that will tell you how much our boys loved this book is that at the end, our oldest son said, "Are there more of these books?"

I don't want to give away the plot, here.  But the book follows a young girl named Andrea Carter who is growing up on a ranch in the West in the late 1800's.  In Trouble with Treasure, she finds danger and adventure with her friends while on a trail ride.  Although the book mentions Andrea's faith and she does cry out to God when she's in trouble it is not preachy or over-the-top.  I love Jesus, but some of the Christian fiction written for tweens is so un-real.  Andrea Carter is not one of those books.  Her faith naturally plays out during the story.

We downloaded the reader's activity guide for this book and had such a great time working through that as we read.  I will definitely be reading the other books and we will al work through the activities guides while reading.  The guide was colorful and informative and fun.  It was never dry or boring.

When I received Andrea Carter and the Trouble with Treasure I thought it would be one of those girl-books.  It's totally not.  This book was packed with enough adventure for any boy.  So don't overlook the Circle C Adventures if you have the opportunity to read them to your boys.  This was a great book for girls or boys.

 As usual, please read the reviews of my other crew members.  I am not the only opinion here and maybe someone else will think differently.  You can see the reviews for Andrea Carter and The Trouble with Treasure, hereKregel Publications sent me a complimentary copy of this book so that I could review it on my blog.  They offer many lovely books for your teens, tweens, and even you!  This was the second book I've read from Kregel and I've loved both books.  Check them out!

Monday, May 17, 2010

New Blog Thingy

Well, HSB has switched over their blog platform to word press and I've got to tell you...I LOVE it!  I'm working on getting things organized.  I've added some categories and have about half of my entries under their appropriate category.  If you look to the right, you can look through my blog by the date that I've entered something OR you can click on a category to see what's been written by that category.  AND you can now subscribe to my blog with just the click of a button!  I know...cool!

So, since I write reviews here pretty regularly, I thought I'd review the new Home School Blogger platform.  I give it a big thumbs up!  I've still got LOTS to learn and I know my template isn't too creative, but give me a break, it's the first day!

More later...

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A New Book Series Our Tweens LOVED!

I just read all 295 pages of Max Cassidy Escape from Shadow Island out loud...in three days!  As I would finish a chapter, our boys would chant, "Read another chapter!  Read another chapter!"  until I would continue reading.  I had to bargain with them to get their lessons done.  "Ok, I'll read one more chapter...AFTER you do your geography worksheets." 



Max Cassidy Escape from Shadow Island is a thrilling book from the very first chapter.  I totally understood why the boys wanted me to keep reading.  I didn't want to stop reading myself.  And I kept thinking about Max and what he was doing when I was not reading this book.  We all really enjoyed Max Cassidy Escape from Shadow Island and can't wait for Daddy to read it so that we can talk about it around the dinner table.


 


At age 14, Max Cassidy has experienced a lot of tragedy in his life.  His father has been missing for 2 years and his mother was convicted of his murder even though no body was ever found.  All of this occurred on the other side of the world in a Central American country known for being corrupt.  Max is now being raised by his father's assistant (his dad was an accomplished magician).  Life was as normal as it could be until a mysterious stranger appears in Max's life to tell him that everything is not as it seems.  This takes Max on a dangerous trip to find his father and clear his mother's name. 


 


We were riveted to this book and will definitely stay with the series.  As I said earlier, I read it aloud to our two boys.  Thee were a few "bad" words.  The Lord's name was taken in vain and the "H" word was used a few times.  Reading aloud, I could replace those words.  I also wouldn't suggest this for a child younger than 14 as there was some violence that was pretty graphic.  I asked our boys for what age this book would be appropriate and they both said "14" without being prompted by me. 


 


If you like series and you have adventure-seeking children, check out Max Cassidy Escape from Shadow Island.  It was an excellent book and we can't wait for the next installment.


 


I received a complimentary copy of Max Cassidy Escape from Shadow Island from Walden Media in exchange for this unbiased-honest review.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

My Face

Ok, I can't wait any longer.  I have to tell you about the product I received to review from Beeyoutiful!  I received a bottle ofLavishmint Toner and a jar of Lavishmint Moisturizing Cream in order to write this review.  And this is my favorite thing ever!  Ok, I may seem a little bit overly excited, but you have to hear my face story, then you'll understand.


 


I've always been what you would call "ruddy" complected.  I have rosy cheeks pretty regularly.  I rarely have acne.  My face doesn't require a lot of care.  I wash it every day and use moisturizer in the morning and at night.  I've never had many problems with my skin until about 2 years ago when I had a breakout beside my lip that just wouldn't go away.  I treated it like acne and it did not go away.  I saw a doctor about other issues and showed him the breakout.  He said it would go away and that it was probably acne.  Well, a month went by, I still had these little pimples.  At the time I was planning a 25th/50th anniversary party for my parents and my sister and her husband.  In addition to that we were having a family picture taken as a gift to our parents.  Including children, spouses, and grandchildren there are 25 members of my immediate family.  Trying to coordinate a professional photograph amongst my family was difficult to say the least.  All this to say, the time was stressful for me.  Finally, I couldn't take the breakout any longer.  I went back to our family doctor and saw another doctor in the practise.  When I showed him the breakout he said, "Oh, that's rosacea." 


 


I asked if he was sure, and he said his daughter had it.  He knew what it looked like.  He gave me some medicine to use just when I have a breakout and within a few days I was breakout-free.  Since then I've learned alot about this condition.  I have not had a breakout like that since then, but I regularly have periods where my cheeks get really red.  As a result, sometimes my blood pressure rises, always I get a headache, and the redness is uncomfortable, sometimes painful.  I've learned to avoid certain triggers that make my face get red.  Specifically, extreme heat, high sodium/salt content, stress (no more anniversary parties for me!) and any alcohol.  I can't use anything abrasive on my face, such as scrubs, or masks that have micro-beads.  Any of those facial scrubbers are a no-no for me also.


 


When I was given the opportunity to review a product from BeeYoutiful, I leapt at the chance to try the LavishMint Toner and Moisturizer.  I was anxious to see how these face products worked with my rosacea.  The first day I used it, I immediately found the toner to be very refreshing.  It comes in a pump spray bottle.  So you mist your face with this toner.  I was using a cotton ball to rub my previous toner on my face.  I LOVE the mist!  It's cooling and smells lightly of lavender.  It's not an overpoweriing smell at all.  I let my face dry for a few minutes and then I opened up the moisturizer.  It is a very thin consistancy and a light pink color that's just lovely.  Like the toner, the moisturizer smells faintly but not overpoweringly of lavender.  I was really surprised when I applied the moisturizer to my face.   It's hard to expain but you can feel the mint on your face.  It is cooling and refreshing.  The bottle says that it is good for use on sunburn and I can see how it would be.  It gave you a fresh, cool feeling.



I have used the lavishmint toner and conditioner everyday, usually twice a day, for a month, and I haven't even used of either product yet.  Usually when I switch to a new face product I get acne until my face gets used to it.  I never had a breakout while using Lavishmint.


 


At $14 for the toner and $12 for the moisturizer, these products are priced very competitively with good products you would find at a drugstore or department store.  BeeYoutiful has many other products as well.  And their catalogue is like reading a good magazine.  It's full of little stories and articles, even recipes!


 


And my rosacea?  I love hot-hot showers.  Do you remember what one of my triggers is?  Heat.  Sometimes when I come out of the shower, my cheeks are a bit inflamed.  Now, usuing the Lavishmint toner and moisturizer, my cheeks get cooled down immediately.  It is just lovely.


 


Please check out the reviews of my fellow crew-mates about BeeYoutiful.   Not everyone reviewed the Lavishmint products, so if you check out the other reviews, you may see something else from BeeYoutiful that you would like to purchase.

My Father, Maker of the Trees - Audio

Several weeks ago, our family listened to a life-changing  audio that I received from ChristianAudio.  Christian Audio allowed me to download this audio in exchange for my review on this blog.  The audio we listened to was called, "My Father, Maker of the Trees" by Eric Irivuzumugabe & Tracey Lawrence.


 


Eric is a survivor of the 1994 Rwandan genocide that claimed the lives of most of his family and friends.  He survived by living in a tree for 15 days, only coming down from the tree for a few hours at night when the murders would cease due to darkness.


 


Eric's story taught our family not only about the genocide in Rwanda and it's history of genocide, but also about God's amazing grace.  By hearing Eric tell his story in My Father, Maker of the Trees, we were moved toward forgiveness in our own lives.  If he can forgive the country, and sometimes friends, who murdered the people he loved, then what has been done to us that we can't forgive?




Eric narrated this audio.  His accent was charming and not difficult to understand.  Although the story is incredibly sad, it was good for our 11 and 13 year old sons to hear, as well as The Big Dog and I.  We were all changed by Eric's story and I highly recommend My Father, Maker of the Trees

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sell Out

This weekend my nephew and I were talking about churches.  He and his future-wife will be seeking a church at which they can worship together.  He made an interesting comment about where he was in his faith walk, saying "I'm not at the point of my parents...where we can totally sell out." He didn't mean that he's not willing to walk where Jesus calls him.  But today, I was given the opportunity to read the first chapter of a book called "Radical" by David Platt, and "sell out" took on new meaning.


 


You can read the first chapter of this book here.  When I read it this evening, I was shocked at the emotions it evoked.  I recently wrote to you about listening to the audiobook "Imaginary Jesus."  That audio started me thinking that I am worshipping a Jesus I have created and not necessarily the Jesus of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  As I read the first chapter of "Radical" I knew I was creating my own Jesus.  This book will be life-changing.  It definitely makes me uncomfortable, feeling like the rich young ruler who walked away from Jesus, but I want the real Jesus.  I want the real deal.


 


Multnomah sent me an email and asked me to read the chapter.  If I felt anything, I could pass it along to you and share my thoughts.  Don't pursue "Radical" if you don't want to have a sold-out relationship with the Son of God.  Don't pursue "Radical" if you want to feel comfortable and in-control all the time.  Pursue this book if you want your spiritual and physical life to be changed in a way you could never imagine.  Pursue this book if you want a total transformation.


 


You can read the first chapter of "Radical" by David Platt here.  It will really make you think, and be curious for more.  Multnomah is also offering a companion booklet called "Radical Question" here.  If you want to read more about this book, go to www.RadicalTheBook.com .

Google Goes Homeschool

I was recently given a complimentary trial subscription to www.lessonplanet.com in order to write this review.


 


I had no idea what Lesson Planet even was until I tried it.  I thought it was a site similar to ABCTeach or Enchanted Learning.  BOY was I surprised with what I found.


 


Lesson Planet is a search tool for homeschoolers or teachers.  You type in a subject you are preparing to teach and Lesson Planet returns a list to you of pages with lesson plans on that subject.  You are able to narrow your search quite easily.  You can ask to see only those lessons that have been highly rated by lesson planet users.  There are featured subject guides on homeschooling and all the subjects at all the school levels.  I didn't spend much time with the guides.  I wanted to really use this tool to search out lessons.


 


If you are a homeschool-mom who likes to use and build unit studies, you will find Lesson Planet a real help.  In my title I wrote, "Google Goes Homeschool."  That is not to imply that Lesson Planet is affiliated with Google at all.  It's just that this is a search engine that is just focused on lesson plans.  This is what Google would be if it were just for educators.  In the lesson planet lists you don't have to wade through blog entries, or wikipedia sites.  The list you get are useable lesson plans that you can morph to fit your homeschool.


 


And there's a worksheet search tool, too!  If you are that unit-study type homeschool mom, there are times when you just need a worksheet.  Maybe you want to represent a book you've read in your portfolio.  Maybe you are planning a drive and you need a few worksheets to keep the kiddos busy in the backseat.  Whatever your need, you can use the worksheet search tool to find something to fit the bill.


 


When I began to evaluate Lesson Planet, I used this video tutorial to learn how to refine my searches.  It was short and direct and I was off and running in no time flat:


 



If you have used any search engine to find a lesson plan to fit your current subject you know how frustrating it can be to weed through the junk.  Lesson Planet has eliminated the junk for you.  At $39.95 a year, this is a valuable tool for a small price.  AND if you would like to check it out first, they offer a 10-day trial.  Give it a shot and see if you would get a lot of use out of this lessons searching tool. 


 


But before you do all that, check out the opions of my fellow crew-mates.  You'll gain lots more information buy reading the other opinions here.  OR you can find Lesson Planet's contact information here.  Definitely take the 10-day free trial and see if you like it as much as I did.