Thursday, April 28, 2011

TOS Product Review – The Curiosity Files: Puffer Fish


I applied to be part of The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew for 2011-2012 school year. As part of the application process, I was given the e-book, The Curiosity Files: Puffer Fish, to review.

The Curiosity Files are a set of 9 e-books created by The Old Schoolhouse that focus on uniquely bizarre science topics including:

  • puffer fish
  • zombie fire ants
  • blue diamonds
  • dung beetles
  • MRSA
  • red tide
  • snow rollers
  • cicada-killing wasp
  • blue-footed booby
  • platypus
  • quicksand

Each e-book includes:

  • Bible study, discussion ideas, and memory verses
  • Math, history, and geography investigations
  • Literature and suggested book list
  • Writing, spelling, and vocabulary activities
  • Beautiful copywork pages (manuscript and cursive)
  • Science observations, projects, and experiments
  • Discussion questions
  • Art, crafts, and drawing and coloring pages
  • Lapbook/notebook pages and helpful lapbooking links
  • Special needs, hands-on discoveries
  • Internet resource and video links
  • Complete answer key

At $6.95 per book, these are a great deal. The puffer fish e-book that I received had 85 pages!

When I first opened it, I struggled with finding age-appropriate activities for my 4-year-old daughter, but I dug a little deeper and found some great information and activities that we were able to use. It came at a great time too, because we took a little break last week from our regular schoolwork, so this fit in nicely. The publisher states that the units are designed for 8 to 13 year olds, but I think that Kahlen learned a lot and had fun with the projects anyway. There was a lot of pieces that we could not use, such as the copywork, math, and and spelling sections, but we found enough to make this unit fun and engaging.

I printed the information pages about puffer fish and read them to her. It was like getting a non-fiction picture book about puffer fish; lots of pictures, facts, and a little humor too. She enjoyed most of it, but got bored by the end of the third page. She also struggled a little with really thinking of it as a book, since it was just printed pages from my computer. I might have changed that to leaving it on my screen if I were to use something like this again. We then moved onto her favorite part, making a paper-plate puffer fish. 2011-04-18 Puffer Fish (1)  The book included basic instructions but sent me to one of my favorite school websites for a picture of what it was supposed to look like and a template. 2011-04-22 Puffer FishThere was a link in the e-book directly to the page that I needed, but it would have been helpful for a visual learner like myself to have a picture of the completed project included in the book. Because of the painting, cutting, and gluing, we were able to spread this project out over 2 days. I let her pick the colors, so we ended up with a chartreuse fish (no idea where she learned about chartreuse, silly girl)




We also printed out and read the section that included reasons why God made the puffer fish the way he did, which included several verses about fear and turning to God with our fears. This was a good segue into discussing something that’s hard to make real for small children, so I appreciated this section as it brought the scientific learning into the personal realm.

After we read the verses (selectively, with some modifications. She is only 4, after all, and the verses were in KJV and a little over her head) and discussed them, we did two activities that were about ordinal numbers. These were challenging for her, but in a good way. It was a good exercise in following directions also. Because she can’t read yet, I cut off the instruction portion and read it to her step by step. I think I may have to find more activities like this because she liked it so much! (Hard to take pictures of her actually doing it while I was reading her the directions)

2011-04-22 Puffer Fish (8)

So, while this e-book is designed for 8-13 year olds, we were able to learn a lot about puffer fish (did you know they use water to puff up? or that they’re really slow swimmers?) and do some fun activities as well. If my kids were older, I would have definitely been able to use this as a week or more unit study on puffer fish and would consider purchasing additional units. The material the book contained was interesting, biblically based, encompassed enough subjects, and had a lot of variety for different levels that it would also be easy to use with multiple children of varying ages. We used several of the activities and information that was marked to be used for special needs, simply because of her skill level, so I was glad they were included. Also, the price ($1 for some units, $6.95 for others, with a discount on purchasing all 9) is so reasonable that I might just go purchase the rest anyway to use over the summer as rainy day activities.



I received this book free from The Homeschool Magazine for the purpose of review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wordless Wednesday / Daily Photo – April 27th

Flying a kite at Buela’s house2011-04-16 Kahlen flying a kite (6)


Linking up at:

imageBetter in BulkimageHome Grown Families My Wee View My Organized Chaos

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Daily Photo – April 24th

Had a great day with my kids, hubby, and in-laws. Nana did an egg hunt for the kiddos, which  they loved.2011-04-24 Easter (37) 2011-04-24 Easter (33)


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Daily Photo – April 23rd

Went to a friend’s birthday party. Didn’t get any pictures of the birthday boy, mostly because there were so many people taking pictures. But I did get a couple good ones of Nate and his June bug buddy (she’s 11 days older) bouncing and having a grand old time:

2011-04-23 Freddy's Party (16) 2011-04-23 Freddy's Party (20) ~S

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tasty Tuesday – Hot Spinach & Artichoke Dip

Tasty Tuesday

Welcome to another week of Tasty Tuesday here at The Young'ns!
There’s a recipe index under the food tab above if you’re ever looking for a recipe I’ve already blogged.
Every Monday, I plan on trying a new recipe. If it goes well, that’s what I’ll be posting on Tasty Tuesday. If not, I’ll post a tried and true (i.e. something I don’t have to think about too hard) ;)

Haven’t tried any new recipes yet this week, so here’s one that I love to bring or make whenever there’s a gathering of people. It’s oh-so-tasty! Just make sure to bring enough bread and veggies to dip it in, or people will go for a spoon ;) This recipe doubles and triples well too, making it the perfect thing for big or small parties.

Hot Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Borrowed from The Olive Garden and CDKitchen


  • 1 (8 oz.) pkg Cream Cheese
  • 1 can (14 oz.) Artichoke Hearts, drained, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup Spinach, frozen chopped, or steamed
  • 1/4 cup Mayonnaise (do not use Miracle Whip)
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/4 cup Romano Cheese (You can use all Parmesan)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Basil or 1 tablespoon Basil Fresh
  • 1/4 cup Mozzarella Cheese, grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon Garlic Salt
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Allow cream cheese to come to room temperature. Cream together mayonnaise, Parmesan, Romano cheese, garlic, basil, and garlic salt. Mix well.
  • Add the artichoke hearts and spinach (careful to drain this well), and mix until blended.
  • Store in a container until you are ready to use. Spray pie pan with nonstick cooking spray, pour in dip, and top with cheese.
  • Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes or until the top is browned. Serve with toasted bread, carrots, and celery.


Monday, April 18, 2011

Daily Photo – April 18th

Nate likes my new iPod touch too :)

2011-04-13 Nate with Headphones (1) ~S

Menu Plan Monday – April 18th

I have a recipe index, just for recipes that you can find on my blog. You can also get to it by going to the food tab above.

Mommies should not be allowed to get sick, ever. I was sick a week ago Saturday, felt great Sunday and Monday, then was sick again Tuesday through Friday :( Not really sure what we ate last week, but there was food involved somewhere along the line. Anyway, feeling much better now, so here’s my menu for the week:

Mix-it up Monday (something new) ~ Jerk Chicken with Grilled Pineapple 
Taco Tuesday (Mexican or Oriental) ~ Orange Chicken Stir Fry 
Wow Wednesday (Date night or something like restaurant food) ~ Date night. Probably to Larkburger because I got a Groupon  and we didn’t go two weeks ago. Also I have a mystery shop at Ben & Jerry’s for dessert, mmm :)
Simple Thursday (Crockpot or less than 30 min prep) ~ Spaghetti with Meat Sauce 
Favorite Friday (A family favorite) ~ Cheater Chicken Pot Pie with whole wheat biscuits 
Lazy Saturday (leftover buffet) ~ Leftovers / going to a 5-year-old friend’s birthday party
Saucy Sunday (Italian) ~ Easter!! Having dinner with the in-laws

Come visit me for Tasty Tuesday for some more deliciousness.
So, what are you having for dinner this week?
Link up at Menu Plan Monday over at I'm an Organizing Junkie or leave me a comment!

Daily Photo – April 15th

Running a little behind. I was sick a bunch of last week, then had a super busy weekend. Anyway, here are the pictures from our trip to the museum last week. The kids had a blast, and I’m glad my mom has a membership now so we can go again. They can only take in so much in one trip :)

And once again, the metal wolves outside the museum were almost as big a hit as all the exhibits inside.

2011-04-11 Denver Museum


Thursday, April 14, 2011

{embrace the camera} / Daily Photo – April 14th

Went to the museum with the kids and my mom on Monday. This is the only picture of me :) I’ll post more of them, hopefully tomorrow

2011-04-11 Denver Museum (44)


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Daily Photo – April 12th

Honking Daddy’s nose

2011-04-10 Beep Daddy (1) 2011-04-10 Beep Daddy (2)~S

Tasty Tuesday – Another Smoothie Recipe

Tasty Tuesday

Welcome to another week of Tasty Tuesday here at The Young'ns!
There’s a recipe index under the food tab above if you’re ever looking for a recipe I’ve already blogged.
Every Monday, I plan on trying a new recipe. If it goes well, that’s what I’ll be posting on Tasty Tuesday. If not, I’ll post a tried and true (i.e. something I don’t have to think about too hard) ;)

Been on a smoothie kick lately (okay, mostly because of the book I was reading, Women of Moderation by Dee Brestin), so here’s another tasty concoction that I modified from a friend of mine :)

Oatmeal Chai Smoothie


  • 1/3 cup oatmeal
  • 1/3 cup nuts, like cashews or peanuts
  • 1 banana, frozen in chunks and thawed a little in a bowl of warm water or you can just use a fresh banana and add a few ice cubes to the mix
  • 2 tablespoons powdered chai mix or something similar. I like this one and this one, but use your favorite.
  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 cup milk
  • handful of fresh baby spinach you can’t taste it, I promise
  • 1 scoop protein powder I use this one, if you’re interested in learning more about Melaleuca, let me know. But that’s a whole other topic…


Put oatmeal and nuts in the blender first and pulverize for a few seconds. Then add the rest of the ingredients and blend well. Mix with a spatula if needed and blend again.


Book Review – The Narnia Code by Michael Ward


From the Publisher:

Millions of readers have been captivated by C. S. Lewis’s famed Chronicles of Narnia, but why? What is it about these seven books that makes them so appealing? For more than half a century, scholars have attempted to find the organizing key—the “secret code”—to the beloved series, but it has remained a mystery. Until now.
In The Narnia Code, Michael Ward takes the reader through each of the seven Narnia books and reveals how each story embodies and expresses the characteristics of one of the seven planets of medieval cosmology—Jupiter, Mars, Sol, Luna, Mercury, Venus and Saturn—planets which Lewis described as “spiritual symbols of permanent value.”
How does medieval cosmology relate to the Christian underpinnings of the series? How did it impact Lewis’s depiction of Aslan, the Christlike character at the heart of the books? And why did Lewis keep this planetary inspiration a secret? Originally a ground-breaking scholarly work called Planet Narnia, this more accessible adaptation will answer all the questions.

I wanted to like this book, The Narnia Code, really. I heart the Chronicles of Narnia, I think I’ve read them at least half a dozen times. And now I’ve picked them as the first chapter books to read to my four-year-old, and she loves them too. When I read the synopsis above, I was excited about the theme of the book and the subject. But I have to admit, I had a really really hard time reading it.

It wasn’t that it didn’t cover any of the things it said, but you could tell that it had been a “scholarly work” to begin with in it’s formulaic writing style. For each chapter, there was a thesis paragraph, the body broken down into reasonable subgroups, a review paragraph, and a sentence or two about the next chapter. 

The content was interesting enough, including background about why our days of the week are called what they are (based on the Roman names for the planets) and in-depth information about each planet as it related to one of the Narnia chronicles.

I think what I really didn’t like about was the overall conspiracy theory about CS Lewis and the Narnia books. I’ll leave them as what they are, excellent allegorical children’s fiction, and be satisfied with that.



Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Tyndale House Publishing as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, April 11, 2011

Book Review - The Final Summit by Andy Andrews

From the Publisher:

David Ponder is back. This time the fate of mankind is in his hands.
This is mankind’s last chance. Centuries of greed, pride, and hate have sent humanity hurtling toward disaster, and far from its original purpose. There is only one solution that can reset the compass and right the ship, and it consists of only two words.
With time running out, it is up to David Ponder and a cast of history’s best and brightest minds to uncover this solution before it is too late. The catch? They are allowed only five tries to discover the answer.
Readers first encountered David Ponder in The Traveler's Gift. Now, in The Final Summit, Andrews combines a riveting narrative with astounding history in order to show us the one thing we must do when we don’t know what to do.

Like several other reviewers, I have mixed feelings about this book. Overall, it has a very good message and I enjoyed many parts of it, but it didn't flow very well because the story portion felt contrived.

The story starts by going through a recap of what I assume to be the entire story of The Traveler's Gift which I have not read, but I feel like I have now. It then moves into the story line for this particular book, which includes a visit by the archangel Gabriel, travelling to somewhere heaven-like, and a host of all the "important" historical figures such as Joan of Arc, Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, King David, and many more.

As I said earlier, it felt very contrived as a fiction story. There was not enough narrative or character development to provide for a good story. The message of the story is a very good one, and I felt that it would have made for a better non-fiction book detailing the life story of each of the historical figures that he used anyway than a fiction book. The story of each character as presented was interesting, but didn't tell enough of the story to really provide context for the point that each one was supposed to be making. Since I knew most of their stories, I could fill in the blanks, but I would have preferred not to have to do that.

So, I give this book three stars. The author has good things to say, but I didn't like the way he presented it.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Friday, April 8, 2011

Preschool Corner / Raising Rock Stars – C is for Caterpillar

preschool corner

Kahlen is 4 years, 3 months

Okay, new plan. I’m starting this post right now, when we haven’t even done the unit yet. Here’s my plan sheet for the week, we’ll be starting this one on April 4th, so I have it scheduled to post on April 8th, at the end of the week. I’m hoping maybe it will keep me motivated to fill in an otherwise empty post!

Cc Plan Sheet

RRSP Highlights

“Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord.” ~ Colossians 3:20

We memorized this verse a year ago with the Hubbard’s Cupboard 2’s curriculum. She had a helpful song to go with it which you can go get here.

2011-04-04 C Day 1 (2) 2011-04-04 C Day 1 (3)Cutting and taping her long verse

 2011-04-06 C Day 2 (2)Writing our word for the week, “in”

 2011-04-06 C Day 2 (3)“Getting ready for C” Notice she needed the help of the counting bears today :)

2011-04-06 C Day 2 (4) 2011-04-07 C day 3 (2)Vocabulary words in their card holder after she cut them all out.

 2011-04-08 C day 4 (7)Practicing writing C’s. You can’t really tell in the picture,  but she decided to hook them all together, which was fine with me as long as she didn’t dawdle (She’s a *HUGE* dawdler!)

Letter of the week highlights C is for Caterpillar, of course. Click on the image above to be taken to Confessions of a Homeschooler, where I got all these printables.

2011-04-06 C Day 2 (1)Playing the caterpillar game 2011-04-06 C Day 2 (5)Caterpillar counting numbers. This one she used pompoms for.

 2011-04-07 C day 3 (5) 2011-04-07 C day 3 (6)Caterpillar puzzle. I took my cutting system from Creative Memories and cut a bunch of different shapes out this time to mix it up a bit.

 2011-04-08 C day 4 (8)Size sorting.

 2011-04-08 C day 4 (9) 2011-04-08 C day 4 (10)Bottlecap letter matching. Of course, caterpillar has several duplicate letters, so we had to use some lowercase letters too. Surprisingly, she was okay with that.

Extras 2011-04-04 C Day 1 (4) 2011-04-04 Tot School Caterpillar (1)

Both kids enjoyed making pompom caterpillars, although Nate was sure it was a tongue depressor that must go in his mouth. He was fine once I put glue on it and showed him the pompoms.2011-04-04 C Day 1 (5)

What have you been doing for your preschooler? Come link up at Homeschool Creations! Interested in learning more about my curriculum choices? Check out this post about my plan for the year.


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