Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Our seventeen year old

Darling Emma,  
as we all decided at supper, 
you are simply magical! 
Thank you for your joy, 
your compassion, 
your hard work, 
your singing, 
your smiles, 
your creativity, 
and yes, your drama! 
I cannot believe it's possible for you to be turning seventeen. 
Wasn't I just seventeen? And yet, here we are! 
I am thrilled to see what God has for you this year, 
and I can't wait to experience more adventures together. 
I am so very blessed and thankful to be your mum.
Keep dreaming big dreams! 
I love you! xo

What I Wore Wednesday

This one is short and sweet, because we have a birthday celebration going on in our home today! 

brown top - Dress Barn
grey cardigan - Dress Barn, I think ???
jeans - Kohl's
wedges - Kohl's
necklace - Handmade by Emma
bracelets - H and M
earrings - T J Maxx
sunnies - T J Maxx

I'm linking up with Lindsey and all the girls at The Pleated Poppy. Hop on over to take a look at the fun fashion they are highlighting this week! xo

pleated poppy

Monday, August 26, 2013

Weekly Menu Plan {26 August}

(We went blackberry picking last week for the first time!)

Good Monday, friends! Happy last week of August and sort of the last week of summer, in relation to school beginning. I know some have already started school, many started today and some are still savouring these last days before starting next week. We are in the latter group, so we are enjoying these summer moments that are remaining.

All that said, this has turned out to be a crazy-busy week for us and that does not even include my last-minute school planning. We have a birthday celebration this week, along with a new schedule for TaeKwonDo, I have a lunch date with a dear friend, and we will be attending the funeral of a dear lady we were honoured to know.

Here's the plan (in pencil, as always) . . .

Monday - Leftovers

Tuesday - Carne Guisada (similar to this one), mashed potatoes, veggie tray

Wednesday - Smoked oven brisket, potato casserole, green beans, salad (for our birthday girl!!!)

Thursday - Shrimp and grits, roasted asparagus

Friday - Leftovers

Saturday - Chicken spaghetti, Caesar salad, French bread

Sunday - snack-y supper

Have a fantastic week! xo

Hop on over to see what the other ladies are planning this week on Menu Plan Monday

Friday, August 23, 2013

DIY - Making Scratches Disappear

I have not been a do-it-yourself person too much in the past, but Pinterest has definitely given me some fantastic ideas lately. One of those ideas came when my sweet friend, Nikki, pinned THIS idea for getting scratches out of wood surfaces. I had just the table that was crying out for this treatment, and I was excited to see if it worked. 

I told Bob about the idea, and he actually took over the work. I was just the photographer. Haha!

This table belonged to his grandmother and was given to us many years ago. It is very special to us and has made several moves with us over the years. It was in rough shape when we received it, having been well-used and loved by Bob's dear grandparents. We added a little more "use" to it over the past 10 years time and it needed some attention.

This is what the table looked like before the treatment . . .

We mixed 1/2 cup olive oil and 1/2 cup white vinegar for the "magic" concoction. 

Then Bob went to work rubbing it into the table top . . .

And here is the finished look. It obviously still has some discolouration and markings on it, but it is SO much improved. We are pretty amazed that this worked and worked so well. 

Right now we have this table in our media room, and I am on the lookout for some cute coasters to keep it better protected from water rings, etc. We just keep looking at it and saying "Wow! I can't believe how much better it looks!" So thank you, dear Nikki and Pinterest for a successful DIY project at the Royce house!

Have you attempted any DIY projects recently? I'd love for you to share them in the comments! 


Thursday, August 22, 2013

BOGO Coconut Oil - Ends Today!


Almost all "virgin" coconut oils sold on the market today are mass-produced by machine. But Tropical Traditions is committed to time-honored traditional practices that have produced healthy coconut oil for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Our Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil is still produced by hand, using the wet-milling process of extracting the oil from fresh coconuts. Our producers have learned a lot of things over the years, since most of them have been producing this oil for over 9 years now. They have learned how to pick out the best coconuts from each harvest that produce the best quality oil, for example. Independent laboratory analysis shows this to be one of the highest quality coconut oils on the market, having the highest levels of antioxidants. This enhanced Virgin Coconut Oil is the Tropical Traditions Gold Label brand. It meets our strictest standards to earn this designation. Today when you buy Tropical Traditions Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil, you are buying the highest quality coconut oil we have to offer, and it is still made by hand and benefiting families in the rural areas of the Philippines where the coconuts grow

Through today, Thursday, August 22nd only, you can purchase 1 quart of certified organic Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil from Tropical Traditions at the suggested retail price for $40.00 and get a second quart for FREE! That's an $80.00 retail value for only $40.00, and $15.50 OFF of our normal sale price for two jars!

What a great deal!

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for your support! 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Weekly Menu Plan {19 August}

Whew, we are speeding through August! I finally came out of my denial-state and bought a few school supplies. I do realise the time is getting closer to need to get everything organised and in order. With all of our wonderful guests and activities, I have not had much time to think about school plans in the last two weeks, but I'm getting back to praying and pondering and planning this week!

Here's the meal plan for this time around:

Monday - Hawaiian Pizza (I have some leftover ham in the freezer that I need to use and this is a hit with most of us.)

Tuesday - Leftovers or sandwiches (Austin graduates with his next belt in TKD, so it has to be an easy night in the kitchen for me!)

Wednesday - Mushroom Soup, salad

Thursday - World's Best Chicken, rice, Brussels sprouts

Friday - Salmon cakes, pasta Alfredo, asparagus 

Saturday - Sloppy Tacos (Just read about this one in the latest Bon App├ętit magazine!)

Sunday - snack-y supper

What's on your menu this week?!

Have a wonderful week! xo

I'm linking up with the Menu Plan Monday girls, so click over to get some inspiration, if you need it!

Reading Kingdom {Review}

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I think we can all agree, reading is a key to life, probably the most important key. Having taught several of my children to read, I recognize this in a new way with one of my children (the only one out of five) who has struggled to read in the past few years. It's been a new and puzzling part of our homeschool journey. When I was given the opportunity to review Reading Kingdom this summer, I wanted to give it a shot. It's a very different approach to reading, without the usual phonics method, and I think it will end up being a God-send. This program is designed for ages 4-10.

From the website:

Current reading education typically teaches a phonics approach, a whole language approach, or a combination of the two. But the simple fact is that the vast majority of words in the English language cannot be sounded out. This is true even in a classic phonics book such as Dr. Seuss' "The Cat in the Hat" which begins with:

The sun did not shine. It was too wet to play.
So we sat in the house all that cold, cold wet day.

In this text only 8 of 23 words (the bolded words) can be sounded out. The other 15 (or 65% of the total) cannot. In order to overcome the problems inherent in sounding out, phonics relies on children memorizing almost 600 rules, such as the "silent e" rule, the double vowel rule, the consonant combination rule and on and on. Remembering nearly 600 rules is impossible for a child - or even an adult for that matter. What's worse is that the rules themselves are riddled with exceptions. For better or worse, in English, irregularity is the rule. To put it simply, if phonics worked as advertised to teach a child to read it would be spelled "foniks".

Whole language has had even poorer results. It provides very little structure for learning and as a result, children are overwhelmed with unfamiliar words and sentence structures - and reading failure often ensues.

It's because of these problems with phonics and whole language that schools across the nation show only 30% of children reading at a "proficient" level, while a staggering 35%-40%, across all socio-economic backgrounds, are failing to master this crucial skill (Source: US Dept. of Education) and those who are succeeding are taking longer to learn than they need to. 

Reading Kingdom was developed by Dr. Marion Blank, a world renowned expert on literacy and the Director of the Light on Learning Institute at Columbia University. Dr. Blank's method of teaching reading is called "6-SIM" Six Skill Integrated Method, involving these elements:

My thoughts and experience:

When the child logs in to the program for the first time, they are given a skills assessment to help place them at the proper level. I primarily wanted this program for Ava (age 8), but have also had Maya (age 6) working through it at a slower speed. Once they are placed at the appropriate level, they can log in and work through the lessons at their own pace. This program is fantastic because it is one that does not rush through the teaching and lessons, like some others we have tried. It stresses mastery before moving on to the next lesson. Also, the student does not have to keep going over something they have already mastered, which keeps things fresh and interesting. Another thing that has been impressive is that this program teaches keyboarding right along with the reading lessons. I think this is such a brilliant "bonus" to such a unique and beneficial program. An additional aspect I like about this program is that I can keep up with where the girls are in their progress, either through weekly emails that are sent to my inbox or simply by logging in to our account. 

Here are some screenshots of the program. As you can see, the graphics are colourful and engaging, yet not too flashy or busy.

In the first one, the student is given the word "dog" and asked to click on the letters in the right sequence.
Reading Kingdom screenshot photo readingkingdom4screenshot_zps4c5404a8.jpg
In the next shot, the student is working on their keyboarding skills, as well as sequencing.
Reading Kingdom screenshot photo readingkingdom3screenshot_zpsc60cb6fc.jpg
Later on in the program, the student is asked to complete sentences.
Reading Kingdom screenshot photo readingkingdom2screenshot_zps523e6256.jpg

I am very happy with this program, and since we received a one-year subscription for this review, I look forward to continuing it in our new school year. Ava has been improving in her reading skills, and I am eager to see how that improvement grows as we carry on in our learning with Reading Kingdom!

The best way to find out if Reading Kingdom is right for your child is to sign up for the FREE 30 day trial. Subscriptions to Reading Kingdom are $19.99/month (with no monthly minimum), or $199.99 per year (20% off). Additional children in your account get 50% off ($9.99/month or $99.99/year). You can cancel your subscriptions at any time. They also offer a scholarship program for those who truly cannot afford to pay. 

Don't miss all the resources on the Reading Kingdom Blog.

I am also looking forward to reading Dr. Blank's book The Reading Remedy!

To read other TOS reviews on Reading Kingdom, click the banner below:


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Notgrass Company {Review}

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I have been familiar with the Ray and Charlene Notgrass family of the Notgrass Company for a number of years now and have had their materials on my wish list. When I was given the opportunity to review their America the Beautiful Curriculum Package, I almost cried with happiness! What a tremendous blessing for my family! I have been encouraged by the emails I receive from them and have cried with them when their family has gone through heartache. I love that their children, now adults, are still very much involved with the family business.

This curriculum was created for grades 5-8 and is to be used for one school year. It covers history, geography and literature, and the package sells for $99.95. If you are using it with more than one student, additional map books can be purchased for $8.95 and timeline books for $6.95.

Here is the run-down of what I received for this review:

America the Beautiful Part 1

This book has 75 lessons beginning with life in America before Europeans came and continuing through the first years after the Civil War. 

America the Beautiful Part 2

This book has 75 lessons beginning with America's expansion into the lands west of the Mississippi River and continuing to modern times. It also includes an index to the curriculum.

We the People

A collection of 150 original journal entries, newspaper articles, advertisements, poems, songs, letters, short stories, speeches, and other historic documents from American history.

Maps of America the Beautiful

A collection of 30 maps drawn especially to accompany this curriculum. Your child will often refer to a map while reading a lesson in America the Beautiful and do activities on the map at the end of the lesson.

Timeline of America the Beautiful  

This is an illustrated timeline of American history from AD 1000 to the present designed specifically to include facts learned in the lessons. Some facts are already printed on the timeline. After most lessons, your child will add an event mentioned in the lesson to the timeline.

America the Beautiful Answer Key

Includes answers for the TimelineStudent WorkbookLesson Review, and the vocabulary assignments included in the main text. 

America the Beautiful Student Workbook

A book of crosswords, find-a-words, matching, codes, drawing assignments, and other handwork activities which review and reinforce information learned in the daily lessons. This book is designed for students in 5th and 6th grades, but it is suitable for older children who enjoy these types of activities. ($11.95)

America the Beautiful Lesson Review

A book of daily lesson review questions, literature review questions, and weekly quizzes. This book is designed to help parents measure their child's comprehension of the material. This book is designed for students in 7th and 8th grades, but it is suitable for younger children who prefer this type of review. ($9.95)

These ten works of literature are assigned in the America the Beautiful curriculum to give your child a richer perspective on the various time periods studied. (Note: I did not receive these books.)
  • The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare (Units 4-5)
  • Amos Fortune: Free Man by Elizabeth Yates (Units 6-7)
  • Brady by Jean Fritz (Units 9-10)
  • Bound for Oregon by Jean Van Leeuwen (Units 12-13)
  • Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt (Units 14-15)
  • Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder (Units 16-17)
  • All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor (Units 19-20)
  • Blue Willow by Doris Gates (Units 21-22)
  • Homer Price by Robert McCloskey (Unit 25)
  • Katy by Mary Evelyn Notgrass (Units 29-30)

All of the above literature books can easily be found at your local library, except  for the last one which can be purchased directly from the Notgrass website.

Materials needed for this curriculum:
  • pencil
  • coloured pencils
  • notebook paper
  • three-ring binder
  • plus additional material for the family activities (found at the end of Unit 1 and Unit 2)

This curriculum is exactly as the title states, beautiful! There are 30 units in all, with five lessons per unit, for a total of 150 lessons. Each lesson includes factual information and beautiful photographs. At the end of each lesson, there is a Scripture related to the lesson, as well as five activities from which to choose. These activities include:
  • Thinking Biblically
  • Map Study
  • Literature
  • Creative Writing
  • Student Workbook or Lesson Review
We are not usually textbook fans, but these are truly a treasure. This is not a typical textbook-based program. It has the simplicity and straightforwardness of a textbook, with the added beauty of a rich unit study. We began reading Unit 1 and the children and I are enjoying all of the facts from our country's history, which starts back before the typical 1492. Because the children have a bit of Native American heritage, both Choctaw and Cherokee, the beginning lessons have been very interesting and personal to them. The lessons are engaging and interesting. A typical daily lesson takes 40 minutes to an hour per day.

Take a peek at these page examples . . .

Activities for Lesson 5 . . .

One of the family activities from Unit 1 that we are looking forward to doing . . .

Map activity for Lesson 34 . . .

Student Workbook Lesson 34 . . . 

Lesson Review Lesson 34 . . .

And a quick word about the book entitled We the People. Wow! What an incredible resource this one is. It includes poems, songs, hymns, advertisements that date back to 1903, speeches, and much more. I just had to highlight it, because it is a fantastic bonus to accompany these lessons!

I am planning to use America the Beautiful with my grade 6 and grade 8 students in the next school year and cannot wait to dive in and learn along with them!

Request a Notgrass catalog here.

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To read what other TOS reviewers thought of this curriculum, as well as their Draw to Learn curriculum, click the banner below.


Friday, August 9, 2013

FREE Shipping - Tropical Traditions

Through midnight ET Monday, August 12thall Tropical Traditions Ground shipments within the lower 48 United States will be FREE with the use of our FREE Shipping coupon! A minimum order of $16 dollars is required. To take advantage of this special, you MUST enter coupon code 12138 in your cart before checking out, and choose either Ground or SmartPost from the drop down list of shipping options.

Almost all "virgin" coconut oils sold on the market today are mass-produced by machine. But Tropical Traditions is committed to time-honored traditional practices that have produced healthy coconut oil for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Tropical Traditions Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil is still produced by hand, using the wet-milling process of extracting the oil from fresh coconuts. Independent laboratory analysis shows this to be one of the highest quality coconut oils on the market, having the highest levels of antioxidants. Through August 11th the 5-gallon buckets are on sale for 46% off! Don't think you'll be able to use 5 gallons? Why not share with family and friends? The sale brings the cost to $40.00 per gallon and $10.00 per quart, for some of the highest-quality coconut oil on the market today! This is a great opportunity to stock up and save! 

Order your Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil and check out the other great sales going on, as well! Click over to Tropical Traditions now to place your order and enjoy FREE shipping with coupon code 12138.
Disclaimer: This post contains referral links. Thank you for your support!

Legacy Documentaries {Review}

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Legacy Documentaries is a video production company based in California and run by Dean Butler. Does that name ring a bell? He played Almanzo on the long-running hit family television show, Little House on the Prairie. Legacy Documentaries has recently produced both Almanzo Wilder: Life Before Laura ($21.95, plus shipping) and Little House on the Prairie: The Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder DVD ($24.95, plus shipping), the latter of which I had the opportunity to review. 

From the Legacy website -

What we do:

Legacy Documentaries captures life's defining moments. We produce video programming designed to capture the emotions, memories, events and relationships that define life. Our projects have taken us across the country and around the world because stories of triumph, sacrifice and inspiration happen everywhere. 

What we produce:
  • Historic and Living Biographies
  • Personal and Corporate Tributes
  • Lifestyle, Company & Sports Profiles
  • Public Service Announcements
  • On-line News Segments
  • DVD Bonus Content
  • Company Image Presentations
  • Delivery for Broadcast, DVD & Web

Were you a Laura Ingalls Wilder fan? Did you read the books? Watch the television show? Both? I was and still am a big fan. I have owned a beloved set of her books since I was in elementary school. I loved reading about adventures and Laura lived so many adventures. It was easy to imagine being a playmate of hers down by the creek or roaming through the glorious prairie. Maybe we would run into a bear or a wolf. Maybe we would meet a Native American family along the path. It's still fun to think about the happenings in Laura's books. I enjoyed reading the books to my older children a number of years ago, and am presently reading them to my two younger girls, both of whom are loving them. 

Here are my books in all their faded, worn, well-loved state . . .

When I was given the opportunity to review this DVD, I was looking forward to learning more about Laura's life and gaining insight into her story. This one hour documentary provides information regarding more of the story of this American icon, including Laura's biological family, her up-bringing, her sweet relationship with Almanzo, the sometimes rocky relationship with their daughter, and her growth as an author. I really never knew if all the stories portrayed in the books were strictly autobiographical or included some imaginative license, as well. And now I know, but you'll have to get the DVD and watch for yourself!

The cinematography is very good and the scenery is beautiful. I enjoyed seeing photographs showing Laura and her loved ones. The target age for the viewing audience is ages 8-13. I asked my younger two girls to watch this with me and they were very interested. They do not usually enjoy documentaries too much, but since they knew and understood who this one was about and recognized several things in the film, it kept their attention and they enjoyed it very much. 

We recommend this DVD to any Laura fans, old and young, alike.

Watch the trailer here.

To find out what other families thought of the Little House on the Prairie: The Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder DVD and of the Almanzo Wilder: Life Before Laura DVD, click the banner below.


Thursday, August 8, 2013

Easy Canvas Prints {Review}

Anyone who knows me at all or has spent any time around me knows that I adore taking photos. It's been a happy pastime for me for ions. I even, sometimes, miss the old ways of film cameras and having to wait on the photos  getting developed. But, on the other hand, the digital world is fun and exciting and, well, immediate. When I was recently contacted by Easy Canvas Prints to review a 16 x 20 canvas (retail value: $89.41) for my home, I agreed to it right away. I told the representative whom I worked with that the hard part would be choosing a photo, and I was right. I had hundreds (*ahem* thousands) from which to choose.

Take a look at some of the work by Easy Canvas Prints . . .

After much deliberation, and even getting my family in on the opinion-giving, I choose this photo. It's a favourite photo of the Blue Ridge Mountains from one of our recent family hikes.

The entire ordering process was simple and far from complicated. I clicked on the size I wanted, then the wrap thickness I wanted, and uploaded my photo. There was a preview window to view the photo that I had uploaded and a section to check the quality of the photo. I could enhance the photo in several ways, if desired. There is also an option to access photos from Facebook albums or Instagram instead of the photo albums on my computer. I ordered my photo on a Friday, it shipped on the following Monday, and was in my hands Thursday afternoon. I'd call that speedy!

Here is a screen shot of the sizes available along with their coordinating prices, as well as the view of a canvas hanging over a standard sized couch, which I appreciated since I am such a visual person.

And now on to the really good stuff, my canvas! 

Isn't it fabulous!?!

I placed it in several different locations to see which I liked best . . .

In the end, I came back to displaying it on the mantle. 

I highly recommend Easy Canvas Prints and look forward to adding more canvases to my decor in the future.

Connect with them on Facebook.

Disclaimer: I received a 16 x 20 canvas for free from Easy Canvas Prints in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.