Friday, September 30, 2011

Fun Friday

It was a fun Friday in our homeschool. The kids played logic and pattern games for an hour or two. I keep our learning games in banker's boxes in a closet, grouped and labeled according to type of activity. Some of the boxes include: Pattern and Logic games (the one we used), Preschool Activities,  Alphabet Games, Number Activities, Geography and History Games, The Arts (our "band" instruments, as well as art and music games are in here), Colors and Shapes, Science Activities (stuff for experiments and games), and Languages. It helps me keep the supplies organized, and the fact that the games and activities are stored away most of the time makes them more interesting to the kids when they do come out.

 The girls particularly enjoy the games like Mighty Mind, Tangrams, and Shape by Shape that let you make pictures out of various shaped pieces. One of these days, when they are a bit older, I am going to get them one of those magnetic mosaic boards, but I will wait until they are old enough to take care of all those small pieces on their own.

 Tex played Chocolate Fix, a game he got for Christmas (I must admit that I got it for him figuring I'd enjoy it, too!) and found that he is very good at working with spacial relationships and patterns. Cowboy chose one using colored bugs to form patterns. It was a bit under his level, but he enjoyed interacting with the bugs and making funny voices for them to interact with each other!

They also played a few learning games on the computer before going outside. I found some more spatial relationship and thinking skills games to let them try out. 

Here they are: 
Picture Logic (a game of arranging candy in boxes)

There are a few more on my homeschool-for-free site, if you want to check them out. Please feel free to leave a comment if you know of a game your kids like that I haven't listed yet...I know there are plenty of them!

They had fun listening to Pandora while they played with the Brio trains in the boys' room. Have you tried Pandora yet? You can set up "channels" by telling them what the name of a song or an artist that you want to hear more music of a similar nature. Then your new "channel" will play a variety of songs similar to the one you have named (or by similar artists). Tex set up a "channel" based on songs from "They Might Be Giants." Have you heard the Meet the Elements song? It's a hoot. Anyway, you get 40 hours of free Pandora listening a month and it's free to set up an account. We haven't noticed tons of spam, either.

While I was doing chores, Cowboy and Ladybug kept coming to me all excited about the songs they had just heard. It was so cute. My favorite was that one from The Muppet Show that goes, "Manamana...doot doo doo doo doot...Manamana...doot doo doo doo doot." If you've ever heard it, you will know what I mean (I guess that dates me, doesn't it?). If not, well, just take my word that you are missing out and check out the video on You Tube.

After lunch, Boo went down for a nap, Tex went to work for a neighbor, and the Amigos went outside to play. It was a bit cooler, and the mosquitoes (which have been positively horrid here) were not so bad.

We have plans to watch the World's Greatest Train Rides: Egypt video while we eat our pizza tonight, to sort of carry on the theme of trains from earlier this morning. The kids are looking forward to it, since we've been reading about Egypt all week and looking at other resources like Discovery Egypt. Here's a nifty site with "postcard" snapshots of major tourist destinations that is a fun way to see if the kids have been paying attention to what we've been reading (meaning, did they recognize anything?) and here's a tour group site that lists bunches of useful video titles on Egypt that I am going to use in my research for this unit.

And tonight, the most fun thing of all, will be giving Tex his new computer. Shhhhhh...he doesn't know, but his dad is picking it up now. I feel safe telling you because I know he's working outside and will be until his dad gets home. He's going to be thrilled because he's been pricing them for months, ever since we took some of the money out of his educational fund. His dad had a connection who got him an excellent deal on a top of the line HP, which is great, since I think Tex needs a high performing computer to help him learn all the computer languages and programming he is interested in. You can check out some of the resources he will be using (and they are all FREE!) on his homeschooling blog.

I hope you had a fun Friday, too.



Thursday, September 29, 2011

Aletheia---A Search for Truth

What is truth? That is the mission of Aletheia find out what Christian teens perceive as truth. Aletheia is the Greek word for "truth" or "unveiling ."

Today I was listening to a lecture about how it used to be that kids went from being children to being adults at around age twelve or so. Yup. No kidding. There was no such thing as a teenager a hundred years or so ago... no drawn out five to ten year period required for each individual to "find himself." Kids went from childhood to adulthood when puberty hit, with all the responsibilities and rights of an adult (including marriage and the privilege of defending their country) at a much earlier age than they do today, and I think that history shows, many of them did a much better job of it than even our twenty plus year olds do today. The bare truth is that general society did not consider the teen years an excuse to be immature. They were a chance to prove oneself as an adult.

I'd like to see those days return to our world. After all, that concept of early maturity worked for centuries before modern psychologists came around and created the idea of teen angst being a necessary rite of passage. The lecturer I was listening to pointed out that at age 14, John Quincy Adams was assigned as the Ambassador to Russia and was sent to serve in Catherine the Great's court. Age fourteen. Wow. Obviously, someone thought he was mature enough to be trusted with the reputation of his nation as a very young man. Should we think less of our own children's ability to act and think responsibly or deeply?

Well, Aletheia Magazine is an online and print publication that is attempting to acknowledge the fact that teens (those young adults who are ages 13-19) are mature, thinking, feeling, imaginative, creative, purposeful, and dedicated individuals and that they have something important to say, and to give them an outlet by which to express their ideas.

Aletheia offers an opportunity for your teens to write creative works, as well as non-fiction and poetry, and to get them published. In print. Now that's something. I mean, anyone with a computer and an Internet connection can start a blog these days and be "published" (just look at me!), but not everyone can get into print. To me, print is still "the holy grail" of writing achievement. How special would it be to see the words your son or daughter labored over written on a page in a professionally printed magazine that arrived in your own very real mailbox? Wow. That would be special.

A long time ago in a land far away, I was a Junior Apprentice at Colonial Williamsburg. One day, during a demonstration, someone with a camera snapped my photo and it wound up on the cover of a national magazine. I wasn't really doing anything special (just listening to my mentor and doing what she told me to do...spinning wool into yarn), but you'd better believe it that when that magazine came out, my mom bought a dozen copies or for each of the grandmas and a few for us. I still have several. One was framed and hung up on my folks' wall for years. It was a treasured reminder of something I accomplished. Now, imagine how amazing it would be for your teen to actually have their original writing, art, or photo published? That would be priceless.

Artwork by Heather Greenwood, age 17. WOW!!

For only $26 a year, you can subscribe and receive four issues (published quarterly) of Aletheia Magazine to inspire your teen who loves to write stories or articles, draw, or take photos. Aletheia accepts submissions from kids aged 13-19, and has a clearly Christian theme, which is addressed very seriously and deeply in many individual ways. Aletheia publishes poetry, non-fiction, fiction, drawings, and photography. 

In each 40 page issue, readers will find a new Writer's Challenge (a contest), a book review, a spotlight on a Featured Contributor (a fellow student), an interview with a writer, selections of original artwork and photography, plus plenty of poems and stories from readers and fellow writers.

You can head over to Aletheia's website to check out a free online issue before you decide if it is a good fit for your family.

Who Would Like Aletheia Magazine?
  • If you have a creative teen who LOVES to write, and likes to read what others their own age write about, this magazine would likely be a good fit for you. Check out a sample issue just to be sure.
  • If your teen would LOVE to be published, and would find the challenge and potential of writing to be published motivating, then this magazine is a good fit for you.
  • If the quarterly writing challenges would motivate your budding writer to greater heights of journalistic performance, then you should order this magazine right away and make your homeschooling easier! Check out this quarter's challenge HERE. There is also a good page of writing tips to help you get started.
  • If your teen likes to draw or take photos (which they would eventually want to try to submit for publication), and also enjoys reading what other people their own age write, this magazine would be a good investment.
  • If you have a teen who is thinking they might like to get into printed publishing and writing, then this magazine could be a good place to start.
  • I know that if a magazine like this had been available to me when I was a teenager, I would probably have been inspired to write for it. I liked to write poetry and short stories, and perhaps my chosen subjects might have been more edifying, had I the example of the writers I read in the issues I had access to. I was impressed...even brought to tears once. If you think you've got a budding writer, but you'd like to see them hone their craft along a more Christian vein, this magazine might be the answer...Check out the sample issue HERE.
  • If you have a teen who likes to write, but is happy just being read by mom and dad, is already happy publishing a family or neighborhood newsletter, or feels  adequately "heard" on their free blog, then maybe this would not be a necessary investment (though your student might find the magazine to be an additional challenge they could rise to or an inspiration, if you have the budget for it). 
  • If you have a teen who is "young" and might not understand allusion, allegory, satire, and irony...or one who might be disturbed by sometimes very serious and thought-provoking topics (such as modern slavery or martyrdom), then perhaps you should wait a few years and check this opportunity out again later.
  • If you are looking for a publication that offers tips on how to be a writer, illustrator, publisher, or editor, then this magazine will not fit the bill.
  • If your teen is not a budding writer, editor, publisher, or a voracious reader of teen-written fiction and non-fiction, I think you need to really look at the sample issue and consider whether this is your best option. You might also want to see what other reviewers from the TOS Crew have to say about Aletheia Magazine.
I commend the publishers of Aletheia Magazine for the service they are doing for young adults and the homeschooling community by providing this creative opportunity for our giving them a voice so they can be heard, and be taken seriously as the concerned, aware, and involved young people they are. Thanks, Aletheia Magazine!


I was provided with a copy of Aletheia Magazine for the purposes of reviewing it here on Blessings Pour Out. The opinions you read here reflect my own personal experiences with and opinions about this product. If you have any questions, you may feel free to contact me.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wordless Wednesday--Pony Update with Videos!

One month old. How time flies.

This is Pippi a few days ago. 
She loves to run circles around her mommy.

The other horses are checking out the newcomer. 
They are not sure what to think.

Time to kick up our heels...then a quick snack.

We've been calling her "Pip" or "Pippi," originally short for "Pipsqueak," but now we are considering using it as an acronym for "Pretty in Pink" and buying her all pink stuff. Silly, I know, but girly!

Other suggestions have been Rosie or Dusty Rose (her daddy is Mr. Dusty Gold Bars), Daisy, Josie, and Penelope (with Pippi or Penny being the nickname). What do you think?

They didn't have halters at Tractor Supply or Southern States small enough for the baby, so we bought her a goat halter and lead line. It works!

Aren't we adorable?

Tex likes spending time at the barn playing with Pippi after cleaning up their stall.

She's a feisty one!

Everybody loves her and she loves everybody. 
She walks up to us as soon as we open the gate, 
no matter how far away her mommy is.

This was taken just a few days after she was born. She has grown a lot since then. She is already sharing her mom's grain...I had no idea foals began eating "real food" so soon. It has certainly been a fun and interesting learning experience for all of us.



Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I Dare You to Watch This

The 180 Movie 
with evangelist Ray Comfort 
of Living Waters ministry

*some scenes are not suitable for all ages*

Watch as 8 people make a complete turnaround on 
their position about the abortion, which leads many of
them to consider a new position about God and sin.

Using the Holocaust and the atrocities committed
against the Jewish people and others during WWII
by the Nazi's as a starting point, Ray Comfort 
guides you to a thorough understanding of the 
holocaust that is happening in America today...abortion.

Please, make sure you and your loved ones know where 
you all stand on this very important issue before you
head to the polls during the next elections.

You can go to for more details 
and to find out ways you can help spread 
the word about this vital topic.
You may also view the movie for free there.

Please feel free to repost this video on your own blog,
or link to it using other social media...I double dog dare you.

Thank you!!



Sunday, September 25, 2011

Try Tricross!

He asked me not to use this silly picture...
but it was too funny to pass up. 
Sorry, Tex. 
We gotta take the laughs when we can get 'em!

Intimidated by chess? Bored by checkers? 
Like backgammon or dominoes? 
Try Tricross, an innovative and interesting game 
of strategy for ages 7 and up.
Designed to be played by 2-4 players, this game 
can be played at varying levels of difficulty.

Brain-child of a father twenty-five years ago, redesigned by his sons and re-marketed recently, included in Dr. Toy's 2009 list of top 100 games, winner of Creative Child Magazine's Game of the year award in 2008, and awarded the National Parenting Center's seal of approval, this game has skyrocketed in popularity over the last few years.

We received both the boxed board game version and the eco-friendly travel version to try out. This game was right up Tex's alley, as he has been attending meetings of the Chess Club at our local library for the past several months. He really enjoys strategy games and couldn't wait to get his friends to try it out.

But first, we checked out all the components, and I have to tell you that both versions of the game were extremely well made. The boxed set is constructed from very sturdy cardboard...not the thin kind you are used to from ordinary board games. All of the pieces were very solid and beautifully made. The game comes with a bag to keep the pieces in, the board, the pieces, and the instructions. The eco-friendly travel version is a foldable playing surface made of sturdy canvas, has the same solid pieces, an instruction sheet, and two for the pieces, and one to hold the whole set.

The first time Tex and Hubby played the game, I will be honest and tell you that they thought it was sort of dull. After all, the box itself states that it is very easy to learn, and they certainly felt that was true. The moves are not complex, like they are with chess, and the rules are easy to comprehend.

However, the second time they played, both of them realized that while their initial game had seemed too easy (compared to chess), once they really were familiar with the pattern of game play, the game became much more complex. They reported to me that their second and third games took two to three times longer to complete, and they had to strategize a lot more to win than they did the first time they played. In addition to the challenge that increases as your knowledge of the strategy increases, there are five levels of play explained in the directions. You can check out some "How to play" videos HERE.

Tex says he thinks Tricross is a great game, and he is looking forward to introducing it to his Chess Club friends this week. He says that he thinks that it is (in difficulty) sort of in between checkers and chess...kind of like backgammon. If you enjoy playing strategy games of that type, you will definitely like this game. If you want your kids to learn a strategy game to boost their brain skills, but they aren't quite ready for chess, then this game will definitely work.

Some skills Tricross helps develop are:

  • Logical Thinking
  • Cause and Effect
  • Predicting
  • Interpreting Outcomes
  • Abstract Thinking
  • Memory (In Variations of Play)
  • Visualization

Both Tex and Hubby had very positive experiences with this game. In fact, they couldn't think of anything they didn't like about it. Tex figures he can teach Ladybug how to play it in the next month or so as part of her schoolwork on Fun Fridays. It will be a good start for her, since she has been asking about how to play chess recently.

If you have kids who like to take on a new challenge that develops over time, who need some hands on logical thinking skills workouts, or who just plain old love new games, give this one a try. My guys loved it.

Tricross offers information for educators HERE.
Watch several review videos about Tricross HERE.
Check out the "How to Play" videos HERE.
See what others from the Crew thought about this game HERE.
Prices start at $19.95 depending on the version of the game you want to purchase. If you are interested, you can buy a copy of the game HERE.



As a member of the TOS Review Crew, I received copies of the regular board version of Tricross, as well as the travel version of the game, for the purposes of reviewing the products here on my blog. What you read here is an honest review of our own experiences with the game. I cannot guarantee that your experiences will be the same as ours. If you have further questions, please feel free to contact me.

Be the People

It's time for WE the people to BE the people the founding fathers intended for us to be when they framed the Constitution. It is time for all of us to take action and stand up for the Christian values that our country was built upon. If we refuse to defend the moral standards that the 78% of Americans who claim to be Christians should be believing in if they are, in fact, Bible believers, then we should not be shocked when government, society, and media continue to veer away from conservative values. This is the message of Carol M. Swain's book Be the People, published by Thomas Nelson.

Dr. Swain states, Cal Thomas, a Christian syndicated columnist, has written, 'Thirty years of trying to use government to stop abortion, preserve opposite-sex marriage, improve television and movie content and transform culture into the conservative Evangelical image has failed.' The moral decline continues because we haven't quite reached the hearts and minds of the majority of Americans who consider themselves Christians, yet know very little about Biblical teaching, the history of our nation, and its founding documents."

"All we need is for the majority of Americans to stand up and take responsibility for the condition of the nation. 2 Chronicles 7:14 makes the condition for national repentance and redemption quite clear. America needs its religious and political leaders to take responsibility for leading the people in a Godly direction, and the people need to take responsibility for fearing men more than they fear God.

These are humbling words, because the truth is that many of us sit impotently by, commenting on how our country has gone to the dogs, or lamenting the loss of "the good old days," yet very few us us actually do anything to try to change the status quo. One of my favorite literary quotes is from Dante, "The hottest places in h*ll are reserved for those who in times of crisis remain neutral." With God, neutral, or lukewarm, is not a good thing. He wants us to want what He wants...and to do that we need to go back to His word and see what His plans are, and fit our plans into His plan, instead of trying to fit our limited vision of church and Christianity somewhere into the prevailing culture.

Dr. Swain also reminds us that "the futures of our children and grandchildren depend on the choices we make today." Will you stand up and walk forth to defend a Biblical vision for our country, or will you sit idly by,  believing that Christians are a minority and it does no good to try to be heard because the voice of the liberal nation is so strong? Dr. Swain urges readers to stand up for traditional values and to defend their beliefs. She tackles tough topics in chapters on issues such as racism, immigration, divorce, abortion, moral decline, and homosexuality. She also includes appendices containing the full text of the four of the most important documents our country has at its disposal: The Ten Commandments, The Declaration of Independence, The Bill of Rights, and the Constitution. 

You can hear Dr. Swain speak about her book by watching the clip below.

As a homeschooling parent who likes to use literature (vs. textbooks) to teach various subjects such as history and political science to my children, I believe that this book would make a solid addition to a high school level government course of studies. Not only are there "Action Points" at the end of each chapter, which makes it easy for readers to think more deeply and personally about what they have read, Carol Swain offers a free online study guide with even more thought-provoking discussion questions which also makes the book ideal for use in a study group or co-op class.

While this book is a pretty heavy read, especially if political science and government are not your strong points, it is not written in a way that will make it impossible for a beginning student of politics to understand. Since poly sci is not my forte, reading the entire book was a challenge for me, though I think I would have had an easier time getting through it if I'd had at least one person with whom to read and discuss it's important issues. 

If considering the ramifications of failing to stand up for our Christian beliefs by becoming personally involved in the governmental process in ways both big and small is something you feel is important, you should consider reading this book. It will make you think, and I believe you will have a hard time ignoring the call to get involved once you have read the carefully considered, bluntly spoken, well-defended truths presented in Be the People

Should you feel the need to become involved, Dr. Swain lays out suggested "Steps Toward Reclaiming America," such as being prepared to give an answer to any who question the truth of Biblical principles, reading and understanding our country's important documents, staying up to date with a variety of news sources (and questioning them carefully), consistently making your voice heard by voting, and contacting your representatives to share your opinions on key issues. 

Dr. Swain concludes her book by saying, "Our love for God, our families, future generations--for all who will be required to give an account to God--demands that we take seriously our obligation to warn society of God's impending judgment on those who continue to pursue an ungodly course. Let us choose wisely the course we will follow." Strong words, but undeniably true.

You can find ordering information for Be the People at the publisher's site.



I received a complimentary copy of this book from BookSneeze for the purposes of writing this review on my blog. I was not required to write a positive review.

How to Build a Storm-Proof Marriage

a ministry of SM Davis

The movie Courageous is set to open in theaters on September 30th, 2011. It is another fine movie by the talented folks at Sherwood Pictures, the ones who produced Fireproof, Facing the Giants, and Flywheel (all excellent movies). All reports say that is another winner, with the potential to have a positive impact on the lives of families everywhere. I can't wait to see it. Have you put attending this movie on your family's calendar? I hope so.

In the meantime, check out this sermon from a favorite pastor of mine, SM Davis, called How to Build a Storm Proof Marriage. Consider listening to it with your older kids, as you prepare them for adulthood. You can also download a worksheet to fill out as you listen, which I find helps focus my teenagers (and helps my mommy-brain recall important points!).

I hope this sermon will bless you and your family. You can check out a list of many more sermons by Dr. Davis that you can listen to for free at Bible I highly recommend purchasing his set of 150+ mp3 sermons, if you have the funds. It has blessed our family greatly in our Christian walk, our marriage, and as parents.

By the way, I was fortunate to be invited to a pre-screening of another fine movie last week called The Mighty Macs. It is based on the true story of the underdog women's basketball team from small, underfunded Immaculata College who won the first college women's basketball championship in the 1970's. I just wanted to give you a heads up that this is a wonderful film, absolutely family-friendly, filled with encouraging messages, edge-of-the-seat moments, and plenty of laughs. My father attended the screening with me and loved it, too. I think it would be a fine movie for all the members of your family, so please consider supporting it by adding it to your calendar. It opens October 21st.

Have a blessed Sunday.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Making Pear Butter

What do you do with a profusion of pears?

When we bought this house, we knew there were several fruit trees on the property, but didn't know enough about them (past the season) to figure out what they were. When the fruit started growing that first year, we were excited to find that two of the trees had pears, and one had apples.

None of the trees is in great shape (they are old and have been neglected), but in spite of their somewhat misshapen condition, so far the pear trees have produced many more pears than we could ever possibly eat, even if we ate them for every meal every day.

Last year, a good friend suggested I make pear butter. I'd never heard of pear butter before, but basically it's just apple butter, but made with pears. My kids like apple butter, so I was game, especially since I needed to make something I could can easily, and we'd already eaten enough pear sauce (instead of apple sauce) and sauteed pears (for dessert) to start turning us into pear shaped people...

So, we picked the rest of our pears before Irene came, and we've been storing them ever since. I have to admit that I've been procrastinating about doing anything with them since I've never made pear butter on my own, BUT some of them were getting too ripe (yes, we lost some, but the chickens enjoyed them), so I finally had to jump in and give making pear butter a try. Here's how it turned out...

Here's our basic recipe: 

6-7 pounds pears (about 20 medium)
4 cups of sugar
1/2 cup orange juice
1 tsp apple pie spice
a dash of sea salt

Wash the pears. Core the pears and slice them into sections (I have an apple corer/slicer that does this, or you can do it by hand...I leave the skins on to make it less time consuming, but you can peel them if you want to. It is not necessary that they be thinly sliced...even having them cut up in just four sections will do). 

Put the pears in a large sauce pot with about a cup of water (you can use less, but I was afraid they would burn if I used less). Simmer them over medium heat until the pears are soft. 
(Sorry, I forgot to take a picture of this step). 

Puree the pears using a food mill (or you could use a food processor, I suppose, but I used the hand mill my friend gave me). Be careful not to liquefy the pears. You want them to have texture.

Measure 2 quarts of pear pulp when you are done. Put it back into the rinsed pot (at this point, if you didn't use much water, it is basically non-seasoned pear sauce...though when I make my pear sauce, I hand mash the pears for a coarser texture, and I do peel the pears) and add the sugar. Stir until the sugar dissolves completely. Then, add the orange juice, the apple pie spiceand the salt.

Now....wait. For a long time. Simmer the pears over medium to medium-low heat (I put a lid on the pot to prevent splatters, but cracked it to let the steam evaporate) until the pear sauce thickens and darkens. My friend says to "cook it until it is thick enough to round up on a spoon." The volume of your pear butter will have decreased by the time you are done. Notice how the butter in the picture below is darker than the sauce that just got started in the picture above.

This may take quite a long time (several hours), so now would be a good time to clean out your silverware and junk drawers, read a good book, or organize your shelves. I read a whole book, sitting in my rocking chair, alternately reading short books to individual kids who'd sit on my lap for a few minutes (I had a migraine that day). It was nice, in spite of the headache.

It is important to not burn the sauce, so regular stirring is essential, and monitoring the heat so it is bubbly (and losing moisture), but not sticking or bubbling over is not getting too distracted is a good idea (we slightly overdid a small batch, which we will keep for ourselves. Oops.)

 Once it is done, it will have a thick, spreadable consistency and be absolutely delicious. You can either ladle the hot butter into hot jars, leaving head space, removing the air bubbles, and adjusting two piece caps before processing the jars in a boiling water canner for ten minutes OR you can put it into freezer jars and store it in your freezer for up to a year, BUT believe me, between the jars you give away and the ones your kids devour, your pear butter won't last that long. Don't forget to label your jars, though, so you can keep track of when it was made, and what it is.

Making pear butter is a great project for a rainy day...and a lot of fun for the whole family. Delicious fun. Enjoy!!

Feel free to share your yummy recipes for anything having to do with pears or apples. I'd love to try them!


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