Friday, February 27, 2015

{Crew Review} Koru Naturals

For the past few weeks, my hair has been enjoying a natural treat!  Members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew were given the opportunity to try several natural products from Koru Naturals.  I was able to try out their Emu Oil  ($9.84 for 2 oz.) and the Manuka Oil and Honey Shampoo and Conditioner ($14.95 for the set).

This was the first I'd ever heard of Emu Oil.  It is derived from {you guessed it} emus, the flightless birds of Australia.  It is a light, semi opaque oil that should be used sparingly for best results.  I'm not one to rub oil on my face, but I've been using it on my neck and upper chest to see how my body reacts to it. I got this idea after watching an infomercial about how that skin is so thin and shows aging so well.  Not wanting to spend triple or even double digits to smooth out my skin, I decided to give the Emu Oil a try. I've been very surprised that it has not caused additional breakouts {which is my body's natural tendency}.  I'd say that my skin is very smooth, though I'm not sure what I have to compare since I practically wear clothes from chin to toe during the winter and rarely pay attention to my skin during the winter.

I've also been using it as an intense moisturizer on my nail beds and feet -- it has been a LONG, dry winter here in New England.  As a matter of fact, after an all night treatment of the oil on my feet then donning socks, my heels feel significantly softer and smoother than when I went to bed.  I'm pretty impressed!

I have to admit, I was most excited to try the Shampoo and Conditioner.  While not certifiably organic, the websites says it has a lot of organic compounds in it.  Being 100% organic or not is not a deal breaker for me, but if it is for you, you should know the ingredients.  Manuka Oil itself (one of the last ingredients on the label) is a plant-based essential oil.

I have been a no-'poo person on and off for a year or so, because I've found that regular shampoo just dries out my hair and I begin to resemble her:

{image source: Wikipedia}

I love Rosanne Rosannadanna. But, I don't want to LOOK like her.

Back to shampooing.  I seem to have a harder time in the winter with a no-'poo regimen, and I think it is because it is so dry here.  I was very eager to give these products a try, and I have to say that I'm very impressed.

If you chose to give this a try, you might be disappointed that it doesn't foam up much.  And, you might be tempted to try using more than a quarter-sized amount.  You do not need to worry.  This shampoo does not have sulfates, so it doesn't lather and foam as much, but it still works GREAT and has a fresh scent -- I think it is the chamomile and lavender that I most notice and love.  

I still get a little frizz when I use the blow dryer on days when I have little patience or little time, but when I allow my hair to dry naturally, I'm getting nice gently waves and a soft texture.  Not bad for the middle of winter!  I have a feeling that during the summer, this product will work great. Oh, and if I were the type of person-who-admitted-to-coloring-her hair-with non-permanent-hair-color-to-take-away-some-of-that-gray-that-shows-I've-lived-a life-of-ups-and-downs-and-come-out-just-fine-praise-and-all-glory-be-to-Jesus then I should tell you that it is safe for color hair.  And then I'd probably need to tell you that it didn't seem to make my color ashen or disappear any faster than normal.

I'm not supposed to mention the cost of the product in terms of whether it is affordable or not, but I just have to say that spending $15 + shipping to get high quality hair products that consistent of natural ingredients is -- in my book -- very reasonable. I am not one to pay salon prices for products for my hair;  off-the-shelf bottles of shampoo and conditioner work fine with me (as long as I'm not getting the Rosannadanna effect). I've had the products for almost 6 weeks.  I've only used about 1/4 of a bottle of the products.  That is because I've learned that I shouldn't wash my hair every day (it strips natural oils from the hair and makes my hair oilier), so that is probably why I have so much -- adding to the economicalness (is that a word?) of the product.

I'm pretty impressed with Koru Naturals and I see myself becoming customer when my bottles run dry.

Other reviewers had the chance to try out these products:
Koolpurrie Restoring Balm
Pure Lanolin Lip Balms

New Zealand Pure and Simple Lanolin Cream

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

{Crew Review} In Freedom's Cause by G.A. Henty - Radio Drama

Do you enjoy reading aloud to your children?  I really do -- it has been part of our homeschool since day one.  Fairly early on, we also incorporated audiobooks and radio theater into our homeschool as well.  It was a nice way to give my voice a bit of a break, but I think it also served us by expanding our imaginations and literary exposure.

Heirloom Audio Productions offered me the opportunity to review their radio theater production of a G.A. Henty novel, In Freedom's Cause.  I was given their Single Package which included:

2-CD set
Study Guide (PDF download)
Soundrack (mp3 download)
Printable Copy of the Prayer of William Wallace (digital download)

At the time of this review, this package is available for $29.97.

How We Used This: God has given us plenty of snowed-in days to listen to this production!  The younger boys and I sat on the couch under several blankets one snowy day and listened to the CD.  It has a running time of approximately 2.5 hours.  Luke sat with rapt attention throughout the entire story. He absolutely loved this historically accurate tale of the real William Wallace, who was a man of God who fought for Scotland's freedom.  I know that the authentic British and Scottish accents really fascinated him -- he's going through a phase right now. [As a matter of fact, it might actually have been this drama which sparked the phase!]

You will actually feel like you have a window into the battle!  You will hear background nature noises, friends talking in the background, cheers, swords striking one another and all the effort these historic men exerted as they battled.  This is not an audiobook -- this is true theater!

[I hope you are as impressed by those who lent their voices to this story:  Skandar Keynes "Edmund" from the Chronicles of Narnia triology, Billy Boyd "Peregrin Took" from Lord of the Rings, and Joanne Froggat "Anna" of Downton Abbey, to name a few.  These actors know their craft!]

The Study Guide:  As a .pdf file, the study guide is beautifully designed.  I'm very frugal when printing in color, so printing was out for me (though I suppose printing in black and white would be an acceptable option).

Each section of the study guide has three parts:

  1. Listening Well -- questions to assess comprehension of the plot
  2. Thinking Further -- questions to help students think about the actions and consequences of the characters. (I love the mapwork included in this, as seen above)
  3. Defining Words -- vocabulary to look up.
Using the guide proved challenging.  While I wanted to be able to stop the story and ask Luke and Levi the various questions, I had a heck of a time knowing when to stop the story.  Section titles in the guide did not always mirror the CD's chapter titles (and I didn't even know there WERE chapter titles until I put the discs into my laptop!  Do we have old car technology that doesn't display anything more than the track numbers on a CD?) I do hope that all the titles can be reconciled and/or time markers can be noted on the study guide to help parents use the tools more easily.

The guide also includes a Bible study. Honestly, it wasn't what I was expecting.  Several scriptures --from both the Old and New Testaments -- are grouped together thematically for referencing. While I love being able to see that God's word, intentions and love have not changed between the testaments, I was honestly expecting a little more than a concordance of scriptures based on thematic elements from the story.

I'd love to say that we used other resources alongside this to learn about Scotland.  Alas, we did not -- we were in our busy season of winter.  Yet, having this wonderfully produced, historically accurate story to listen to on a cold day -- when were were plum tired from our busy Classical Conversations and ski lessons schedule -- was a great way to infuse what would have been a very unproductive day with learning, adventure and suspense. What a blessing!

My Final Thoughts:  I am in love with the production quality of this drama, and I hope to listen to it again.  I definitely would consider this a great purchase to supplement (or inspire!) a unit study on Britain, Scotland or British History.  I think most late elementary to middle school students would really enjoy this -- and I would not be surprised if the younger boys broke out into sword fights when the story was finished!  

To read what other families thought of this product, please click over to Schoolhouse Reviews

To Connect with Heirloom Audio Productions:

{Not So} Wordless Wednesday- Lego Challenges

Luke and Levi had a playdate with two brothers recently.  All can be obsessed with Legos, so I decided to offer up some Lego Challenges that I had  seen on Pinterest.

Build a Maze:  the two younger boys worked on this:

Next, I had seen a "Cup of Legos" Challenge:  fill a measuring cup with random Legos, set a time limit and go!

We had all sorts of creative pieces build:  a dragon upon which a Harry Potter character rode, several helicopter-like vehicles, a couple villian's lairs with various contraptions, a Parkour play gym.

Parkour gymnasium flanked by a dragon (L) and jet propelled helicopter (r)
The boys really loved this challenge, and it kept them busy for a good hour while I cooked up some dinner.  

Friday, February 20, 2015

Classical Conversations: How To Get It All To Class - Version 3.0 {Tutor Tip}

I have finished up my third semester as a CC Challenge Level Director/ Tutor.  At the middle and high school level, not only do I have responsibilities to manage my students during our seminar times (the tutor part), I also have business/ marketing responsibilities during the off season (the director part).  I don't mind wearing all these hats, and it is a blessing to help parents learn about CC as well as mentor their teens during the school year.

It has been a struggle, however, figuring out how to get all my stuff to seminar each week.  Ben is pretty competent bringing a large backpack full of stuff. (we don't use Saxon Math, so I suppose if he had THAT tome to carry, a backpack wouldn't work out too well.)  

My first year I had this a try (well, not this exact one -- one similar and twice as expensive!):

This barely lasted a year.  The hinges are plastic and ended up falling out as we bumped and thumped the crate up and down stairs (both at my house and the facility's). I was able to bend a coat hanger enough to give the crate new hinges for a few extra months. Small pieces of plastic broke off the corners from week 2, but it was still functional for all 30 weeks. Another problem was that it provided very little weather protection -- rain and snow were not my friends!

Next up was a large wheeled suitcase.  It is about a 30" size monster.  Although all my stuff it in it, again, the stairs have been the death of it -- the back fabric is torn and tattered. I'm grateful I had its use for the first semester, but it was quite a behemoth to get in the car each week.

Now I've got this: a 20" wheeled duffle bag.  It has a large section, large zippered section, and two outer pockets. Grateful that it is only about $30 via Amazon (price as of Christmas season):

I've been using it for 6 weeks now.  It is definitely more sturdy that the large suitcase, and wonderfully weatherproof for a New England winter.  My large 2" binder with the Guide could fit in the main section, but then I'd have no place for the monstrous Biology text;  so I place it in the frame-sized zipper section, my lit books and WAS goes in the outer zipper, and DVDs/ smaller books/ cards go in the smallest of zippered sections on the top.

This has definitely been a good purchase -- and at this point it remains in one-piece longer than the expensive rolling crate that I purchased two years ago at Staples.  

For me, the suitcase is the way to go....but, we'll see what happens when  Luke begins carting his Challenge A supplies in Fall 2016.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

{Not so} Wordless Wednesday: Our New Family Member

Tiger's death last summer was very traumatic for all of us ..... he left a huge hole in our hearts and lives.

The boys wanted to immediate replace him, but Dave and I wanted to wait a while.  Well, Dave wanted to wait a loooooong while, but I was ready after Christmas.

Friends from our homeschool community needed to adopt out their cat, Kizzy, and we eagerly took her in.

It has been a bit of an adjustment getting used to an already adult  cat with her own personality. Kizzy is not so keen on Daisy -- she thinks Daisy is going to attack her.  Kizzy lives under my bed, in the box spring mattress, and come out at night.  This picture above was taken just very recently, as Kizzy has been crawling on our laps and cuddling with us some this past week.  We've been waiting for this for 5 weeks!

We are grateful to have another kitty to love on -- and we hope that she will let us!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Valentine's Day

Just a quick post, because I do not want to forget my inspiration for Valentines for the boys this year. Preferring to make them a quick card, I searched Pinterest and saw this cookie:

This inspired me to cut out a large construction paper heart and make it into a puzzle for each boy:


It was a blessing to be able to it and write out all the ways I love my precious boys -- I hope they will always know that I will love them to the moon .....and back, forever and always.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

January Re-Cap

Because the boys participate in a homeschool ski program which begins in January, our month is usually pretty crazy.

But 2015 has been even crazier.

Dave is not skiing with us for the first time in 8 years. And, although I am not skiing either this year, I do have to wake everyone up, drive, pack the car, and do all the little jobs that Dave and I have shared for the past three years.

Skiing takes up an entire school day, which means we only have 3 "school days" per week.  This is never a big deal after one or two weeks of skiing, but there is a snowball effect that happens after a few weeks as little details become bigger, un-done, incomplete details.

In addition to the usual craziness that occurs as ski season progresses, I had an opportunity to make a last minute trip to my parent's 50th anniversary party. It was a fabulous time to surprise them and honor and celebrate their commitment to one another.

[This would be the spot where I put in a nice photo of my parents and I.
Except something happened to my camera's SD card three days after I returned and I can't
get any photos off of it.  Grrrrr.]

The following weekend, I woke up late and checked my phone .... to find out one of my uncles had passed away.  It was a very somber week, and the younger boys got a minimum of work done as I worked to arrange travel plans for Luke and I to attend his funeral in Texas.  Oh, then there was a snow storm that knocked out our CC community day. We had about 2 feet of snowfall in our area.

Luke and I before boarding our flight to Texas

It was great to share this somber adventure with Luke.  Brian, my travel-loving uncle, would be happy to know that one of his great-nephews was having a bit of an adventure and learning to love to travel, to take in new experiences and places -- even at 2:30 in the morning!  I will share Luke's photos of our trip in another blog post.  It was fun to view them and see what was important to him.

Other aspects of our month have been just as significant, but not in a crazy-inducing way.  Ben finally received in PSAT results and The College Mail has begun.  We laugh at each letter that starts with the salutation, "Because of all your success and achievements...."  and wonder which accomplishments they are referring to! 

I also committed to a healthy eating, mentoring program for the month of January.  My success lasted for about 13 days -- once the storm hit and I was on the phone making travel arrangements (and traveling), I got side-tracked, but I definitely was making better food choices than I would have. Although it is the end of the program this week, I have all the materials to make another attempt.

And, most importantly, I committed to reading through Exodus.  Again, I've had some speed bumps along the way, but between the Bible reading and the reading I'm doing as a Challenge director (When People Are Big and God is Small), I feel like God is grabbing hold of me, and I'm clinging to him.  It is a good feeling.