Thursday, January 26, 2012

My First Book!

And now, Ladies & Gentlemen, is the moment we have all been waiting for!  Well, you may not have been waiting as anxiously as I have, but I have been waiting, anxiously, on the edge of my seat, with great anticipation.  My first children's book, Amazing Animals by Design, is published and available for purchase!

The road to this moment has been fun, and I hope to repeat it with other books in the future.  If you have thought about writing a book or getting one published and are curious about the process, check out my other blog at  I've taken my readers through the whole process, from choosing a publisher until today, the day my book is available for sale!

Amazing Animals by Design is a storybook written to introduce the concept of Intelligent Design to young children.  Illustrated by Jesse Blythe DeFriese, it shows children some familiar and some not-so-familiar animals while explaining that different animals were designed with different characteristics to help them to live in their environment.
Amazing Animals by Design is available now in paperback at Tate Publishing for $8.99.  The official release date for national retailers is April 3.  After the official release, it will be available from Amazon and national retailers like Books-A-Million and Barnes & Noble.  I will be doing book signings at those places then.  Until then, I will be doing local book-signings and pre-release events, getting the word out!  The audio book and official website will be ready closer to the release date.  I will be posting a schedule of book signings on the Amazing By Design blog!

I will give away one free PDF version of the book from each blog.  If you are interested, please leave a comment below to enter the drawing!  I will draw one name on Friday, February 3.

Have a great day!

Monday, January 23, 2012

TOS Review: We Choose Virtues

Most of my homeschooling friends agree that one of the most important things we can teach our children is Character.  One of the great benefits of having our children with us most of the time during their growing-up years is being able to instill and demonstrate consistent values, which we hope will serve them for a lifetime.  I am always looking for products that share our values and worldview, so I was excited to have a chance to review a few products from We Choose Virtues.

We Choose Virtues does not offer a curriculum or unit study to be used as a stand-alone subject.  Instead, their products can be used ongoing from year to year, as a supplement to your curriculum.  Their goal is “Simply Inspiring Character That Lasts."  The products I reviewed are for elementary and early childhood ages, but the company also offers products for teens.

We Choose Virtues uses fun characters like Feather Heather, Oboe Joe, and Hat Matt to teach Virtues such as: Obedience, Forgiveness, Helpfulness, and Self-Control.  There are 12 Virtues in all.  For each, the children learn a catchphrase and the antonyms.  These help children learn how to demonstrate the Virtues in their lives, and how to answer someone who tries to get them to do wrong.  The fun, brightly-colored Virtue Clue Cards illustrate the Virtues, the catchphrases, the antonyms, and the characters.  These are great for carrying from place to place in a purse or schoolbag so that you can review them at any time.  I must confess, however, that although my children love the cards and the bright colors, I have a hard time keeping up with them and have lost them several times!

The downloadable products are much more useful to me.  They are always accessible on my computer (or my iPad when my husband buys it for me!), and I can print them when I wish.  I received a downloadable Teacher's Guide, with excellent ideas for teaching the Virtues to different ages; a Family Character Assessment Chart, of which I can print out multiple copies so that we can track our progress over time; a Kids Coloring Book, which is wonderful for my youngest to use while the older ones are discussing the Virtues; and A List of Memory Verses, Bible Heroes and Truths to go along with the Virtues, which I found most valuable.  Together, these items make a great package that I can use every day with my children, or a few times a week as our schedule allows.  They could also be used as reinforcement along with a character program that you already have in place, and they could be tied into unit studies on character, Bible heroes, or the Fruits of the Spirit.  They are very versatile to be used as a stand-alone or in conjunction with other curriculums.

We Choose Virtues also has posters, charts, flashcards, stickers, and other classroom helps for the homeschool or classroom.  They can be purchased separately or in packages conveniently assembled for homeschool, Sunday School, faith-based school, or community school.  You may even want to use a pack of the cards or a poster for family discussion if your children are in a school that does not use them. See their website for a complete list of products and prices.  For a limited time, there are several items on SALE:  
  • 2011 Kids Virtue Poster $9.75 (from $14.99, 35% savings)
  • 2011 100 Days of Virtue Chart and Butterfly Stickers $11.99 (from $14.99, 20% savings)  
  • 2011 3 Rules Poster $7.75 (from 11.99, 35% savings)
There is a CLEARANCE category on the website only while supplies last.
Also, The Virtue Clues are $5.99 (from $7.95).

We Choose Virtues products are welcome new pieces of my total curriculum.  You can find more information on their website at, and "Like" their Facebook page here. To see what other TOS Crew Members thought of their products, click here.

Disclaimer:  I received free products from We Choose Virtues in exchange for a fair review.  No other compensation was given, and all opinions are my own.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

"The Bird's Nest" at Dandelion Dust Designs

It's a wonderful winter season in Phoenix! So nice that temperatures are in the 70s, the leaves on the trees are popping out and the flowers and shrubs are starting to bloom. It is beginning to look a lot like January, and so we introduce to you our newest resale kit called The Bird's Nest, sure to make you feel like Spring is in the air. 

This kit contains 20 papers - 5 Solid and 15 Patterned, 29 Embellishments and 1 Egg Shaped Alpha including numbers 0-9. 

Papers are 12" x 12" JPEGs. Embellishments are in PNG. All are in 300 DPI and Quality Checked. The Bird's Nest Kit may be use for PU, S4H and S4O. This kit is exclusively in our ScrapDelicious Shoppe!

Here are the pages I made with this kit:

 You can pick up your free QP from Mediafire.  Click image below.  PU only.

Happy Scrapping!  :)

Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of "The Bird's Nest" by Dandelion Dust Designs in exchange for layouts.  No other compensation was given, and all opinions are my own.

Amazing Animals By Design

This book will be available in just a few short weeks!  See!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

DVD Review: A Mile In His Shoes & GIVEAWAY!

My family recently had the privilege of reviewing the DVD A Mile In His Shoes, the inspiring story of a special boy with an amazing gift.  When Coach Arthur "Murph" Murphy sees Mickey Tussler pitching apples into a bucket for his pigs, he knows he's found someone with a special talent.  Convincing the young man's father to let him take the risk and convincing everyone on the team to accept him, however, prove to be challenges.  Mickey has Asperger Syndrome, a mild form of autism.  Though he is able to care for himself and communicate with others, sometimes his communication and his mental processes are slightly different from those of the typical baseball players.  Most of the team is ready to help him out, but some do not appreciate his presence.  Coach Murph, however, will not give up, as he battles some of his own inner demons in the process.

Dean Cain and Luke Schroder star in the GMC movie based on the book The Legend of Mickey Tussler.  From the director of Angels In the Outfield.

Our whole family enjoyed this movie, and it opened up some discussion about autism and Asperger Syndrome, since my kids have several friends who wear these labels.  It is appropriate for all ages, and I believe it is a "must-see" for anyone who has dealings with someone with Asperger Syndrome.

You will find more information about this inspiring GMC movie at the following links:

Would you like to win a free copy of the DVD?  Of course you would!  Just leave a comment below or on my Facebook to enter your name in the drawing on January 23!  :)

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or
services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it 
on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally 
and believe will be good for my readers. 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, January 13, 2012

TOS Review: The Story of Swan Lake from Maestro Classics

My kids love all kinds of music.  I have taught piano and I direct children's choir, so I have tried to expose them to a wide variety.  While they may be the first to jump up and sing, "I pump my fists (watch me)/ I slide and switch (watch me)," and unfortunately know all the words to the "Friday" song, they also love hymns, old Broadway, and classical music.  So maybe I'm getting a little culture in there!  Like me, one of their favorite classical composers is Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and my girls and I just enjoyed a live performance of The Nutcracker right before Christmas.

It was a treat, then, to have a chance to review The Story of Swan Lake, by Tchaikovsky, from Maestro Classics!  Maestro Classics produces the Stories in Music series of CDs with classical music, performed by The London Philharmonic Orchestra, set to narration to explain the accompanying story to children.  Available titles also include Peter and the Wolf, The Sorcerer's ApprenticeMy Name Is Handel: The Story of Water Music, and others.  

First of all, I appreciated the fact that the CD performance was excellently done.  Too many times, I have purchased CDs made for children, only to discover that the music is terrible and we will probably not listen to it more than once.  Not so with Maestro Classics.  You cannot miss when you perform with The London Philharmonic!  Secondly, having the narration really does help the children understand and appreciate the ballet.  The CD also contains a teaching "About the Music" section that I found very worthwhile, and a "sing-a-long" with simple words for the children to sing along with the music.  These things all help the children to better enjoy and remember the classical music.  There was also a rendition of "Speed Metal Swan" with electric guitars.  My children and I did not particularly care for that piece, but if you have children who only like modern music and do not want to listen to classical, they may enjoy the classical piece set to "speed metal"!

Although Stories in Music is designed for children ages 5 to 12, you may find that even as an adult, you enjoy and learn from these CDs!  You may purchase The Story of Swan Lake CD from for $16.98, or the MP3 download for just $9.98.  A 24-page activity book included with the CD contains a biography of Tchaikovsky, information on acoustic and electric guitars, sheet music and words for a sing-along song, explanation of major and minor keys, puzzles and more. MP3 download from Maestro Classics website includes a PDF of the activity booklet.  The other titles are also available, as are several package deals if you would like to purchase several CDs at once at a discount.  If you would like to use these CDs for unit studies or as a part of your ongoing music education, you may find the free educational materials provided on the website (click here) helpful.  They include all kinds of curriculum guides, videos, further research, and projects to accompany the CDs, as well as links to purchase lapbooks from A Journey Through Learning that were specifically written for Maestro Classics CDs.

As a lover of classical music, I highly recommend Maestro Classics' Stories in Music CDs for everyone of all ages.  To find out what other TOS Crew members thought of The Story of Swan Lake, click here.

Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of The Story of Swan Lake CD for the purpose of a fair review.  No other compensation was given, and all opinions are my own.

Friday, January 6, 2012

TOS Review: Zeezok Z-Guide to the Movies for Kit Kittredge

I have read that even when you are homeschooling, you should get up in the morning and dress professionally, like a teacher in school, and set a good example for your children.  Nevertheless, I cannot resist a good homeschool pajama day every so often.  Pop in a good educational movie, light a fire in the fireplace, sip hot chocolate, and eat popcorn in our jammies.  I'm trying to do this with my kids about once a month.

Some of my girls' favorite movies are the American Girl Movies, so they were excited to have a break from their regular work to review Zeezok Publishing's Z-Guide to the Movies for Kit Kittredge: An American Girl.  My boys enjoyed it, too, but don't tell anyone!

The Z-Guides to the Movies are available for Elementary/Middle School or for High School levels, and for a number of popular movies, such as Johnny Tremain, The Count of Monte Cristo, and Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.  Most of the movies can be obtained from Netflix or even checked out from your local library.  We reviewed the Elementary/Middle School level.

The Z-Guide is a completely downloadable product, and it is much more than a discussion guide.  It includes ten activities, designed to be done two-per-day for a week.  The Kit Kittredge Z-Guide began with an overview of the movie and of the historical setting.  Activity 1 listed movie review questions for the children to answer while they were watching the movie.  I was impressed by how this kept their attention on the movie and improved their retention.  Activity 2 involved researching the Great Depression apart from the movie.  After all, movies are seldom a completely accurate portrayal of history!  Other activities followed, including vocabulary, a discussion of literary devices used, a newspaper story to write (because Kit wanted to be a newspaper reporter), and my favorite, a discussion of the worldview that shaped the events in the movie.  The worldview discussion teaches students to not only watch movies for entertainment, but also to understand the worldviews behind them.  According to Zeezok publishing, the hands-on activities for some of the movies include creating a treasure hunt, completing a craft, or planning and making a meal.   I plan to check out some more of these, because I have always loved unit guides that help me to include several different subjects, hands-on activities, and various learning styles in a way that will be educational and memorable for my children.

You can find all of Zeezok's Z-Guides to the Movies at Zeezok Publishing, or click here.  Prices vary, with many of them running around $12.99.  Check Zeezok's price list for individual titles.

TOS Crew members reviewed Z-Guides for a number of different movies, so to see what they each have to say, click here.

Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of Zeezok's Z-Guide to the Movies for Kit Kittredge in exchange for a fair review.  No other compensation was given, and all opinions are my own.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

TOS Review: R.E.A.L. Homeschool Spanish

At left is the pattern for a poinsettia brooch that you can make out of pumpkin seeds and navy beans by following the directions here.  Why is that a great project for your Spanish class?  Because in Mexico, Christmas Eve is known as La Noche Buena (The Good Night), or Poinsettia Night.  Here is the story:

There is a famous story in Mexico of a poor child who did not have a gift to lay at the altar on Christmas Eve.  He saw some leaves and branches near his home and took them to the church as an offering.  Some people snickered at his modest gift.  However, after laying the leaves down at the altar, they miraculously turned a beautiful red!  Hence, Christmas Eve is called the ‘Noche Buena’ in Mexico!  
This is just one of the fun activities we gleaned from the R.E.A.L. Homeschool Spanish newsletter, which we began receiving monthly when we started reviewing the R.E.A.L. Homeschool Spanish curriculum, available on the Homeschool Spanish website.

The "R.E.A.L." in the title stands for Relax, Enjoy, Aspire, and Learn Spanish.  The idea is that children (and adults!) will learn a new language best when they are able to relax and enjoy the learning process.  They learn by beginning with conversation and concentrating on the application of the language more than the grammar to begin with.  To quote from the developers of the curriculum:
We believe that a relaxed environment encourages positive language learning.  Too much grammar and too much emphasis on perfectly correct speech hinders the enjoyment and progress of learning.  Slow and steady practice promotes correct speech over time.  For these reasons, we have limited our grammar sections to the minimum and stress communication and enjoyment first.
When I took Spanish in high school, I learned spelling, grammar, noun cases, and verb tenses ad nauseam.  I studied, did well on my tests and passed the class with flying colors; yet when I went to Spain and tried to speak to people, it was very difficult.  I had not learned to carry on a conversation in that language.  Now that we are military and know many people learning new languages as adults to go overseas, we realize that an immersion technique is the best way to learn a new language; yet it is hard to completely immerse your children in a second language in your own home, especially if you do not speak the language yourself.

Homeschool Spanish: A REAL Curriculum for the Whole Family is a practical teaching method that works in a home environment.  First of all, the parent does not have to speak Spanish to begin.  You can learn right along with your child.  Secondly, all kinds of activities are offered to help integrate your Spanish studies with your other activities.  Geography, History, even Math - there are ideas offered in the Curriculum Guide for activities in every subject to correlate with what you are doing in Spanish.  The curriculum is suitable for any age, as your youngest children can begin learning conversational Spanish simply by listening to the audio files, and older children can do the activity book and other projects.  Even high schoolers and adults can learn the language with this relaxed method, and a High School Supplement is due to come out soon.

We reviewed the downloadable version of the Homeschool Spanish curriculum.  We received a complete curriculum to download, including a Curriculum Guide with detailed lesson plans and extra ideas, a PDF Spanish book, a black & white version of the Spanish book for printing, a PDF activity workbook, an activity answer book, and all the audio files needed for the units.  This downloadable version, without the Curriculum Guide, is on special for $49.95 right now on the Homeschool Spanish website.  There is also a bundle that includes the Curriculum Guide for $59.95, and hard copies of the curriculum are available.  Click here for all package pricing.

There were several things I especially enjoyed about this curriculum:
1) It concentrates on teaching conversational Spanish, which can be applied and used in real-world situations, without neglecting the grammar that needs to be taught.
2) It promotes interaction among the members of our family and can be used with all ages together in a relaxed atmosphere.
3) The various tools used to teach the second language incorporate all the senses and appeal to every type of learner, whether your students are visual, auditory, or more hands-on learners.
4) There is a good balance of work that I do with my children and work that they are able to complete on their own.  There is very little prep work that I have to do beforehand.
5) The newsletters we receive monthly are a fantastic supplement to the program and contain a lot of fun and useful information.
6) To be honest, it's just fun!

To see what other TOS reviewers thought about the product, click here.

Disclaimer:  I received a free downloadable version of the Homeschool Spanish curriculum.  No other compensation was given, and all opinions are my own.

Free Quickpage Kit from My Memories, and a Challenge

Happy New Year!  Here's another free quickpage from My Memories!  Click image to go to the download site.  You will get both of these quickpages, plus the individual elements with which to make them so that you can customize your own page.

The theme is New Year's Resolutions.  Send the page you make with the above kit about your Resolutions to noteablescraps (at) gmail (dot) com, and I will send you the link for the next kit, pictured below!  (The submission of your page grants permission to share it here on this site.) 

New to digital scrapbooking, or needing some new scrapping software to try?


to get $10 off My Memories Suite Software! (in the US and Canada)

Happy Scrapping!  :)

"Snow Dreamy" by Dandelion Dust Designs

I don't know about your house, but my kids are dying for snow.  Here in North Carolina, it was in the 70s Christmas week.  Then the temps dropped into the 20s, but no precipitation.  My kids are begging and pleading.  We keep telling them to enjoy this, because when we move up north next year, they'll have more snow than they ever wanted!!

While we're dreaming, though, here's a great kit by Dandelion Dust Designs to scrap those snow memories, or just the snow dreaming:  "Snow Dreamy"!

You can pick this kit up exclusively at ScrapDelicious.  Image is linked:

Want to try the kit out with your own photos?  Try these free quickpages!  Click images to download from Mediafire.  PU only.

Happy Scrapping!

Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of the "Snow Dreamy" kit in exchange for these layouts and review.  No other compensation was given, and all opinions are my own.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

My Birthday (Repost)

It's my birthday!  (We won't say which year!)  I made myself a little kit to scrap my birthday photos, and you may download it by clicking on the image below.  PU/S4H/S4O.  The "Happy New Year" kit's color palette was a little brighter, but many of the elements could be used with this kit as well.   Hope you are enjoying January and not letting the after-Christmas-blues get you down too much!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

RAKScraps Sponsor for January - Scrapwow

The RAKScraps Sponsor for January is Scrapwow.  The December club kit from Scrapwow was "Christmas Joy," and it just happened to match my Christmas pictures from this year perfectly!

You can check out the Scrapwow annual membership club here.

Happy New Year!

Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of "Christmas Joy" in exchange for these layouts.

"Holiday Memories" by Dandelion Dust Designs

Did I hear someone say, "Wait!  I need even more Christmas kits?!!  I have pictures of ornaments to scrap!  I have pictures with Santa!!"  Dandelion Dust Designs has got you covered.  In addition to "Christmas Time," with its rich golds and reds, they released "Holiday Memories" today.  This kit is just as elegant, with more silvery/winter blue hues.

You can also pick this kit up at ScrapDelicious, also marked down 20.12% for the New Year 2012!

Be sure to pick up your QuickPages from Mediafire!  Click images below.  PU only.

Happy New Year!  :)

Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of "Holiday Memories" in exchange for layouts.

"Christmas Time" by Dandelion Dust Designs

If you're like me, you may be hoping to spend some time this New Year's Day afternoon scrapping some of your Christmas pics while the sports nuts sleep in front of the football games!  Although it's after Christmas, it will take me a while to get all those wonderful memories scrapped, and I'll be needing Christmas kits.  Dandelion Dust Designs just released a huge new kit for getting all those memories preserved.  Here is "Christmas Time."

You can get the kit exclusively at ScrapDelicious, where it is marked 20.12% off to kick off 2012!!!

Click images below to grab your QPs from Mediafire!  PU only.

Happy New Year!  :)

Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of the "Christmas Time" kit in exchange for layouts.

Oldie But Goodie: "New Year" Background Freebie

The "New Year Celebration" Background was made from my 2011 New Year Freebie, which seems to have fallen off the blog.  Image linked to 4shared.  PU/S4H/S4O.

Happy New Year!  :)

January Blog Train Blog - "Refresh"

It's a New Year, 2012, time to start fresh and new!  I didn't sign up in time to be on the The Blog Train Blog this month, so I'm not on their list of stops, but I did doodle on some papers with the color palette.  Here they are if you are interested.  Click image to download from Mediafire.  PU/S4H/S4O.

To hop on the Blog Train and visit all the stops, go to

Happy New Year!  :)