To Washington We Go!

I can’t believe we are finally doing it! For the last five years we have been promising our kids a trip to Washington DC, but our budget has just never allowed it! This year, thanks to some help from my cousin, we are finally going to go!! Seriously, one of the reasons we started homeschooling was because I wanted to travel with my kids. I had all these visions of us taking impromptu trips here and there. Sigh…sadly, what I envisioned was far from reality. Trying to live on one income does not allow a big travel budget. Still, we got a fantastic opportunity when my cousin (who is in the Navy) was stationed in Maryland this year. So, we will be making the 13-15 hour drive from our home in Florida to DC this week!!

We have spent a lot of time planning and we are all excited. To save money, I am bringing my crock pot, so I can make easy dinners while we are there to save money (eating out kills us!). I figure, if we eat breakfast before we leave, and dinner at the house, that only leaves lunch and snacks while we are out. And of course, it helps that so much of the attractions up there are free or low cost. I even found tickets to the Spy Museum online for half the regular cost. (that place is top on my youngest’s list!)

My hubby, a huge war history buff, can’t wait to visit the memorials, and I want to hit the Smithsonian museums. Since I want to also use this as part of school, I came up with a plan for my kids during our trip. I purchased small notebooks where I am going to have them record details of our trip, such as the time we leave, each stop we make, and how much we spend on gas, food, experiences etc. They are also going to journal each day about what we did. I also got them each a folder where they can store maps, pamphlets etc. When we get back, they are each going to make a scrapbook about our trip. They are going to work out our gas mileage, travel time, expenditures, etc. They will also make pages about the things we visited, draw a map of all of our stops, and write an essay about their favorites part of our trip. Finally, I plan to have them take plenty of pictures to print out and add to their books. I figure they will create an awesome keepsake, as well as get in reading, writing, math etc.

So, here we go!! I hope to have plenty of pictures to post when we get back. Have a great week. 🙂


Sweet and Spicy Lemon Shrimp

Sweet and Spicy Lemon Shrimp

This is one of those 15 minute dinners perfect for a busy life. I buy the packs of frozen shrimp whenever they go on sale and then save them in the freezer for nights like this. My hubby and kids love having shrimp for dinner.

1 1/2- 2 lbs. shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/3 cup hoisin sauce
1/3 cup sweet chili sauce
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. garlic salt
1/2 bunch chopped cilantro

1. Peel and devein the shrimp (or, have one of your kids do it for you like I did!)
2. In a small bowl, combine the hoisin sauce, honey, sweet chili sauce, lemon juice, salt, pepper, garlic salt, and cilantro.

3. Place the shrimp in a bag and pour the sauce into the bag.
4. Marinate for at least 30 minutes, turning the bag once.

5. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place the shrimp on the baking sheet.
6. Bake at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes until the shrimp turn pink and firm.

I served this with a pasta salad, and I would say this dinner took me all of 20 minutes to cook!! If you have any other easy shrimp recipes I would love to hear about them. Let me know in the comments.  Thanks for stopping by and be sure to come back next week! To see more new recipes, click here:


TOS Review: The 7 Minute Life Planner

7 Minute Life Daily Planner ReviewDo you feel like you’re pulled in a million different directions every day? Do you sometimes have trouble keeping track of everything you need to do? I do! With homeschool, work, church activities, appointments, social activities etc. to keep track of, my brain gets overwhelmed. So, I was excited to get to try out The 7 Minute Life Daily Planner for this review. Offered by The 7 Minute Life, the planner includes all kinds of extras designed to help you get organized.

7 Minute Life Daily Planner ReviewThe intro to the planner explains the basic philosophy of “prioritize, organize, simplify” and the whole first portion of the planner offers strategies and tools to help you determine your top values and goals. Using the worksheets at the front of the planner, you can list your top priorities, which then leads to you coming up with sort of a “mission statement” about your purpose in life. From there, you list your goals in specific areas.

7 Minute Planner-Prioritize

I found these sections to be very helpful in getting me to articulate my short and long term goals in work, school, health, and family. I also planned action steps to achieve those goals and deadline for my progress.  Another section at the front of the planner I really liked were the Unfinished Tasks pages. If you are like me, your mind is constantly running in several directions at once. Especially when I’m trying to go to bed (ugh). And it seems like I will be in the middle of one task when I suddenly remember something else I need to do and then I get completely off track. Using these pages to list unfinished tasks helps me to stay on track. When something comes to mind I know needs to be done, but I am doing something else, I write it down. Before I go to bed, I write down the pressing things I wanted to do but didn’t do that day. That way, I know I will not forget these things later and can go about my day with a lot less stress.

7 Minute Planner Unfinished Tasks

The planner also includes blank calendar pages for yearly, monthly, and 90 day periods where you can fill in annual, monthly, and weekly recurring tasks, birthdays, and other immovable items. A handy log of “connections” where you can record personal and business contacts is also helpful.

As if all of that wasn’t enough, the 7 Minute Life Planner also offers daily planning pages to further break down your life. Now, I have to tell you I didn’t use these pages exactly as they were designed. I felt this part of the planner was more suited to a business type situation, but I was able to tweak it. I used the section for daily contacts to record a list of my daily tasks and the blank section to write down notes like phone numbers for doctors etc. I did like the small calendar in the corner where I could list appointments by hour, and the unfinished tasks section but to me, the best part was the “5 before 11” block. In this section, you list the five things you want to accomplish before 11:00. These could be home chores, phone calls, or anything else you want. For some reason, listing just five things I knew needed to be done in the morning got me going right away, and, while I may not have gotten to everything on my to-do list each day, getting that list done always made me feel accomplished.

7 Minute Life Daily Planner ReviewThe planner also has pockets where you can store papers (a nice touch), and places to record your progress. On the whole, it has just about everything you could need to keep track of your life and I liked it. Now, for people who become overwhelmed by too many options, or for those who just want a simple planner to list daily tasks, you will probably want something else. However, if you find yourself juggling multiple roles each day, then I would recommend this planner to keep track of them all. The 7 Minute Life Planner costs $24.95, and I think that is a fair price. To learn more about the planner, check out this video:

You can also connect with 7 Minute Life on their social media pages here:

The 7 Minute Life on Facebook

The 7 Minute Life on Twitter

The 7 Minute Life on Pinterest

The 7 Minute Life on Google+

The 7 minute Life on YouTube

To see what other members of the crew had to say about this product, click here:

Click to read Crew Reviews

Crew Disclaimer

Menu Plan Monday 9/15/14

Another week, another menu plan! I hope your fall season is off to a good start. Judging by the invasion of pumpkin-flavored everything in the local stores, I would say the new season is moving along fairly quickly. Personally, I can’t wait to skip ahead from the pumpkin to the peppermint, but that is just me!! So, this is what I’m cooking this week

Monday: Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches (crock pot recipe)

Tuesday: Pork and Pepper Stir Fry

Wednesday: Chicken Parm Casserole

Thursday: Spaghetti

Friday: Dinner out with friends

Thank you for stopping by for Menu Plan Monday! Make sure to come back next week.

Refreshing Your Heart

Let’s face it, homeschooling is a tough, and sometimes draining, task. While we love our children, and relish the time we spend with them, there are some days, some months, some seasons, where it is just hard. It is in those moments that we need to seek encouragement to help build us up and move us forward in our journey. While I love to get together with other homeschooling moms for encouragement, I also find a lot of it in reading books. These are a few of my most recent favorites:

1. How to Have a HEART for Your Kids

Written by Rachel Carman, this book chronicles her own (at first reluctant) homeschool journey and offers practical advice for how to balance homeschool, life, and family without losing your mind. Chapters on building your own relationship with the Lord and your husband lay the foundation for chapters about instructing, loving, and building up your kids. This is one of my most highlighted books, and I keep it on my nightstand. I have also recommended it to many of my friends.

2. Educating the Wholehearted Child

This book is written by Clay and Sally Clarkson, and included chapters on building your home, homeschooling methods, building relationships with your children, and remaining committed to your vision. I found the honest and heartfelt advice to be very helpful. It also includes an appendix with lists of helpful resources, other books, and forms.

3. Flourish

I recently reviewed this book for the TOS crew and found it so inspiring. Written by Mary Jo Tate, it provides a wealth of ideas, encouragement, and practical advice. As a mom trying to balance homeschool, family, home responsibilities, and work, I find myself stretched very thin. And most of the time, honestly , I don’t feel like I do a good enough job at ANYTHING. After reading this book, one of the things that stuck most with me was the phrase “make peace with the space between the ideal and the reality”. While my ideal may be supermom, my reality is that I am a regular person living with a 24 hour day, and I need to cut myself a break every now and then!

So, those are three of my recommendations if you are looking for some inspiration! I am always on the lookout for new homeschooling books to read, so if you have any suggestions, let me know in the comments! To see other ideas for great books to encourage you on your homeschool journey, check out the Crew Round Up here: (goes live 9/17/14)

Books to Encourage the Homeschool Mom

TOS Review: Heirloom Audio Productions

Ahoy there Maties! Ever since Pirates of the Caribbean came out when he was just two years old, my youngest boy has had a thing for pirates! Seriously, he dressed up like a pirate for Halloween and then refused to take the costume off. Also, he still dresses up in September to get free Donuts for Dress like a Pirate day at Krispy Kreme. 🙂 My youngest also really likes audio books, so when I got a chance to check out an audio book from Heirloom Audio Productions, I jumped at the chance!

Analytical Grammar Review

And of course, when he found out it was going to be a pirate story, my son was on board too! Under Drake’s Flag is a recording of the book written by GA Henty. Known for writing exciting historical adventure stories in the early 19th century, Henty’s books told tales of courage and daring, with a Christian perspective.

The story in Under Drake’s Flag focuses on teenage boys Ned and Gerald, and their high-seas journey under Sir Francis Drake. As they travel, they face the perils of life at sea, including storms and shipwrecks, and encounter numerous new people and cultures as they visit new lands (some are friendly, some are not so much!) Along the way, the boys begin to grow into men, and into their faith in the Lord.

We listened to this recording on our trip down to the Keys to visit some friends over the summer. First, let me tell you the cast is absolutely phenomenal! Really, they add so much excitement to the storytelling, it’s like you can just picture every scene in your head. The high-quality sound effects also make you feel like you are right there on the ship! In total, the story goes on for about two hours. However, it is neatly divided into sections, with each one being timed, so if you needed to stop and restart the story later, it would be easy to do so.

As if the incredible story wasn’t enough, Under Drake’s Flag also includes quite a bit of history. Aside from learning about the Sir Francis Drake (a major character), part of the story also relates to the Spanish Inquisition. This makes it ideal for a homeschool setting, and I could easily see someone using it as a basis for a unit study. The 2-CD set also comes with a inset study guide that includes some background information and some questions for discussion on each section of the story. I found this very convenient for use in the car. They also have a PDF download of a study that goes more in depth and includes Biblical and historical references.

Under Drake’s Flag is aimed at ages six and up, although it may be slightly intense for very young children. In our case, I knew my youngest son (in 8th grade) would love it, but I wasn’t so sure about how my older son (11th grade) and my hubby were going to feel about it! I needn’t have worried. My husband got into the story right away, and even though my oldest started off the trip with his headphones in his ears, by the time we stopped for our first bathroom break, he was totally engrossed in the story as well. Of course, since we got back my youngest has taken the CDs into his room and I often hear him listening to the story when he is playing with his Legos! (and now he is asking me if there are any more stories just like it!)

So, would I recommend Under Drake’s Flag to someone else? Definitely! Especially if you have children who love an adventure. We just listened to the story mainly for fun, but it also has tremendous potential for school as well. I feel like the price of $29.99 is pretty reasonable, and you can get a digital download version for $20.00.

To learn more about Heirloom Audio Productions, connect with them on social media:

Under Drake’s Flag on Facebook

To see what other members of the crew had to say about this product, click here:
Under Drake's Flag Reviews

Crew Disclaimer

Crock Pot Pork Ragu

This was an easy crock pot recipe that makes enough to last for a couple of days. I love the mix of veggies and the full flavor.

3 lb. boneless pork butt
2 cans diced tomatoes with garlic and oregano
10-12 baby carrots, cut into thirds
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup tomato paste
Salt and pepper
4 sprigs basil

1. Mix the wine and the tomato paste in the crock pot.
2. Add the two cans of tomatoes with their juices.
3. Add the onion and garlic and stir.
4. Place the pork in the crock pot.
5. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.
6. Serve over angel hair pasta and sprinkle with Parmesan and chopped basil.

This was really really good, and my hubby and kids all shared it for lunch the next day!! I love my crock pot 🙂 Thanks for visiting me this week, be sure to come back next Tuesday. To see more recipes, click here:

Menu Plan Monday 9/8/14

After taking a week off, we are getting back into the swing of things here. I love the fall season. Although the temperatures do not really change must here in Florida we still have fall festivals and all the yummy flavors that go with the season. So, here is what we are having for dinner this week:

Monday: Chicken Quesadillas

Tuesday: Pork and Pepper Stir Fry

Wednesday: Tacos

Thursday: Pot Roast

Friday: Make-your-own pizza

I hope you are enjoying the change of seasons wherever you are. Thanks for stopping by for Menu Plan Monday and come back next week!

Random 5 on Friday 9/5/14

Labor Day Weekend 2014

This week I am trying out a new link-up called “Random 5 on Friday”. It’s really simple, you just post five random things that are going through your head and then link-up. Since I constantly have lists and lists of random thoughts in my head at any given time, it seemed right up my alley, and I am excited to see what everyone else has to share! Here goes:

1. Getting back into a rhythm for school after summer is really hard. Like this week, I hardly got anything done on my blog, and I swear I have been working on laundry since Monday, and I need to go to the store today and I haven’t even made a list yet. Ugh.

2. I am still waiting for our local high school to call me back about my son’s registration for the PSATs. Its annoying.

3. I love the beach. Really. I could do school there every day, but we probably wouldn’t get much done.

4. Our trip to Washington DC is getting closer.

5. I wonder how long it is going to take for temperatures to cool down around here (East Central Florida). Probably not until Halloween, or Thanksgiving.

Thanks for joining me! To see more “random 5” posts, visit The Pebble Pond. Have a great weekend!

The Pebble Pond