Menu Plan Monday 6/29/15

Welcome to the last Menu Plan Monday of June! Next week, my family will be enjoying our yearly vacation in the mountains, so this week I am busy doing vacation prep. Isn’t it funny how much work getting ready for a vacation can be? So, for the most part, I’m keeping it simple this week. With a few exceptions.

Monday: Carnie Bowls

Tuesday: Crunchy Onion Steak with baked potatoes

Wednesday: Enchilada Casserole

Thursday: Finish off any leftovers

Friday: Leave for vacation!

Thanks for stopping by this week! I hope you have a fabulous 4th of July next weekend!


Crunchy Onion Steak

I love steak, but I’m not the great at working the grill. So for Father’s Day last week, I tried this recipe for a pan-fried steak, and it came out really good. The cheese was delicious and the french-fried onions gave it a delicious, crunchy texture.

2 lbs. London broil
1 block white cheddar, shredded
3 tbsp. Olive oil
1 1/2 cup beef broth
1 cup french fried onions (or more depending on your taste)
1-2 packs dried onion soup mix
salt/pepper to taste

1. Cut the steak into 3-4 smaller pieces, depending on how many people you have to feed.
2. Rub the steak with olive oil and then rub the dried onion soup mix onto both sides. Sprinkle with some salt and pepper.
3. Add 2 tbsp. olive oil to a large pan and cook the steaks over medium heat about 4 minutes on each side to brown.

5. Add broth to the pan and cook for another 5-10 minutes, until meat reaches the internal temperature you desire (about 145 degrees for medium rare).
6. Sprinkle the shredded cheese over the meat and cover the pan, allowing the cheese to melt.

7. Remove from the heat and serve the steaks topped with the french fried onions.

My hubby gave this meal two thumbs up, and it was really easy to make! Check out other new recipes here:

Menu Plan Monday

Well, summer, and all of its chaos, has definitely arrived at my house. Impromptu road trips, sudden family visits, day trips to the beach and water parks, we have it all! I’ve been kind of busy, but I am trying to keep up with a semi-regular schedule, so here is our menu for this week:

Monday: Chicken Broccoli Casserole

Tuesday: Chili

Wednesday: Spaghetti

Thursday: Pot Roast

Friday: Chicken Quesadillas

I hope your summer is going well! Thanks for stopping by for Menu Plan Monday!

TOS Review: CTC Math

CTCMath ReviewUpper level math is always a challenge, at least for me. I love the idea of having some kind of video/online math that my kids can do that allows me to NOT have to be solely responsible for teaching them these concepts. For this review, we got to check out the 12 month Family Plan from CTC Math an online math program that offers videos and practice for students in multiple levels.


CTC offers a wide variety of tutorials in subjects like algebra, geometry, statistics, and more. In addition, CTC offers interactive worksheets that provide additional practice on concepts students are learning, and regular reports for parents on student progress. My 8th grade son used the pre-algebra program with CTC for this review, and we were both very happy.

For starters, parents and students get their own log in access. Parents select a program for their child (ranging from kindergarten to upper level math). Students can complete assessments in different areas and also watch videos and complete assignments and worksheets related to those videos. They have multiple attempts on each lesson, but on the reports the parents receive, it is possible to see how many times they attempted each lesson.

One thing I liked about CTC is how subjects are broken into topics. This makes it possible for parents to really focus attention on areas where their children struggle the most. For example, my son has really had a hard time with combining like terms in pre-algebra, so we kind of skipped ahead to this part of the program. Since CTC is set up to work kind of like a tutorial, you can move ahead or back up at your discretion. This freedom to move around makes it really flexible, which is a great thing for homeschool moms!

In addition, I liked the fact that I could reset and repeat lessons as I felt it was necessary. For the most part, I allowed my son to complete CTC on his own, while I was in the room, usually engaged with another task (folding laundry, washing dishes etc). So, while I was within earshot, I wasn’t exactly looking over his shoulder. At his age, he doesn’t necessarily want mom around all the time. Plus, I really am trying to hand over more responsibility for his schooling to his hands. But, at the same time, I know he is a 13/14 year old boy who does have a tendency to “rush” through things when he gets frustrated. With CTC, I have the chance to review what he does. If I feel he didn’t take a lesson seriously enough, I do have the opportunity to review it with him, and have him redo it, if necessary.

The homeschool program for CTC is good for up to 10 children, and since it offers so many grade levels, I could see it being wonderful for families with multiple students. My son enjoyed the videos a lot. I don’t know if it is quite enough to be a stand-alone program for all students. I think for kids who are good at math it can. For a student who struggles in math, you would maybe need to look for some extra practice worksheets online, but that’s about it. It really does offer a whole lot! I would definitely recommend checking it out!

To learn more about CTC connect with them on social media here:

CTC Math on Facebook

To see what other members of the crew thought of this program, click here:

CTCmath Review

Crew Disclaimer

TOS Review: WordBuildOnline

JazzEdge  Review

Ah, vocabulary! It can be boring, but oh so necessary! I am always looking for new ways to build vocabulary in my boys, but in a way that they find exciting. When I got the chance to check out WordBuildOnline from Dynamic Literacy for this review, I was very happy!

JazzEdge  Review

Basically, this is an online vocabulary program that provides daily practice in roots, prefixes, and suffixes. Lessons take no longer than 15 minutes and build on each other as students move through the program. Perfect for older students who need to build their word study skills, WordBuildOnline uses a variety of exercises to build vocabulary skills while keeping kids engaged.

JazzEdge  Review

Basically, your child gets their account and logs in each day to complete their lessons. My son (8th grade) did these all on his own. The activities include lessons, games, videos, and more led by a congenial host. For the most part, my son enjoyed these activities and only needed help occasionally. I really liked the fact that the program helps kids distinguish between subtle uses of words within families (i.e. : form, reform, deform, reformation, conform, transform etc.). As kids get older, being able to identify these small differences will really help them with their writing and reading. I also found that identifying these small differences were the things my son struggled with most.

The other thing WordBuildOnline offers is a parent account where you can log in and track your child’s progress. The program sends you emails each time your child completes an activity, and you can log in to see how they scored on each activity. The reports tell you what affix the child was working on, how long they worked on each activity, and what their score was. As a parent, you also have a chance to review the activity to see what questions your child missed and reset the activity to have them repeat it.

I found this information very helpful. When my son struggled with a particular word set, we reviewed it together and then he repeated the activity to improve his score. As he moved through the lessons, I noticed his skills improving. He enjoyed the lesson where he had to add up the boxes the best.

The short duration of the lessons was another draw for my son because he does not like to spend large amounts of time on this stuff. He enjoys the computer, but not typically for schoolwork! He liked the fact that WordBuild was animated and he could log on himself first thing in the morning and then get his lesson done and move on. I liked that I could then log in and check up on his work without looking over his shoulder every second. This program costs $30.00 per student.

To find out more about WordBuildOnline, connect with Dynamic Literacy here:
Dynamic Literacy on Facebook

Dynamic Literacy on Twitter

Dynamic Literacy on Pinterest

Find out what other members of the crew thought of WordBuildOnline and the other programs we got to check out from Dynamic Literacy here:

Dynamic Literacy Review

Crew Disclaimer

Chicken Broccoli Casserole

This casserole comes in really handy on a busy night. I love that I can use a pre-cooked chicken from the deli to make it too!

1 medium onion
2 small heads broccoli
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 rotisserie chicken
1 package shredded cheddar cheese

1. Chop the broccoli and place it in a microwaveable container.
2. Add 1/4 cup of water and place a top loosely over the container.
3. Microwave for 1-2 minutes to steam the broccoli.

4. Chop the mushroom and onion.
5. Add 1-2 tsp. of olive oil to a pan and cook the mushrooms and olive oil for a few minutes until soft.
6. Shred the chicken.
7. Mix the chicken, mushrooms, and onion in a casserole dish.

8. Stir in one can cream of mushroom soup.
9. Top with shredded cheddar.
10. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

Serve this with rolls or a salad. It also heats up well for lunch the next day! Enjoy!

TOS Review: Exploring Creation Field Trip Journal

Exploring Creation Field Trip Journal Review

The ability to take field trips whenever you want is one of the best things about homeschooling. Over the years, we have done a ton of field trips and family trips to tons of different places. Sometimes we take so many it is hard to remember them all! For this review, we got a chance to check out the Exploring Creation Field Trip Journal from Apologia Educational Ministries. The spiral bound journal comes loaded with pages where you can record all kinds of details about your field trips for the entire year.

Exploring Creation Field Trip Journal Review

Colorful themed pages allow you and your children to list field trips based on local areas they’ve explored and states they’ve visited (with a blank map, where my kids colored in all the states they’ve been to so far), then it moves into individual pages for specific trips. Each page has a place to record the date and name of the destination at the top. Your child can then add a map and photo or drawing of the place.

There is a space to list the emergency contact plan (although we didn’t really use this part) as well as a place to record books your child has read to prepare for the trip. On the other side of the page, you or your child can write down everything you did on the trip, and then write about what they most special part of the day was.

The journal also encourages nature exploration with the Special Spot pages that ask children to focus on exploring one special spot during each season of the year. The way it works is actually pretty cool. They take a picture of the area, then map it out on a grid. They also sketch the area, taking note of the colors they see, and look closely for clues to any animals in the area (animal droppings, tracks, holes in leaves etc.). I can see how doing this during all four seasons would give children a really good idea of how the seasons change things.

There are also some extra blank pages in the back where children can either follow the prompts to sketch some things from their field trips on a deeper level (for example one page says “predators and prey”) or they can just draw their own pictures of things that really strike their fancy.

For us, this book is a great way to document our trips throughout the year. In fact, this is exactly the type of thing I was looking for for our Washington DC trip last year!! If you take a lot of field trips or family road trips, I could see this becoming a great family keepsake for the future. Of course a lot of people store pictures and things digitally these days, but you could still use this as a sort of a scrapbook to keep a written memory of your homeschool year.

With older kids, you could easily allow them to fill the journal out themselves after each field trip. I always like to have my kids write something up about the field trips we take, so for us, this would take the place of that. For younger kids, this would be something you could do together, with them more or less dictating it to you and you recording what they say. I think you would definitely only need one book per family, unless you had older children who absolutely each wanted one of their own.

Another cool thing this book offers is the book extras from Apologia. Using the code inside the book, you can access the extras on their website and find links to really cool virtual field trips, ideas for local trips, and awesome places to visit around the country!

The Exploring Creation Field Trip Journal costs $22.00.

To learn more, connect with Apologia on social media here:

Apologia on Facebook

Apologia on Twitter

Apologia on Pinterest

Apologia on Google+

Find out what other members of the crew had to say about this product here:

Exploring Creation Field Trip Journal ReviewCrew Disclaimer

Spanish Shepherds Pie

This is a quick little version of shepherd’s pie with a Mexican twist that my family enjoys. It also features a lot less carbs than regular shepherd’s pie does.

1 lb. lean hamburger
2 low carb tortillas
1 medium onion
1 bunch green onion
1/2 bunch cilantro
1 can chopped olives
3 cloves garlic
1 can enchilada sauce
1 bag shredded Mexican blend cheese
1 tbsp butter

1. Chop the onion and garlic. Cook in a skillet in with the ground beef until brown.
2. Drain and season with some salt and pepper. Add the enchilada sauce and simmer for about 5 minutes.

3. Chop the green onion and cilantro.

4.Layer a small bit of the meat sauce on the bottom of a casserole.
5. Place one tortilla on top.
6. Place half of the meat mixture on top of the tortilla.

7. Top the meat with a layer of cheese and half of the green onion, cilantro, and sliced olives.

8. Layer another tortilla on top of the cheese, then repeat the layers.
9. Finish with a final layer of cheese, green onions, cilantro, and olives.
10. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes until the cheese is melted.

Serve with salad or tortilla chips on the side!

Like I said, super easy, and delicious! Thanks for stopping by! Check out more recipes here:

Menu Plan Monday 6/8/15

How’s your summer going? June has been pretty good to us so far. We have our first big barbecue of the season this weekend. Our friends host an annual pig roast to kick off the summer. I still have to decide which dessert I want to bring…I’m considering either the sopapilla cheesecake or cookie fudge. It will probably depend on which ingredients I find on sale at the store this weekend. In the meantime, this is what’s for dinner at our house this week:

Monday: Sofrito Chicken

Tuesday: Spaghetti

Wednesday: Grilled Steak with cauliflower mash

Thursday: Sweet and Spicy Lemon Shrimp

Friday: Chicken and Mushrooms

Have a great week! Thanks for stopping by for Menu Plan Monday. See you next week.

TOS Review: Famous Men of Rome

Memoria Press Review


At our house, we love history and my boys really love hearing about famous battles and heroic warriors. So, I was happy to get a chance to check out the Famous Men of Rome set from Memoria Press for this review. Aimed at students in grades 4-8, the three book set includes a student workbook, teacher’s edition, and full color textbook.

The full-year curriculum covers the ancient history of Rome with a focus on the men who had a big impact on the course of the country’s history. Students will of course learn about famous twins Romulus and Remus, and people like Nero, Julius Caesar, and Cicero. But they will also learn about some lesser known figures like Camillus, Regulus, and others. The text itself is beautiful. The soft-cover book features gorgeous illustrations, and the stories are generally four to five pages in length, enough to be read in a single day for older kids, or two days for younger ones. My son and I (8th grade) do history together. Depending on what we have going on, we either read the story together over a couple of days, or if it’s a crazy-busy week, he reads it alone in the car while we’re driving around, and he narrates it to me.



The accompanying workbook helps to flesh out the program, turning it into a one-year history program. Each lesson starts off with a Facts to Know section, that usually includes a list of names of important people they will read about in the lesson, and a statement explaining who they are. The next section is vocabulary. I liked this section because it gave the students some unfamiliar words, but not just in list form. Instead, the words are given in the context of a phrase, allowing the students to try and determine the meaning of the words on their own. They can then go back and update the definitions after they read the story and find the words there.

The workbook also includes comprehension questions and a list of suggested activities that include map activities, essays, research activities, essays, timelines, and more. In general, we used the workbook as part of a three-day history program in our homeschool. On the first day, my son read the facts section in the workbook and completed the vocabulary section. Then, depending on how long the story was, we might read part of it, or we might wait until the next day to read the whole story. On the second day, we completed the story, then he did the comprehension questions. On the third day, he completed the activities. Since he is in the 8th grade, I usually had him do most (if not all) of the activities. If one of  them involved writing an essay or some type of research, I would assign it as a project due for the next week. If you have a younger child, you could certainly pick and choose which activities you wanted your child to do.

Every five lessons, the workbook features a review that includes more extensive vocabulary, mapping, comprehension, timeline, and other activities. During a review week, I would divide the review into daily sections that my son would complete on his own. I really liked that this was built-in to the program. A lot of times, I feel like when we do history, my son kind of just goes through the daily lessons, but I’m not sure how much of it “sticks”. These reviews really gave him time to sort of work the info into his memory.

The Teacher’s Guide includes a full copy of the student pages with complete answers to all of the questions. It also includes optional tests for every five lessons. So, after you complete each review, you can have your child do the test for that section. I did have my son do these tests, and I felt the reviews were very good preparation for them, but if you don’t want to use the tests, you don’t have to. There is also a final overall test and a test on European Geography that I think is kind of cool.

This history program is very high-interest and I think it’s a great way to make learning about ancient history fun. For me, the program is really well-laid out and so easy to implement, it makes my days simple. I literally just opened the book and went, and after a long year, it was just what I needed. We are going to continue to use this as our main history program, and maybe flesh it out with some historical fiction for read aloud time. The entire set costs $39.95 for all three books.

Connect with Memoria Press on social media to learn more:

Memoria Press on Facebook

Memoria Press on Twitter

To see what my fellow crew members thought of Famous Men of Rome and the other Memoria Press programs we got to check out, click here:

Memoria Press Review

Crew Disclaimer

Sofrito Chicken (Crock Pot Recipe)

In the summer, I rely on my crock pot a lot because it allows me to cook without heating up my kitchen. This recipe kind of reminds me of the chicken cacciatore my Nana used to make when I was little, but with fewer ingredients and a lot more spice!

1 package boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 jar Sofrito
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 celery stalks, sliced thin
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin

1. Add chicken to the crock pot.
2. Mix the other ingredients in a small bowl and pour over the chicken.
3. Cover and cook on low for about 6 hours.

You can serve this with pasta or rice on the side. It also tastes great by itself paired with a salad! Thanks for stopping by. Check out other great recipes here:

TOS Review: DrumsWithWillie

JazzEdge  Review

Both of my boys are musically talented. My oldest has taken guitar lessons since he was about 13, but my youngest hasn’t quite shown the focus to justify paying for lessons on the drums quite yet. However, he does enjoy playing, and he has his own drum set, and I’ve always wanted to get him some sort of formal instruction to learn actual drum technique. Naturally, we jumped at the chance to check out DrumsWithWillie from JazzEdge for this review.

JazzEdge  ReviewLessons in DrumsWithWillie are based around the Six Step Cycle that focuses on technique, rhythm, ear training, reading music, song, and improvisation and each unit is broken into lessons that focus on these specific skills. The drum lessons consist of three levels. I guess students who already have experience with drums could start at level 2, but for my son, who really hasn’t done much but bang around the drums here and there, we began at the very first level.

The very first lesson in each unit introduces the basic technique the student will flesh out in the subsequent lessons and gives you a PDF download of the sheet music they will refer to throughout the unit. We printed this out to make it easier for my 14 year old son and we kept all of the sheet music in a folder. In the second lesson, students learn more about rhythm, and there is usually a short quiz where students listen to musical notes and identify the rhythm they hear, from there they move on to a lesson in reading music and then learn to play notes in a song (in later units they actually learn real songs!) and finally improvisation (my son’s favorite part!).

Now, the first thing I want to say about this program is that the instructor, Mike Marble, is absolutely fantastic in his presentation. He is very personable and comes across as extremely likable, which is often hard to do in a situation where someone is sitting by themselves speaking into a camera. Often, when my kids are in an online learning situation, they find the instructor speaks in a dull, monotone voice, and they quickly get bored. That is not the case here. Mike kept my son entertained the whole time, and he is really, really good at explaining how to play the drums.

The screen is set up with a large view of the drum set where you are actually looking down at the drums, so you can see all of Mike’s hand movements, making it very easy for your child to copy what he is doing, and then there is a smaller inset of Mike at the bottom where you can see his face while he is talking. As he gives instruction, he refers students back to the sheet music so they can relate the lesson and their actions to the notes on the page, helping them make the connection between the two.

The lessons themselves are short. No more than 15 minutes (at least so far) and some are around 5. Now, I will say that we usually went over each section 2-3 times before moving on, because my son needed to practice each technique for a few days before he was ready to move on to the next step. I think this would vary depending on the child and what their prior knowledge was and what their inherent musical skill was, but for us, each unit (with 5 sections per unit) could take 2 weeks to complete if we did a section each day. More if we did it 4 days a week (which was more likely). But that’s okay with me, because I would rather take our time so my son could really learn it well. There are three levels and each one has 6 units, so that’s about 18 weeks of instruction. At the rate we are going, this will be sufficient to give us music for one full school year! Drums with Willie costs $299 for access to all three levels. My son really really enjoys this program. He likes it so much, he plans to continue doing it on his own during the summer, so that says a lot to me.

To learn more about this program, connect with them on social media here:
DrumsWithWillie on Facebook
DrumsWithWillie on Twitter
JazzEdge on Pinterest
JazzEdge on YouTube

To see what other members of the crew had to say about this and the piano programs we go to check out, click here:
JazzEdge Review

Crew Disclaimer

Menu Plan Monday 6/1/15

It’s June 1, so I guess 2015 is officially half over already! That certainly went fast. Summer is in full swing down here in Florida which means lots of time spent outdoors for us. This is honestly one of my favorite times of year, and we do a LOT of outdoor cooking with fresh meats and veggies cooked on the grill. I use my crock pot a lot too. Basically, I try to do whatever I can to avoid turning on my oven and heating up my kitchen, because the house is already hot enough!

This is what’s for dinner at our house this week:

Monday: Sour Cream and Swiss Chicken (my one oven day this week)

Tuesday: Grilled Pork chops with Cabernet Mushroom Sauce with a salad

Wednesday: Mexican Chicken Salad

Thursday: Spanish Rice

Friday: Taco burgers and hot dogs on the grill

Thanks for stopping by for Menu Plan Monday! See you next week!