Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Adventures in Odyssey Black Friday!

Over the summer, I was posting about Adventures in Odyssey and the Odyssey Adventure Club.  They've got a Black Friday deal that is simply fabulous.  For $5, you get the first month's access, plus some incredible additional resources (worth $50).

Those resources include the only Imagination Station book we don't own, so you know I'm on this.  I've reviewed Imagination Station books multiple times on my blog, and I simply love them.

Check it out --


Christmas time is nearly here, and the excitement is in the air. But rather than waking up before the sun on Black Friday or having to fight the massive crowds, you could get a special present for your kids or grandkids from Adventures in Odyssey: a subscription to their online Odyssey Adventure Club (OAC)!

Offering 24/7 access to 25 years’ worth of Adventures in Odyssey episodes, the club is a safe and fun environment where children can explore, create and imagine, all while developing their faith and learning biblical truth.

When you sign up between 11/26 and 12/1 (promo code: BLKFRDAY) not only will you receive a special introductory price of $5.00 for your first month of club membership, you’ll also receive a special gift worth $50, including:
  • Imagination Station #12: Danger on A Silent Night book (mailed to you in December)
  • A Family Christmas Volume 1 of Timeless Classics on CD (mailed to you in December)
  • Radio Theatre: A Christmas Carol digital download
  • Radio Theatre: Traveling Home For Christmas digital download
  • 101 Surefire Ways To Strengthen Your Child’s Faith ebook
Membership provides:
  • 24/7 streaming access to more than 750 Adventures in Odyssey episodes (a $1500 retail value).
  • A new, members-only Adventures in Odyssey episode every month.
  • A subscription to Adventures in Odyssey Clubhouse Magazine delivered to your mailbox.
  • A web quest of video stories and online activities reflecting the biblical theme of that month's episode.
  • On-the-go access with the OAClub mobile iOS app.
  • Growing access to Odyssey books, a daily devotion, access to select Radio Theatre dramas and more.
A portion of each Odyssey Adventure Club membership benefits Focus on the Family partner relief organizations such as Operation Christmas Child and Compassion International, providing parents with an opportunity to teach children about the value of giving and serving others.

This Christmas, give a present that will not only entertain throughout the year, but will provide a lifelong spiritual foundation.

Disclaimer: As part of the Odyssey Club Blogger program, I receive access to the Odyssey Adventure Club and some other resources in exchange for posting about the Club. I am not required to give positive opinions.

Monday, November 24, 2014

44 Animals of the Bible {a Moms of Master Books review}

It's that time of month again.  Time for the monthly review for Moms of Master Books.

This month, it is a cute title called 44 Animals of the Bible, by Nancy Pelander Johnson and illustrated by Lloyd R. Hight.

The illustrations in this book are fabulous.  But let me tell you about the publisher description first.

From the publisher:
Each beautifully illustrated animal includes details to help clarify its meaning for children, important cultural information, and connections between the historic world of the Bible and our world today!

God once told Job that animals are important to Him, and that they are a big part of His creation. God watches when the doe gives birth to her fawn. He makes the leopard swift to hunt its prey. He commands eagles to soar. Animals are important to God. He loves them and cares for them, and wants us to do the same. Many of the animals mentioned in the Bible are featured in 44 Animals of the Bible.

My thoughts:

Obviously, this book covers 44 animals that are mentioned in the Bible.  Each animal gets a single page.  Each includes a stunning drawing, a couple paragraphs of text, and a Bible verse that mentions the animal.

The text is brief, but interesting.  Some facts about the animal and where it is found, or other items of interest.  Most of the pages include a bit of information about how it is referenced in the Bible that supplements the verse at the bottom of the page.

One of the most interesting animals I learned about is the Pygarg.  Apparently, "many Bibles" translate this animal as "wild goat" instead of naming it, as it is nearly extinct.

There are also many much more common animals, and a few other unusual ones.

I have not used this with my children at this point, but I could see starting off each morning with my elementary aged kids and a single page of the book.  Or having them read a page to me.  Or having them use the information on one animal as an exercise in taking good notes.

Go see what other Moms of Master Books have to say about 44 Animals of the Bible.

You could win one at the Facebook party tomorrow night.  Plus some other cool prizes.

There is a Book and a Treat Facebook party coming up tonight, November 25 at 7:30 pm Central Time, where you could win cool prizes -- and discuss bugs too. 

Disclaimer:   I received this book for free from New Leaf Publishing Group as part of the Moms of Master Books program.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received complimentary products does not guarantee a favorable review.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Duck Commander Faith and Family Bible {a BookLook Blogger review}

When The Duck Commander Faith and Family Bible came up as a review option from BookLook Bloggers, I knew I had to get it for my husband.

As I mentioned in a recent post, we do watch Duck Dynasty -- though we can't stay current.  We enjoy the crazy antics, but what we really love are the more serious moments, where we see the "faith and family" aspects really shine.

This seemed like a perfect Bible for my husband, especially as I know he likes the New King James version.

From the publisher:
The stars of the hit TV show Duck Dynasty are committed to upholding five core values both on and off the screen: faith, family, fellowship, forgiveness, and freedom.

The Duck Commander® Faith and Family Bible features new stories and testimonials by Phil, the Robertson family patriarch, and his son Al, a pastor with more than 22 years of experience. Together they offer fresh wisdom on biblical values and how everyday people can apply them to their lives.
Powered by relentless dedication to sharing the gospel and celebrating Christ’s kingdom, the Robertson family has become influential to contemporary evangelism and discipleship. The Duck Commander® Faith and Family Bible unleashes the power of their practical insight into critical faith issues, founded on God’s Word.

Features include:
  • Full text of the New King James Version Bible
  • A personal welcome note from Phil and Al Robertson
  • 125 articles on the top 24 most-searched topics on BibleGateway
  • Life application and scripture references supplement each article
  • 30 days of life-changing testimonials
  • Topical index and reading plans

My thoughts:

As you can see in the image linked above, this Bible looks nice without looking all "churchy" or anything.  I like that.

This is primarily the Bible text.  There aren't thirty-seven little symbols to alert you that they are about to explain something biographical, cultural, etymological, or whatever.  Mostly, this is "just" a Bible.

What does set it apart is a couple of things:
  1. Introductory material telling you who Phil and Al Robertson are and why the Bible is important.
  2. Thirty Lifechangers stories (one page each) in the introduction.  These talk about transformed lives.  Half are written by Phil, and half are by Al.  These are located all together in the introductory materials.
  3. 52 Days...  This is the little notes, essays, whatever that are scattered throughout the Bible.  There are 52 Days with Phil, and 52 Days with Al.  Each man has essays on the topics of Faith, Family, Fellowship, Forgiveness, and Freedom.  The idea is to read one a week for a year.  Well, two years.  One with Phil, one with Al.
There is also some material at the end of the book, like a topical index and some reading suggestions.

I love that this is fairly simple.  Down-to-earth.

You could read through the Bible, using any sort of reading schedule, and just read the essays as you come to them.  You could read through the essays at a one-a-week pace, following each up with reading the appropriate sections in the Bible.  Or you could read one Phil essay and one Al essay each week in a similar way.

Each essay gives an overview, tells a story, and gives a key verse.  It then also gives links to other similar essays.  And finally, there is an "On the Hunt" section which gives a list of other Bible verses (with the verses spelled out, not just referenced) on the same topic.  And there are elegant line drawings of ducks flying across the top of the first page of the essay and the bottom of the second page.

I really like this format.

Apparently, from the publisher's info about this, the Robertson's chose what to write about based on the most-asked questions at BibleGateway.  So they are trying to address the issues that real people care about.

I think they succeeded.

My husband is liking this Bible.  He isn't really good at "all that reviewing stuff" when it comes to books, but he does appreciate that there aren't a lot of distractions, yet there is still enough additional content to justify the Duck Commander label being on it.

I find it amusing that I'm writing up a review of this particular Bible as my eldest son is preparing to go process an elk and a deer.  With his hunting buddies.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 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.”

Saturday, November 22, 2014

A visit to the food pantry

Since I'm on a roll, I thought I'd keep it up.  I posted about food pantries in general, and the attitude that I really hate about whether or not people "deserve" the food a couple days ago.  I posted about our Mobile Food Truck yesterday.  That happens the third Friday of every month.

Today is regular pantry day.  That happens on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays of the month.  Occasionally, like this weekend, the third Friday and 4th Saturday happen on the same weekend.  Usually not.

I took two teens over this morning, but I've got a headache (and maybe a bit of a fever, I'm noticing now) and there were LOTS of volunteers, so I took off after going through the pantry as a customer myself.  The teens are still there, carrying boxes, helping people select produce, and so on. 

I'm home enjoying silence.  And getting a load of laundry done.  And I chopped up apples and started some cranberry applesauce. 

Updating this to say:  I picked them up, and there were 84 families served today.  Eighty-four.  That is a lot of hungry people.

We can go through the pantry twice a month
That's my haul, as a family of seven.  I wish I had been thinking about posting this, as I might have made some different choices in shopping today.  Basically, though, families of four or more get 40 points to shop with.  You can see points written on top of some of the containers. 

Three points are automatically "spent" for bakery, dairy, meat and produce items.  Today, that part (for me) included one loaf of sliced bread, a package of English muffins, a blueberry coffeecake, two white onions, 10 eggs, and a carton of sour cream.  Because of Thanksgiving, there wasn't meat (there is supposed to be a turkey/chicken/ham distribution on Tuesday).

I could have taken more produce.  There were potatoes, apples and bell peppers, but I got plenty of those yesterday.  There were carrots, which I also have.  There were a few heads of cabbage, and I chose to not take one as there just aren't enough for every family coming through.

In the regular shopping part, though, you can see I got a few items.  A lot of staples there -- diced tomatoes, kidney beans, pasta, pasta sauce, soup (which you can't see in the photo), gravy, condensed milk, chicken broth, a can of yams, and jello.

That's all great, and I'm thrilled about it.  Not all of that is available each time.  What really excited me on this trip, though, was:

  • Swiss Miss hot chocolate mix.  Big container.  My kids are going to be excited.
  • Stuffing mix.  We used to see that a lot, but it has been scarce lately.  
  • Kraft Spaghetti Classics.  This is one of those "comfort foods" things for me. 
  • Almonds.  Oh.  My.
  • Craisins.  Oh.  My.
  • Peanut Butter, even if it is creamy and has a broken lid.  
  • Refried beans -- not just any refried beans, but the jalepeño ones we prefer.
  • V8 juice.  Thomas especially loves this.
  • Pace Southwest Ranch dip.  I'm sure I'll come up with a fun way to use that.
  • Lea & Perrins Marinade in a Bag -- we've had this available a LOT at pantry, for the past few months, and I love it.
  • Caramels.  
  • Sure-Jell -- so at some point, I'll get a bunch of fruit that needs to be used NOW and I'll get to make jam.
Today had a whole lot of name-brand stuff, which is a lot unusual.  'Tis the season, I suppose.   Usually, there are a lot more dented and dinged items, but at this time of year between corporate donations to Feeding America, and all the food drives, there does tend to be a lot more name-brand stuff in nice cans.

This was a great pantry trip. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Mobile Food Truck

Since I posted yesterday about our food pantry in general, I thought I'd post today about the Mobile Food Truck.

Care and Share sends a truck out once a month to visit rural areas and bring mostly fresh produce, but also some bakery items, and sometimes other things as well.  They showcase our site in action at their blog.

There is a lot of food insecurity in rural areas.  Way too much.  Nearly 70 families went through today.

But there are opportunities for assistance.  And this is what my family came home with today:

We could have taken more potatoes (that's 6 3-lb bags there), and we also could have taken carrots.  But we have so many of both around right now, I just did not want more.

And if you can't quite tell what's in there, we brought home:
  • 18 pounds of potatoes
  • a pumpkin
  • ten red bell peppers
  • ten fairly small onions
  • 14 big apples
  • a big pumpkin pie
  • six banana nut muffins
  • a HUGE bag of hamburger buns
  • a loaf of Sara Lee 100% Whole Wheat bread
I'm planning to dehydrate most of the bell peppers. The pumpkin will become pumpkin bread and/or cookies.  Apples, onions, potatoes, and bread all just get eaten.  I'm sure the pumpkin pie will be dessert a couple nites in a row.  The muffins are already gone.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Feed My Sheep

For the past couple weeks, it has been on my heart to post about the food pantry.  I know, I've mentioned them before on this blog.  We volunteer at the pantry -- a lot -- and that is something that has meant so much to my family.  On a day like tomorrow, which is Mobile Food Truck day, we can all get involved.

Connor is in the back, in glasses, his face hidden
  • The teens carry boxes while participants select their items, and then carry the boxes (and 50 pound bags of potatoes!) out to load into the cars. 
  • The 8- and 10-year-olds can man a station, letting people know that they can have one cabbage, or that they can get 2 apples per family member, or whatever.  They smile and give suggestions as to just what one can do with sweet potatoes.  Or they try to convince people to get another bag of potatoes.
  • I fit in wherever I'm needed.
That's me, carrying *something* outside for distribution
It is fabulous.  I've given lots of reasons I love volunteering at the food pantry in the past. What I don't tend to talk about though, and I should, is that the food is a big reason too.  Because, like virtually all of the volunteers at our little pantry on the prairie, we don't just work here.  We're also customers.

At times, I've been an "end of the day" customer... so I let other families shop first, and I only go through towards the end, getting a few things here and there, and being totally okay if they ran out of oranges before I get there.

Right now, I'm not anywhere near so noble.

All of that has me thinking about food pantries, and asking for help, and the sanctimonious garbage I often read online.  You know, people complaining because someone going through a food pantry has a smart phone.  Or their kid is playing on a Kindle Fire.  Or they have nice clothes.  Or a nice car.  They don't deserve it.  You've seen those posts and rants, I'm sure.

Fortunately, I've never encountered that personally. 

I have volunteered at a number of different pantries.  I have used services of a number of pantries as well.  And one thing that has always been emphasized is that we have to take people at face value.  If they say they need food, then they need food.  We can't decide they do or do not based on what they are wearing, what they are carrying, or what they are driving.

That probably means that we've given food to people who don't truly "need" it.  And when you are seeing so many people who really, really need food, it is tough to accept that some of the food is going to "the wrong people."

But we've also given food to hundreds and hundreds of people who did.  And that is what is important.

Jesus told us to feed the hungry.  And He did too.  When I read in the Bible about multiplying the loaves and fishes, I don't see Him instructing the disciples to make people prove they really need food before grudgingly offering them fish and bread.  I don't see Him instructing the disciples to not give food to anyone whose robes are "too nice" nor to skip anyone who arrived via donkey instead of on foot.

He tells them to feed His sheep. 

Just how would you define "need" anyway?  Some people would look at my family and say we don't "need" food.
  • We have a new car.
  • We own things like iPads and Kindle Fires.  Plural.
  • We are employed.
  • I can show up, having some of the kids dressed in spendy clothing.
  • Or people spot me at Starbucks, enjoying an outrageously expensive Salted Caramel Mocha.
But what does that have to do with a need for food?  The clothes is either gifts or thrift store finds, with the occasional purchase of something nice.  And by "something nice" I basically mean new jeans, without holes.  Or new shoes.

The car was purchased after a serious look at fuel economy, and we spend less on car payment, insurance and gas than we did on just gas for my husband to drive to and from work.

We've used birthday money, Christmas money, and serious sales to purchase the technology, and we use it extensively for school, not just to play Angry Birds.

I tend to be given Starbucks gift cards as thank you's, birthday gifts, or just because gifts.  And yes, I could go in and purchase scones or something that has some nutritive value (and I have) but usually I use that to treat myself.  Or to have a teacher-student conference with one of my kids.

Waiting for the truck

At the moment, the big thing driving our "need" for food is medical bills.  All of a sudden, we have roughly $8,000 in medical bills.  Everyone wants that paid now, or in generous installments, and just one of those payments eats up 2/3 of our monthly grocery budget.  We have three big medical payments to make (the ER, the ambulance, the hospital) and a lot of little ones too.  To meet those obligations, we have to eliminate all discretionary spending, eliminate our grocery budget, and cut our electricity use in half.  For the next year.  And that still puts us a couple hundred dollars a month short.

We can't do that.

The good news is that we can drastically cut our grocery bill.  With two trips to the food pantry each month (the max allowed) and the mobile food truck, we'll have fresh produce (especially potatoes), some dairy, some meat, some canned goods, some snacks, and lots and lots of "need to use immediately" breads and desserts.

I have stored up a lot.  Our freezer is completely full.  My mama is a war baby.  She taught me to prepare for a rainy day. 

I've survived before, feeding the family on a grocery budget as low as $35 a month.

Of course, I didn't have three teen boys then.

The point of this post though, isn't to whine about how rough I have it.  I don't.  This is a tight spot, unplanned, but I'm not seriously concerned about a foreclosure.  And pantry or not, I know I can feed my family rice and beans for MONTHS, so it isn't like we'll starve.

But the food pantry makes it easier. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Buck Denver asks... Why Do We Call It Christmas? {a FlyBy review and giveaway}

When FlyBy Promotions offered an opportunity to review Buck Denver asks... Why Do We Call It Christmas?   I did not have to contemplate it at all.  No thinking or deciding required.

I sent an enthusiastic YES!

We love Buck Denver here.  My kids have learned so much by watching through the 13-volume What's In the Bible set.  That's all of them, from the 8-year-old to the 17-year-old.

And Mom and Dad too.

That series is simply fabulous, so of course we were interested in a Christmas DVD.

We were not at all disappointed.

Here's the official blurb --
About the movie: Approx. 60 minutes
Cutting down trees? Hanging stockings? Santa Claus? What do any of these have to do with Jesus' birthday?  More than you'd think! 
Join VeggieTales creator Phil Vischer along with intrepid newsman Buck Denver and all his friends on an amazing journey into the world's most popular holiday! Sure, you know the Christmas story. But do you know the story of Christmas? Don't miss the whimsical, educational, Christmical party to end all Christmas parties as Buck Denver Asks … Why Do We Call It Christmas?

Contains the following topics:
  • Where do we get the word Christmas?
  • When was Jesus born?
  • What do Christmas trees have to do with Jesus?
  • Who is St. Nicholas?
  • What is Hanukkah?
  • Who is Emmanuel?
  • Luke 2 Story

What did we think?

Well, all our favorite Buck Denver and Friends characters are in here.  The basic "plot" is that Buck Denver is a bit confused about what Christmas is really all about, so he invites everyone to join him, and they all have various adventures in getting there.  Along the way, they talk about all kinds of stuff, like the list up above.

Luke 2 is shown via popsicle stick puppets, with awesome background music.  It includes a bunch of discussion about things like what angels look like (not little babies with wings) and why they always start off conversations with people by saying, "Don't freak out!  I'm not going to hurt you!"

"Getting a great deal on a new TV!  That's what Christmas is all about!" brings us into a great discussion about why Christmas is important, with a pretty clear gospel presentation in here too, in the discussion of who Emmanuel is.  Basically - We can't be perfect, and unless we are perfect, we can't go to God.  So God came to us.

"The miracle of Christmas is for everyone!"

Do you want to win one? Open to US and Canada only, must be 18 to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.