Amazing Summer

We started back to school in early August.

This summer was an incredible reset for me. We usually do light school through the summer (literature, math, and unit studies), but this year I decided we all needed a full break. While I’m sad to see this fun summer end, I’m excited as we are walking into fall.

Here is a little peek at some of our summer fun. I’ll do my traditional back-to-school post next week! Yes, we’ve started already, but I wait until the girls’ classes have begun to take their “first day” photos.

While things seem like they are falling apart all around the world, I’ve taken comfort in Psalm 142 this week, particularly this verse…

I cried out to you, O Lord,
I said, “You are my refuge,
My portion in the land of the living.”
Psalm 142:5

There are not any quick fixes to the problems of this world and as our family strives to walk in the Lord we continue to cling to Him for our hope and stay.

Force of Nature: An Honest, Unsolicited Review

Force of Nature
I review quite a few things on this blog related to homeschooling. This time I want to share what we are using to clean our home with these days: Force of Nature. I absolutely love it for many reasons. 

NOTE: This is not a product I received for free nor was I asked to review. I just was excited to share a cleaner that is on the EPA list approved to kill that wretched virus we are all dealing with in one way or another AND one that was as safe as this is! 
Force of Nature uses salt, water, and vinegar, already mixed in handy dandy little capsules. You simply add one capsule to the bottle and push the button on the machine. That’s where the magic happens. The water is electrolyzed by the machine and the combo of safe household ingredients creates a powerful cleaner.

This is considered an all-natural cleaner and is completely safe for kids, pets, and everyone else. There is a very slight chlorinated smell, but this is completely normal because of the chemistry that is happening between the water and salt. Because it is the right balance of ingredients, this is a non-toxic cleaner that is stronger than the ones full of chemicals. 
I have been using it everywhere! 
Kitchen Counters and Sink
Butcher Block island
Kitchen Table

(Sprayed onto a cleaning cloth first, not directly onto the piano!)
Kitchen and Bathroom Floors
Door Handles

It says it is safe for fabric as well, but make sure to test that in a small area before you try it everywhere. I haven’t had opportunity to use it on fabric yet. 

I took about a month to read and learn about this company as well as the science behind the cleaner before purchasing. I read and read and read…from all different sources, not just from their website. When I finally purchased it, I was feeling quite confident in my decision and even more so now that I’ve used it in our home. 
Disclaimer: I do not make any commission from this referral. I do earn free capsules if you click on it and purchase.

The Lifegiving Home: A Tyndale Blog Network Review

What does it mean to create a welcoming home? I asked myself that question as I was first starting out as a wife and then again a few years later as a mother. I wish I’d had this book when I was just beginning this journey 14 years ago! 
Sally Clarkson is one of my go-to author’s for encouragement in my walk as a Christian wife and mommy. I was already excited to review her newest book, co-written with her daughter, but when I saw the cover I sighed a little with joy. Just seeing the cover of The Lifegiving Home from Tyndale House Publishers brought me a sense of welcoming. Just like the cover, each page brought refreshment and joy. Much of what I have tried to put into practice in our home over the years was included which was very affirming. 
I enjoyed reading from the perspective of both mother and daughter throughout the book. While there are many practical ideas and takeaways in each chapter there is always the sense of pointing the reader back to Scripture, back to the Savior. I love this! It is such a good reminder that the one way to have a life-giving home is to be centered on Christ in all that is done and said. 
The first few chapters consist of helping the reader focus in on thinking about their home, the rhythms and functions of every day life and how to make them more than mundane. I really enjoyed the second part which focuses on each month and ways to breathe new life into the walls of your house throughout the year. Answering the question What makes a home? is central in this book. I found the Clarksons ideas unique and fun, and also inspiring. They didn’t inspire me to copy them as much as create my own ways of bringing life into our home. 
This is a book which I will recommend to anyone looking for ways to create a welcoming home that exudes the love of Christ. I also plan to have my own girls read this when they are older and beginning to think about their own ways of creating a home for their futures. 
Disclaimer: I received this title from Tyndale Blog Network in exchange for my honest review. I was not compensated in any other way. I was not required to write a positive review.

Cascade Actionpacs with Clorox: Review

Tonight I’m deviating from my usual homeschool-only reviews for a fun around-the-home review from Cascade. I had the opportunity to review one of their new products this past week and have been very pleased! 

Cascade ActionPacs with the power of Clorox is a new product from Cascade. It currently comes in Lemon Scent and has Clorox as well as their Pure Rinse Formula included in addition to the traditional Cascade detergent. It comes in a little packet which dissolves when wet to release the cleaning agents inside. 

We typically use a liquid dish washing detergent, most often what is on sale. We have tried many brands, but currently have regular Cascade under our cabinet. I have also tried a few DIY recipes, powder and liquid, to use in our dishwasher. The first thing I like about this product is how easy it is to use. I can even have one of my girls run the dishwasher after I load it. The only word of caution I have for any packet is to make sure your hands are dry while handling them so they don’t begin to dissolve too soon!

I also love how this detergent left my dish washer smelling. It always, always smells clean and never stale. Lemon is one of my favorite scents anyway and I was pleased that even though it has Clorox included, there was not a lingering smell of bleach as I anticipated. 

I do not have many dishes with stains, but I did have one mug which was stained with coffee/tea which I had not been able to get off prior to this. Here are the before and after shots of my mug…

Now, straight out of the dishwasher, it didn’t look that different, however, I simply wiped away the remaining stains with a dishcloth and my mug is like new! So while the packets didn’t wipe them all clean in a single cycle, it took minimal effort to finish getting them out. I believe this is probably because they had been on the mug for a really long time. These ingredients definitely loosened the stains in ways I never had been able to before. I firmly believe these packets would prevent staining if used regularly. I am very pleased with this aspect. I have tried many times to remove these stains and had not been able to successfully before now. 

My final observation while using this detergent actually comes from my husband. Our lives are really busy and he is wonderful to help me with the dishes when I can’t get to them. Since he used the packets as well I was interested in his observations. What he noticed and liked was that the dishes were spot-free coming out of the dish washer. These not only smelled clean, but they look clean and feel clean to the touch without any residual film like some detergents can leave. 

If you are looking for a detergent to get rid of difficult stains, definitely give this a try. It also does an excellent job of cleaning and leaving dishes without spots or film.  
Disclaimer: I received this product from Clorox in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review and these observations are my own. 

Paperless Home Organization from Simplified Pantry: Review and a coupon!!!!!

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(Make sure you remember to snag the coupon at the bottom of the post!)

Something I really enjoy doing is organizing. I know that isn’t everyone’s idea of a fun day, but there is something about a freshly organized drawer, closet, or room which makes me feel warm-fuzzies all over. Yet although I love to organize, keeping things organized is a totally different animal. I’ve tried numerous systems, printables, and variations. I’ve used pre-made and made my own. My problem has always been simplification for implementation…in other words I need a simple enough system that I can actually follow through with it!
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When I found out I was going to have the chance to review Paperless Home Organization by Misty Winckler from Simplified Pantry I was very interested, but was afraid it was going to be seeing just one more system that would end up on my been-there, done-that list. I am pleased to say this couldn’t be further from the truth! Although I am still learning how to fully implement her ideas I think I may have landed on a home-organization home which fits my style much better than others I have tried and at $3.99 this is an excellent buy!
 Like the author I have made several home-binders in the 11 years I have been married. Some were incredibly simple. Others were unbelievably complex. Several problems arose with these systems which seem to be taken care of with a paperless system.
1. Attractiveness
With my old notebook and paper type systems I found myself focusing a lot of my time on finding something that looked attractive. Who wants to mess with something that is sloppy and messy?
2. SOOOOO much paper!
The more I organized our lives into one notebook, the more paper started accumulating. I don’t mind paper, but it was getting to the point where I was going to need a separate binder to organize the many facets of my life! 
3. Unity and Cohesiveness
I frequently found myself flipping back and forth between all those pages trying to figure out when I could schedule in something different.  
4. Portability and Size
I tried taking my household notebook with me out of the house a grand-total of…once. Yeah, all it took was one outing of lugging a large notebook with me to show me I was not cut out to be a notebook toting mama. I see many moms with home organization notebooks I envy, but I just can’t manage keeping it all with me. Not to mention that since it had my grocery list inside I was asked no less than five times by complete strangers where various items were in the store. I didn’t realize why until the last lady asked me about something I didn’t know. She said, “Oh, I’m sorry! I thought you worked here because of your notebook.” It was a lot like learning the lesson to never ever wear a solid red shirt to a Target store!
So my journey has brought me to the digital age and here is what going paperless has already done for me in such a short time…
~ I love my Kindle Fire for this which I already have in an attractive case.
~ I am able to have much more unity in all areas of life-organization.
~ Using apps allows me to store things digitally and saves so much space.
~ No one has yet asked me employee type questions. (That is just so embarrassing!)
This e-book lays out the basics, giving everyone who has the ability to be mobile the tips and tricks to get them stared. The only problem I had with this was figuring out some new programs! I gave them a shot, and some I’m continuing with (I love Evernote’s note stacks!) but for other suggested apps I’m going to use ones I’m already familiar with. 
The apps which are suggested include Google mail and calendar, Evernote, and Remember the Milk. Because I am not familiar with these I am trying them out, but deciding which of these I want to keep and which ones I may trade for something more familiar. I do like the Evernote note stacks which allow you to create groups of information such as recipes, medical information, addresses, etc. 
The benefit to using these same tools is that the author walks your through each, step-by-step and gives tips and tricks to make them work for you to their ultimate potential. One things I really like about the apps chosen is they can be updated on a computer and the information syncs to the apps on your mobile devices. I still prefer traditional typing because I can do it more quickly so this is a nice feature.
There are a handful of downsides to going paperless. The first is, it’s paperless! That may seem strange, but if you can’t get your mobile device to work and don’t have a back-up plan in place you may have a problem. We are fast moving to being a paperless society with online banking, digital medical records, digital books, etc. While I am not opposed to these new technologies I am aware that complete dependence upon them can wreak havoc when malfunctions occur. Paperless is convenient, but it can sometimes come with a price. Because of this I do have a hard-copy back-up system of a single page so I can get what I absolutely need to done. We also keep all of our vital documents in a safe and easily accessible place for emergencies. 
The second downside is the time it takes to set-up and learn the various programs. While I do think it is worth it, I have spent much more time pursuing this option as opposed to the 30 minutes or so it takes me to put together a notebook. However I the time-investment in the beginning does balance out because of the ease of use and lack of paper! 
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Simplified pantry also has two excellent e-books (Simplified Dinners and Simplified Simplified Dinners Gluten/Dairy Free) for making meal-times and your pantry more stream-lined. We do not have any issues with gluten or allergies in our family and we simply eat by rules of moderation. There are a few things which are excluded from our diet (artificial sweeteners, alcohol, gourmet items, etc.) but in all things we strive for moderation. Because I am blessed to not have to worry about allergens as I cook I focused on taking a look at the Simplified Dinners. 
I was pleased to find that the list given in the beginning of what should be in your pantry was almost exactly what my staples already are. This made looking at the recipes within the book even more exciting! Nothing is quite as discouraging as wanting to try something new for dinner only to realize you don’t have all the ingredients. I look forward to trying some of these in the coming summer months now that our lives have calmed down a bit.

As an wonderful gift Mystie Winckler, the author of these fabulous e-books, is offering a coupon code exclusively for readers of the Schoolhouse Review Crew for 30% any of her e-books books! To take advantage of this offer use the code TOS2013 at checkout.

Don’t forget to check out more reviews from my Crewmates!