Summer school! Online writing course

We don’t do a rigorous school schedule September-May.  Instead, we do a relaxed schedule year round.  This means our kids get summer school every year.  They don’t mind.  The alternative is spending a large chunk of the summer outside.  Spending a large chunk of summer inside and bored silly is not an option, because of our views on the sanctity of life.  I would have to kill them, and that would be bad.

So…school during the summer.  Summer school.

This summer Megan had the privilege of taking Introduction to Logic, an online course from Living the Answer.  She loved it, and will be posting about her experience soon.

Last summer, Kaitlyn and Lydia participated in a 16 week online essay writing class by Living the Answer, called Essay Writing: Zero to Sixty in a Semester.  They worked hard and found it very challenging, but they enjoyed every bit of it!  You can see Kaitlyn’s review of the class here.

This summer, Natalie and Becca took the first part of the same class, Intro to Essays.  They had 8 interactive classes, taught live  by Mr. Vogel.  As with the longer course, each class included a brief in-class assignment, and then a longer assignment that was due before the next class 7 days later.  Each assignment was critiqued and graded.  Students can see each other’s assignments and Mr. Vogel’s comments, but grades are private.

This introductory class is recommended for ages 10-14, while the full class is for ages 11-16.  At 11 and 13, Natalie and Becca were much younger than Kaitlyn and Lydia were when they took the full class, and they had a rather different experience.  Like their older sisters, they loved Mr. Vogel’s teaching style and sense of humor, but one of the girls – a reluctant reader and late bloomer – struggled mightily with the assignments, fighting discouragement.  The other embraced the challenge, not excelling in the class but making great strides in her own ability and building a lot of confidence and solid technique as a writer.  Mr. Vogel was very communicative and willing to go the extra mile to make sure both girls stayed encouraged and learned as much as possible.

Here is what Natalie had to say about the class:

Mr. Vogel is a great teacher. I really enjoyed his classes because he ties in interesting little facts and adds little stories into the class. Mr. Vogel also has a great sense of humor. He really made me look forward to the classes.  One of my favorite things about the class was that he had us do in-class assignments, where he gave us a little assignment that we had to do in fifteen minutes and they were not that hard. I got stuck on one of them and didn’t finish it on time, but he said I could just do it later and email it to him.  I’m glad I got to take the class, and it was really super fun!

While each had moments of feeling overwhelmed, overall it was a positive experience for both girls, and they came a long way in their ability to write.  I am so happy they had the chance to study under such a gifted teacher!

Interested?  Here are some of the upcoming online classes:

See a complete schedule

Tints of Nature giveaway!

This giveaway has ended.  The winners are Melanie, Elizabeth and Lori

By Kaitlyn

Having long hair is a great accomplishment, or so I’ve been told, but I haven’t had a real haircut in nearly 4 years and it is boring.   Just to clarify, I don’t keep it long because I think lightning from heaven or the rod of correction will strike me if I don’t, but every time I think about cutting it I have a horrible dream that I shaved my head bald on a whim, interpret as you will. 😉 That, and I promised myself I’d see it at my knees one day.

So here I am trapped like Rapunzel while Megan chops and hacks at her curly mass changing it as she will.   I had to find some way to curb my appetite for change, but that’s just it, I’m afraid of change. After rolling this dilemma over in my head I finally settled on the idea of having red hair, partly inspired by a red-headed photographer friend.

In the name of health, fear of change and inexperience I decided on a natural semi-permanent dye.  With some research I found Tints of Nature to be the closest match to my criteria, and with some conniving I managed to get it for free, er, I mean, Tints of Nature was generous enough to sponsor a review. They sent me two boxes of Semi Permanent Golden Copper Blond, which is really similar to this color (I think they discontinued my color).












Megan and I set to work on application less than ten minutes after it arrived at our door step, the time it took to convince Mom that it was a good idea to start 2 hours before we were due at the airport. The instructions were very clear (once you found English among the other 23 languages).  Even homeschooled newbs can follow without too much trouble.


She started at the front hairline, per the instructions suggestion and worked her way back.  Application took a total of about forty-five minutes.  I was a little worried that the front would come out drastically brighter since it was in for more than twice as long, but it all looked pretty even. It brightened up my natural tone while still letting my natural highlights shine through.

The dye left my hair feeling really soft and there wasn’t a trace of distinguishable chemical smell.  Megan liked the smell so much she was about ready to eat my hair.  The color is lovely and brilliant outside. I definitely look like a red head with direct light and sunlight. Inside it’s a little less obvious.


Left: Zing! Right:My natural color with a little bit of coconut oil 🙂

  Since the dye is semi-permanent a little bit comes out with every shampoo.  Honestly it’s a bit depressing. Every time I shower I see orange rinsing down the drain and I feel like the wicked witch of the west, “I’m meeelting!”, but it’s a good incentive to take care of my hair and use the least amount of harsh soap possible. At first I noticed a very small difference in the color each time I wash.  After 4 washes I was still a red head (see below), but the fiery look was almost gone.  Now that I’ve washed it 12+ times (6 weeks) I keep thinking it’s gone then I catch a flash of red and realize that I still have a lot of red undertones that I don’t get naturally.


Overall I’m very happy with the results. It was fun, easy and super exciting.

The Giveaway


Now it’s your turn! Tints of Nature generously is supplying three boxes of dye for us to giveaway. We will choose three winners randomly midnight June 24th. To enter go over to Tints of Nature’s store then leave a comment with your color choice. For a second entry share this giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter.  Remember to leave a separate comment for each if you do both. Again, entries will be accepted until midnight June 24th, then we will choose three winners who will be contacted by a Tints of Nature Representative.

Guest Post and a Giveaway: Henna

Posted by: Deanna

This Giveaway is now closed.

Hello Shoe readers!

As some of you know, and some of you don’t, I dyed my hair with Pure Henna from Henna Color Lab over the weekend. It was the first time I ever dyed my hair and I have to say, I’m hooked. I love the way my hair looks and the application was surprisingly easy.

I chose henna over regular chemical dyes because unlike most dyes, it’s really good for your hair. It deep conditions and also detoxes your scalp and hair, and heals split ends. My hair was getting some really bad split ends on the underside where it doesn’t get much sun and I was considering chopping it all off, which would have been a real shame since I’ve been trying to grow it out for over a year now. I did some research about henna, and when I read about all the healing and cleansing it does for hair, I decided to give it a shot before I headed over to the ol’ guillotine.

Colorwise, I chose henna because unlike regular dyes it works with your natural color. It’s a stain, not a paint. If you are a darker colored person, but want your hair to end up bright red instead of chestnut or auburn, you can bleach your hair before you use henna, but that sort of defeats the purpose of using a dye that replenishes and builds up your hair. Also, I’ve heard that it doesn’t always turn out too well  for some people. Do your research, and tread lightly.


As for the supplier, I chose Henna Color Lab because they are all natural, chemical free, vegan, and animal cruelty free. I’m not a vegan, but when it comes to soaking my entire head and all my hair, I prefer that it be in something produced by people who care about my health and the environment and what we do to it, rather than in a vat of commercially produced toxic waste.

Now there are some draw backs to using henna. It’s very permanent. Dyeing over it doesn’t always work, and if you don’t like the way it looks, then you’re out of luck. I have a formerly blonde friend with flowing waist length hair who dyed her hair with henna, and though it looks amazing on her, she’s basically stuck with it. Kaitlyn says that she researched it and found that a good long soak in some vodka will take off henna, but I don’t intend to try it.


See how cute I am? It took 2 packs of henna to do my hair. I used my red bowl so it wouldn’t end up stained and added 1 1/2 cups of hot water to it. The instructions say to add water until it  is the consistency of ketchup or pudding. First I smeared petroleum jelly along my hairline to make sure I wouldn’t end up with orange spots on my face and neck. Then I used the gloves that came with the henna and just smeared and worked it all in root to tip, strand by strand and coiled each strand on top of my head when I was finished with it. Due to the pasty and slightly sticky consistency of the henna, the coils stayed put rather well.

I had heard that henna has a very strong earthy smell to it, and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was less dirt, and more like a freshly mowed yard. It’s been 3 days since I did it and the smell is almost gone. It didn’t bother me much in the first place because freshly cut grass has always been one of my favorite smells.


After I had methodically coated each strand of hair, I still had a good 1/3 of my henna left over. I just slathered it over the top of my head and worked it in deep with my fingers. As you can see, I didn’t get right in front of my ears or the veerrryy bottom of my hairline as well as I could have. I am considering reapplication, but my Husband insists that my hair is his very favorite hair color right now and is begging me not to change it in any way. Silver tongued devil that he is, how can I resist? 😉


When I was done, I put on the cap that came with the henna, wrapped a hot towel around it, and sat down to wait. The instructions say to leave it in for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, but that leaving it in longer means more herbal conditioning and detoxing. I left it in for 4 1/2 hours. I was going to go for 6 hours, but it would have been 2 am by then and I had to work the next day. It wasn’t worth it.

As you can see from this exceedingly blurry photo, I got a few spots of henna on my forehead. Not to worry, it washed right off. My fingertips were a very pale shade of orange the next day from washing it out, but as of this morning, I am spot free.

Washing it out was a lot easier than I thought it would be. The instructions say to be patient, but it only took me 10 minutes to get it all out. After I was done, I toweled my hair dry, and used a blow dryer to dry it because the extra heat helps to accelerate the color changing process.



After (day 1)




Okay fine, it doesn’t always look this bright. It only looks like this when the sun hits it just right.


This is what it looks like now. As you can see, it didn’t lighten the color of my hair, it just reddened it. It turned me from a dark brunette to “an handsome auburn”.

One thing it did change that I’m not sure I’m real happy about is the texture. I’ve read from many people that henna will tend to loosen the curl of your hair, or as in my case, make slightly wavy hair straight. My waves were but the faintest voluminous bounce, so I won’t miss them too badly, but if you’re terribly  attached to yours, you might want to consider this carefully.



Now for the exciting part.

I am authorized to award 2 winners with their choice of one Henna Hair Dye and also one Henna Hair Treatment.

All you have to do is mosey on over to their website at, take a leisurely look at the different options they offer, decide what color you would like, and comment on this post telling me which you would choose. For contacting purposes, make sure you fill in the email field with a valid address that you check regularly!

This giveaway will remain open for one week. Multiple entries are permitted, but no more than 2 each.

At the end of the week I will randomly choose 2 winners. If I randomly pick the same person twice, I will pick again. One win per person.

Kudos if you caught the Anne Of Green Gables reference. 😉

This Giveaway is now closed

Giveaway: The Christian Philosophy of Food (book)

This week’s giveaway is a little paperback with an ambitious title: The Christian Philosophy of Food.  Maybe you’re surprised at the claim that there is a Christian philosophy of food?

What is so important about food? Is it really worth this much attention? On a basic level we can see that though we make our food, our food also makes us. You cannot escape food. It is one of the basic needs to survive; there are few others that are more integrated into our lives. What else have you done three times a day for your entire life? What we choose to eat affects our life tremendously, and our life affects what food we choose. It is vitally important to think about our food.

The author is a homeschool graduate, son of a PhD food scientist, and draws much of the book from dinnertime discussions.  He presents an interesting blend of perspectives.

Food is studied by nutritionists and chefs alike. Generally speaking, the scientific nutritionist looks at food as being composed of both healthful nutrients and harmful toxins or bacteria, mostly disregarding the art of food. Then the chefs look at the taste and presentation of food with little regard for health consequences. You either end up with food that is nutritious but tasteless or very tasty food that is a “heartattack on a plate.” Thus, food is a complex subject because it is a source of both nutrition and beauty. Both are important to Christians. As Christians, our whole persons are valuable, both the soul and the body, and thus health is important and not to be set aside as something that only “health nuts” think about.

The author makes a lot of theological statements on points that many people will consider debatable, and while he does footnote many of his scientific references there are many more points for which I would love to see more support.  But this book never claims to be comprehensive.  Think of it as a starting point, not an exhaustive work.

“Peter Bringe presents a careful, balanced, biblical approach to this important area of life that touches every one of us, every day. It is time for Christians to reexamine their eating habits, and realign their lives according to the principles and priorities offered in God’s Word.”
~Kevin Swanson,
Pastor, Reformation Church;
Director, Generations with Vision.


While I don’t agree with some of his statements, I do think this book does exactly what it’s intended to do: get us thinking about how our diets can and should glorify God, just like every other aspect of life.

The Giveaway

Win a copy of  The Christian Philosophy of Food by doing any or all of the following.  Please leave a separate comment for each entry.

  1. Leave a comment on this post.  Say something about your philosophy of food.  🙂
  2. Share this giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter.  Remember to leave a separate comment for each place you share it.
  3. Post about this giveaway on your blog, linking here and to The Christian Philosophy of Food.  3 entries for this!
  4. Like The Christian Philosophy of Food on Facebook.

This giveaway has ended.  The winner was Mary Jo @ Covenant Homemaking.

When Motherhood seems too hard

I gave Kelly’s new ebook a plug on Facebook when she released it yesterday, but Perry called from work this morning to gently admonish me.  He reminded me how eagerly many of you received my Life With Littles and encouragement For Tired Young Mothers of Many posts.  “Don’t you think Kelly’s book would strike a chord with your blog readers?”

I think he was right.  He usually is.

Kelly Crawford of Generation Cedar has a new ebook for moms, and the title alone is perfect: Devotions, Advice & Renewal for When Motherhood Feels Too Hard.  Isn’t that every day?

When Motherhood Feels Too Hard is the daily inspiration you need to not just get through a day, but to FLOURISH as a mother, to build a home, and to ignite a passion in your children that will impact the next generation for the glory of God!

If the title wasn’t enough, I would be totally sold on Jennie Chancey’s review:

“This eBook is Kelly’s “cup of cold water” to mothers. We all need refreshment and encouragement when the hard days come, and Kelly has provided bite-sized (but meaty and thought-provoking) daily devotionals that urge us to take our calling as mothers seriously but remember at the same time that we are vessels of clay in need of God’s filling. These words are true whether you are the mother of one or the mother of ten! Thank you, Kelly, for sharing your beautiful insights into the calling of motherhood “from the trenches!” -Jennie Chancey, Ladies Against Feminism

When Motherhood Feels Too Hard is available as an instant download (PDF) or for your Kindle.  I’ll be starting my copy very soon.  Anyone want to join me?


Our Groceries phone app

No smart phone?  Don’t care?  Please scroll down for a poll where you can let me know with a single click.

I use a LOT of apps on my phone.  It has largely replaced my computer in my daily life, making it faster and easier to check email and facebook, moderate blog comments, do quick internet searches, and much more.

It has also replaced other items in my daily life: my Bible, the alarm clock, the phone/address book, the paper grocery list.

Of all the apps on my phone, I think the one I use the most times during the day may be Our Groceries.  Here’s what I wrote about it back in April (slightly edited and updated):

Our Groceries – I tried nearly every grocery app on the market, and this is the best as far as I’m concerned.  It combines all the features that other programs charge for and it’s free.  I use this several times each day to keep a running grocery list for each place I shop.

I can…

  • create and maintain as many individual lists as I want (even to-do lists!)
  • share them instantly with hubby or anyone else with a smart phone or iPod, even editing the list while he’s in the store (and he’ll never know!)
  • access and edit my lists from a computer as well as my phone
  • easily move items from one list to another
  • drag and drop to organize items on the list
  • create categories to make it easier to organize my list
  • delete with a single touch as I shop
  • add items by speaking, typing or choosing from a list of items I’ve bought in the past.

The interface is clean, and the program is free unless the unobtrusive ads bother you.  The ad-free version is $5.  I’m tempted to buy just to support the developer because I like it and use it so much.

I still love it just as much, and I now have the ad free version.  I love how many options it has to let me tweak things to work just the way I want, but I also love how easy and intuitive it was right out of the box.

Any time I need to add something to my list, I do it in just a few clicks.  It’s so easy that even I don’t procrastinate, so I actually remember to put stuff on my list!

Another plus: because my list is on my phone, I always have it with me both for additions and for actual shopping.  Now I never arrive at the store and realize I forgot my list.  Even if the trip was unplanned, I always have my list with me.

The only feature that’s missing is barcode scanning, but I don’t consider that a problem.  I tried some programs that allow the user to create a list by scanning barcodes and while it was very cool as a concept, the simple truth is that it was much slower than just speaking or typing.

It also has a whole host of recipe functions that I’ve barely begun to explore.  This allows you to save recipes or “meal ideas,” integrating them with your shopping list so you can add ingredients with a single touch.  I may start using this to plan a weekly menu.

The free version of this app has all the same features as the paid one, but with a small strip for ads.  At $4.99, the paid version of this app may be a little on the high side, but whether it’s free or $5, this frugal momma believes it is completely worth the money.

disclosure: The opinions expressed herein are completely my own, unswayed by any filthy lucre.  I requested and received compensation for this review, then decided to refund the compensation so I could support the developers of such a great application.  See?  I really do love Our Groceries!

[poll id=”30″]

Giveaway #5: Audiobooks by Victoria Botkin (4 winners!)

This giveaway is closed.  See winners here.

Other giveaways:

Giveaway #1: Marie Madeline $50 gift certificate!
Giveaway #2: Navigating History
Giveaway #3: Spiral Slicer
Giveaway #4: Your Backyard

I know I say this about every giveaway, but I’m really excited about today’s giveaway.  I consider Mrs. Botkin a dear friend and mentor, and am delighted that she has begun recording audiobooks in her warm, soothing voice.  I have long thought Victoria’s voice was perfectly suited to the task and here at least we have the product of her efforts!

America has a remarkable but largely unknown legacy of courageous, intelligent, Christian women. “Voices from the Past” relates the stories of four of these women in their own words, taken from their letters and diaries. Hear from a brave frontier bride, a visionary colonial daughter, an intrepid immigrant woman, and a wise founding mother, as Victoria Botkin breathes life into the words of real heroines of American history.

Real history, unfiltered by purposely irrelevant textbooks, inspires and fascinates. Read aloud, it becomes accessible to even young children. Enhanced with sound effects and period music.

Titles in this series include:

The Giveaway

This time we get to choose not one, but four winners!  Each winner will receive the title of her choice on CD.  We’re currently listening to A Bride Goes West. Which one would you choose?

Standard giveaway rules:

  1. For your first entry, visit the sponsor’s site, then come back and tell me what you think. Be honest and original.  By original, I mean say something more descriptive than, “Nice site.”  You’ll have to, because if you say that my spam filter will shoot on site.  By honest, I mean say something nice.  If you don’t like the site, then you don’t want to enter the giveaway so you don’t need to comment.  Right?  Right.
  2. For up to 3 extra entries, post about this giveaway on your blog, Facebook, and Twitter. Please be a friend and make my life easy by leaving a separate comment here for each time that you share about the giveaway.
  3. I’ll take entries on this giveaway for 7 days, then I will choose a random winner. If I procrastinate and/or forget to choose the winner, I will eventually choose the winner from among those entries that were submitted within the first 7 days.  Deal?

Appleseed Maternity

This is not what I planned to blog about today, but the email request for a site review caught my eye.  I’m a big believer in just making due when it comes to maternity clothes, but if I were the sort to buy new clothes, I have to admit that I would be sorely tempted by what I saw at Appleseed Maternity.

The prices were initially shocking to my thrift-store senses, but I’ve been inside brick and mortar maternity shops, so I knew what to expect.  Based on what I’ve seen, these prices were no worse, and probably better.  Dresses – nice, formal dresses – were generally $128.  The tops were beautiful and graceful, and while I did see the expected amount of cleavage there were also plenty of modest choices.  If I were pregnant I might be tempted to pay full price just to have something I really loved for those last awkward weeks.

They also have the Bella Band at the standard price, which I’ve been longing to try for years now.  I hear that it’s good all the way from early to late pregnancy, and after you have the baby it provides belly coverage when you hike up your shirt to nurse.  If you’ve tried the Bella Band, I would love to hear what you thought.  Please mention whether you bought the original or a cheaper version, because I’ve wondered if there is a difference.

ERGObaby Carrier - Available in More Colors!Oh, and they also have my favorite-ever-don’t-know-how-I-lived-without-it baby carrier, the Ergo, at a very competitive price.  You won’t find one used, because nobody ever gets rid of them.  If you’ve ever considered buying an Ergo but hesitated at the price, just let me whisper two words of advice in your ear: BUY IT!

disclosure: I received compensation for this post.  Because I am a stubborn and opinionated person, I did not let the compensation influence my opinion. You really didn’t think I would, did you?

The Modest Mom shop – review and giveaway

Comments closed.  Watch for a winner!

This may be my 13th pregnancy, but I’ve been enjoying my first-ever custom made maternity skirt.  I haven’t had a denim skirt in years, and when Caroline of The Modest Mom (formerly The Modest Maternity Shop) offered a free item for review, I jumped on the opportunity, choosing the long ruffle maternity skirt in denim.

Caroline was a delight to work with.  When I didn’t fit neatly into a size category, she further customized her custom skirt for me, using the elastic from one size and the cut from another to give me a little extra space without forcing me to wear an oversized skirt.

Her work is neat, the fabric is durable, and the cut is very comfortable.  My new skirt has a nice slimming silhouette but plenty of room to move at the lower hem – not always the case in long skirts!  The maternity panel is comfy too, with plenty of soft stretch.  It was a bit too loose during my first trimester, but is perfect for the second and I feel confident that it will continue to fit for the rest of the pregnancy.

I should add that my web-designer daughter thoroughly approves of The Modest Mom.  She says the site is neat, simple and attractive, and easy to navigate.  No, my daughter didn’t design the site.  She just has a good eye for these things.

Oh, you’re waiting to hear the part about the giveaway, aren’t you?

Caroline has offered to sponsor a giveaway.  The winner may choose any skirt, any style, any size, any fabric in the shop.  Not pregnant?  Not a problem.  That’s why it’s now The Modest Mom instead of the The Modest Maternity Shop.

To enter, just visit The Modest Mom and browse the skirt choices.  Then come back here and leave a comment telling us which one you’ll choose if you win.

edit: I forgot to add other ways to enter.  Blog about the giveaway, share this post on Facebook, or Tweet it for up to 3 add’l chances to enter the giveaway.  Please leave a separate comment to let me know about each way you enter.

We’ll take entries until midnight Sunday, Feb. 7 and then we’ll announce a winner on Monday.  Or Tuesday.  Or as soon as we remember to choose one…

Review: Pixar’s “UP”

upCall me crazy, but UP was not my favorite movie ever.  It was, quite frankly, a little disappointing.

I’ll be the first to admit that my reaction might be due to high expectations.  People that I highly respect gave it very positive reviews, and I understand why: it had a positive role model, a beautiful picture of marriage and children, good lessons galore, etc.  I couldn’t wait to see it.

warning: possible spoiler alert

I really enjoyed the opening scenes in which we learn how the main character and his future wife first met.  I loved the way their characters, relationship and marriage were developed.  I loved the soundtrack.  I loved the quiet, understated humor.  I loved the way we saw time pass as they grew old together.  I felt deeply for the couple when tragedy struck, and again for the old man when tragedy struck once more.  I felt his frustration loneliness and even hopelessness with the difficult people and situations he faced later.  I rejoiced with him when his grand plan unfolded.

Carl may have been a computer generated character, but he was real.

The boy Russell was real.  The way they interacted was real.

And then the storyline took a silly, cartoonish twist, followed by the appearance of a comic-book bad guy.

From the point that the bird appeared, I thought the story felt rather disconnected from the beginning.  Most of the charm was replaced with cuteness.  There were plenty of humorous moments with memorable dialogue, but the flavor had changed.  The nostalgic feel was gone.  It was subtle but unmistakable, and I found myself feeling vaguely guilty while I watched the clock and waited for the credits to roll.

This was supposed to be a great movie – or at least a thoroughly good one.  I’ll go out on a limb and say I thought it was a charming but disjointed movie.  It was cute and funny and full of positive talking points and I’m glad I watched it once, but I don’t intend to watch it again.  The worldview was surprisingly good considering the origin, but there was a little something missing in the craft.

Did you see it?  Am I crazy?  Tell me I’m not alone in my opinion.