Thursday, February 22, 2018

Cassandra's Tangy Lemon Vinaigrette

Today for Thrifty Thursday I want to share with you my favorite salad dressing recipe.  I created this vinaigrette a few years ago when I began the THM eating plan.  I wish I could tell you that I was currently completely following this eating plan, but I am just dabbling in it.  Life has been a bit hectic lately so I haven't sat down to figure it all out again.  Anyway, I created my basic lemon vinaigrette a few years ago and have been working on getting it right since then.  I feel like I finally have it where I want it and it is ready to share with you.  Most of the ingredients can be purchased at the regular grocery store.  I tend to buy my spices in bulk from a bulk food store near where I live, but they can be purchased at the regular store too.  There is one "specialty" ingredient and I will provide a link for it and the substitution for it.
A Glimpse of Normal Blog, Cassandra's Tangy Lemon Vinaigrette, Thrifty Thursday, easy recipe

Cassandra's Tangy Lemon Vinaigrette
1/4 Cup of Lemon Juice (fresh or bottled)
1 tsp. Fire Cider - if you don't have this or can't find it, you can use Apple Cider Vinegar instead.
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
To Taste:  (I start with a pinch of each first and then add more as needed)
Cayenne Pepper
Ground Turmeric
Salt
Pepper
Garlic Powder
Onion Powder
1.  Add lemon juice and olive oil to a small bowl.
2.  Add in Fire Cider.
3.  Add in spices, a pinch of each first and then I add more to taste as needed.
4.  Stir well with a fork to mix everything together.
5.  Taste to check spice level and adjust as needed.
Since I use this dressing a lot, I often double and triple this recipe to make it last for an entire week.  I put my ingredients in a small ball jar and shake it to mix everything well.  Then I store it in the refrigerator until I am ready to use it.  I pull it out of the refrigerator and let it sit about 20 minutes before I need it to warm up the oil.  Just give it a shake before using to make sure everything is still mixed well.

What is your favorite salad dressing?  Do you make your own?  I hope you enjoy my vinaigrette recipe as much as I do.

*This post does contain affiliate links.  This means I make a small amount of commission on each item you purchase from the links.  

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

A Review of UltraKey Online Family Subscription from Bytes of Learning

Hunting and pecking on the keyboard is one of my biggest pet peeves especially since I have a Business Education background.  Having this background should make it easy to teach my own kids the proper method of typing, but they have never been interested in me teaching them the proper way to type.  This is why I was excited to receive an UltraKey Online Family Subscription from Bytes of Learning to review.
UltraKey Online Family Edition, typing, keyboarding, success-based learning, media-rich instruction
UltraKey Online Family Subscription begins each student with an introduction to the program with a video that explains what they will learn.  This program is recommended for ages eight and up, but it does say that with practice even students as young as six can use the program.  After viewing the introduction video students are given a typing assessment test that is used to set individualized for each student.  The individual goal of each student is designed to increase their typing speed also known as words per minute (wpm) and accuracy.  Once the assessment is completed and the goals are set, the student can begin working in the Lessons area. The lessons are very thorough and clear.  They use voice instruction and animated instructions to teach the lessons.   Once the student has worked on a lesson, they can practice what they learned in the Skill Check section of the program.   Each skill check can be repeated until the student's personal goals of accuracy and speed are attained.   The skill checks also offer different options for length of passage to check.   After the student passes a skill check, the next lesson is unlocked.  This program also features a typing forum and games for the student to gain extra practice and work on their typing. It evens tracks your student's performance for you.  The company recommends using this program for at least 20 minutes each day.
Little Miss was watching the video on posture here.  This is obviously the before of her posture.
Since we could use this subscription for up to 7 family members, I set up an account for both of my kids.  The accounts were easy to set up since I had a control dashboard to set them up in.  Once I showed my kids what they needed to do to access their account, they were able to log themselves in each day.  My fourth grader was excited to work on this program because she has been wanting to learn to type better.  I told put this program on her list to work on 3 days a week and many weeks she did it 5 days a week.  She watched the introduction video and went through the section on proper posture and couldn't wait to start her first lesson.  She found the lessons to be very easy to understand and worked through them quickly.   The skill checks were harder for her and she had to repeat them several times because she had to hit her goal of both accuracy and speed to pass.  At first this frustrated her because she was able to hit one goal or the other, but after more practice she finally passed on both goals.  She also liked to practice her typing in the forum.  My ninth grader was not as excited to learn to type. He didn't see anything wrong with his “hunt and peck” method which was driving me nuts. He worked on this program 3 days a week and I have been noticing improvements in his typing.   When he took the lessons seriously, he didn't have any problems passing the skill checks.  He even worked hard enough to unlock the games area so that he could play games to test his typing.  
These were my stats and goals at the beginning of the program.
I also got a chance to use this program which I am happy about because I wanted to be able to check it out completely.  I really enjoyed that when you set up the main account for the family, the "Manager" account, it already had an area for me to practice the lessons too.  This way I could see exactly what the kids were seeing and working on for myself.  I also wanted to practice my typing skills as I know I have lost some of them since my days of consistently teaching typing before I had kids.   I was able to work through a few of the lessons and I got high enough scores that I could play the games too.  I must say that the games are pretty fun and I liked the combination of reading, typing, and thinking in the games.  I did fairly well on the assessments and my typing skills weren't as bad as I thought they were, they just need some polishing.
Buddy had fun playing Capitals, Capitols
As a former keyboarding teacher, I was extremely impressed with this program and all it has to offer.  It is very thorough while being very user friendly.  I appreciated how this program would not let you move on until you had passed the skill check which meant that you mastered the lesson.  It might take my kids a few tries, but I would rather have them completely the skill checks the right way.  I also liked being able to set goals for each of my kids and then adjust them as they reached the goals.  I also like that based on the assessments the program would give them goals too.  We all liked how the lessons featured both audio and visual learning to reinforce the concepts.  We also liked that we could turn the audio off if we didn't want it on.  We like that it is a good mix of fun and educational so it doesn't get boring for my kids.  My favorite part of this program from a teacher's perspective are the reports it gives for each student.  I can quickly access them and see what my kids have been working on and their achievements.  It is a great feature of the program.  I appreciate that we can use one program for everyone in our family and we plan to continue using this program to continue building our typing skills.

These are the different reports the program creates for you.  These were from each of my students.
Bytes of Learning offers many different options when it comes to purchasing UltraKey: The UltraKey Online Family Subscription that we received  has multiple purchase options for multiple size families starting at just $29.95 for 3 users, $39.95 for 5 users, and $49.95 for 8 users.  You can learn more about Bytes of Learning on their website or on Facebook.  You can learn more about the UltraKey Online Family Subscription by clicking here.  As always you can read about what the other members of the Homeschool Review Crew thought of this product by clicking the banner below.
UltraKey {Bytes of Learning Reviews}

Monday, February 19, 2018

A Review of Wulf the Saxon from Heirloom Audio Productions

Our family loves stories that are full of action and adventure.  These stories are even better if they teach good morals, strong values, and come as an audio drama like the ones from Heirloom Audio Productions.  We recently got a chance to review their ninth audio drama, Wulf the Saxon, and it kept us on the edge of our seat until the very end of it.
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Heirloom Audio Productions is a company that we always look forward to working with.  We know that we can always expect quality audio dramas from them.  These dramas not only capture our attention, but they make us feel like we are right there in the middle of the story with the characters.  As a parent I have come to appreciate this company because they strive to tell the stories of true Christian heroes while teaching strong moral values.  I also love that their priority is bringing real history to life for their listeners.  Their audio dramas are based on the popular book series The Extraordinary Adventures of G.A. Henty.  His books are filled with themes of bravery, loyalty, family, and happy endings while featuring moral values like loyalty, courage, honesty, and perseverance.  These are great things for my kids to learn.
Wulf the Saxon is the story of courage, bravery, loyalty, and duty.  While there are many characters in this story, the main character is Wulf.  He is a young thane which means that he is an English-Saxon landholder.  He is also a page for Earl Harold who eventually becomes King Harold in the story.  When we first meet Wulf, he has got himself in a little bit of trouble, but the trouble eventually passes and then the real adventure begins during an important time of conquering lands in England's history.  As Harold and Wulf explore the coast of Normandy, they end up shipwrecked and captured by Count Conrad.  The story seems bleak at this point, but Wulf is able to escape and eventually save the other captives.  It isn't long after that when war breaks out and things become very ugly between Normandy and England.  It is also when we get to hear and learn about loyalty, friendship, evil villains, courage, bravery, and even love.  War changes Wulf, but in a good way and he proves to be a loyal man in many ways.  I want to tell you more, but I also want you to listen to the story for yourself.
We listened to our copy of Wulf the Saxon on a day where we had several appointments which meant some driving time in the truck.  The story quickly captured our attention and held it as we went on our way.  I might have missed a turn once because I was listening to the story instead of looking for my turn.  The sound effects in these audio dramas are so real that Little Miss said she felt like she was on the boat with Wulf and Harold as they sailed to Normandy and she said she had a clear picture in her mind of how bad the storm must have been to make the ship wreck.  I love that about these audio dramas.  They not only tell great stories, they encourage imagination as you get pulled into the story.  Buddy joked that he could be Beorn because he was always hungry too, but in seriousness he liked the part where Beorn and Wulf broke out of captivity and set off for help.  He has been learning survival skills and talked about which skills they might have used to survive.  I really liked the ending of this story and I don't want to give away too much, but it was very sweet and hopeful.  As a parent/teacher, I truly appreciate that these audio dramas give me the opportunity to have discussions with my kids about good morals and values while asking what they would do if they were in the same situations as the characters.  For this story we discussed why it is important to take the time to think before speaking and acting, what it means to be loyal and a good friend, and if you should honor your commitments even if the person tricked you into making them.  There were lots of other topics we could have discussed from this drama too. 
Heirloom Audio Productions
There are several options for purchasing this audio drama which contains over 2 hours of entertainment and education.  You can purchase it as a physical 2 CD set, which is what we received, for just $29.97 plus shipping and handling.  You can also purchase it as a MP3 download for just $19.97.  You can also get access to many bonuses, extras, and a study guide for this audio drama (and others) by joining their Live The Adventure Club.  This is a new way to access all of their bonus material they offer and right now they are offering a free 30 day trial of the club.  They have 2 different payment options depending on if you want physical CD's or digital download versions of the audio dramas.  The Live The Adventure Club is packed full of extras for listeners, teachers, and families and is definitely worth the cost.
Heirloom Audio Adventure Club
We definitely recommend listening to Wulf the Saxon from Heirloom Audio Productions.  You can find out more about this audio drama here.  You can learn more about Heirloom Audio Productions on their websiteFacebookTwitter, Pinterest, Google+, YouTube, and Instagram.  Please be sure to check out all that Heirloom Audio Productions has to offer.  I know we will be checking them out to see what other series we can use this year for school.  My friends on the Homeschool Review Crew have also been reviewing this audio drama, so make sure you read their reviews by clicking the banner below.
Wulf the Saxon {Heirloom Audio Productions Reviews}

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Thrifty Thursday

Today I want to share one of the best tricks I have learned to save money.  My aunt taught me this a long time ago and it is the only way I buy this product anymore....or don't buy this product very often anymore.  You decide....
A Glimpse of Normal Blog, Thrifty Thursday
I go to my local food service store to buy my aluminum foil.  I buy a big box of foil like they would use in food service or restaurants.  I purchased my first big box of foil in 2011.  I just purchased my second box of foil in December of 2017 because I knew I was getting close to running out.  I actually just opened my second box of foil this past weekend on February 10.  I purchased my second box for $25.99.  It took me 7 years to use the first box which means my foil cost me $3.71 a year.  I don't know what the cost of foil is at the grocery store, but I am guessing it is more than $3.71 a year.  This box of foil is great, heavy duty foil.  We use it fairly regularly.  It even goes camping with us to quickly cover food, cover the grill grate, or wrap up ice cream cones filled with s'mores ingredients.  This big box roll is totally worth it for me.  We do the same thing with film wrap and it lasts us for about 5 years.  For me this is the only way I buy foil and film wrap.  I write the date I start using it on the box to see how long it will last.
What do you think?  Are you planning a trip to your local food service store now?  What are some things you save money on by buying in bulk?

This week I am linking up here.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

A Look At Forgiveness

Sometimes it is hard to sit and write a blog.  Sometimes it is because you are busy and your brain is going in tons of directions.  Other times it is hard because you feel like you are supposed to write about hard subjects.  That is me right now.  I know what I should be writing about...God keeps putting it on my heart, I keep reading about it in the books I am reading, and the topic keeps popping up in other areas too.  That is how I know it is what I should be writing about, but the hard part is that writing about my topic means baring my soul which is always scary because you never know people's reactions.  So if you are reading this, I ask you to be kind if you choose to comment.
A Look At Forgiveness, A Glimpse of Normal Blog, Forgiveness
Forgiveness is the topic on my heart right now.  This is a topic that I have really struggled with and one I have wrestled with writing about for many reasons.  Forgiveness is the act of forgiving according to the dictionary which lead me to look up "forgive" so I can explain what is on my heart to you.  Forgive can mean to cease to feel resentment against an offender, to give up the resentment, or to grant relief from payment of according to Merriam-Webster.  I am by no means an expert on forgiveness nor am I a great example of forgiveness.  It is just a topic that I feel like God is really putting on my heart so that I work on forgiving, I become aware of giving and getting forgiveness, and it will lead me to more joy which is what I seek.

Through a couple of books I have read lately and a couple of Bible studies I have been watching with my teen son, I have been reminded of some important things about forgiveness and I have learned some new things about it too.  There are several situations in my life where I have tried and tried to give forgiveness, but the more I learn about it, the more I learn that I have not truly forgiven everyone involved in the situations.  Sometimes it is myself that I haven't forgiven and sometimes it is other people.  I really hate admitting this especially as a Christian because it isn't what we are supposed to do, but I am still human and struggle with areas of my life which is a reminder to me that God isn't done working in and on me and my life.

One of the main things lately that I have learned is that I can't say that I forgive someone and hold the pain, bitterness, and bad feelings against the person that hurt me.  This doesn't mean that I won't still feel hurt in a situation because sometimes we do get hurt and it takes time to let go of the hurt.  It means that when I say I forgive someone I have to make a choice.  I either truly let go of the offense or I choose to hold on to the hurt, disappointment, and bitterness.  If I choose to hold on to all the bad things it isn't doing anything to the one who hurt my feelings.  That disappointment and bitterness doesn't make that person angry or keep them awake at night it only hurts me.  No one can feel my grudge but me.  I can't keep acting hurt or play the victim when I truly forgive, if I do these things then I haven't truly forgiven.  Forgiveness doesn't mean that I won't be more cautious with a person because I don't want to get hurt again, but it does mean that I let go of the situation or the offense and I don't feel resentment towards that person.  This is no easy task that is why I have God to help me. 

I am so happy that I have God to help me with forgiveness because there are times that on my own, I would choose to hold a grudge, its the human in me.  I thought about this and what right do I have to hold a grudge when I have a perfect example of someone who has every right to hold a grudge, yet He chose forgiveness instead.  Think of it, Jesus has every right in the world according to human standards to hold a grudge.  He was sinless, blameless, and didn't deserve to die the horribly cruel death on the cross that He did.  He did nothing to warrant the cross, yet people blamed Him, lied about Him, and attacked Him.  He had every right to disown all people forevermore, but He didn't instead He took a punishment He didn't earn and He showed that He loved us more than we deserve.  He even asked for forgiveness for us before He died on the cross.  Thankfully He rose again 3 days later.  He didn't have to do any of that, but He did.  He followed God's will for Him and He showed what true forgiveness is.  If Jesus can do that, I can let go and forgive too.

There are some situations where you may not be able to ask someone for forgiveness or be able to tell someone that you forgive them maybe due to death or it is not safe to be around that person.  You can still forgive that person in your heart and let go of their offense so that you may heal.  God knows the true intentions of our heart and He can provide healing.  All of that being said, I have been working on giving forgiveness to the situations I have been holding on to.  I have been realizing that I have been the one holding on to the offenses in these situations and I have been praying and covering them with forgiveness and asking forgiveness for holding on to the grudge so that I could play the victim for so long.  God is good and gracious and He is showing me His forgiveness and bringing healing.  I know that the healing will eventually lead to the joy I seek.  God is good all of the time.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

February 2018 Menu Plan

It's that time again...the beginning of the month which means it is time for another menu plan.  This month I am trying to (1) use up some items I have had on hand for a couple of months in my pantry and (2) to keep my grocery budget down.  So you will see quite a few soups (they are almost always a great way to slash the grocery budget), recipes using beans and lentils (thanks to my Instant Pot I don't have to soak these overnight), and recipes that are quick but tasty.
A Glimpse of Normal Blog, February 2018 Menu plan, Whats for dinner
 I am trying to get better about planning around our schedule so this month I have planned crock pot (I can use my instant pot for them too) meals for Thursdays.  This is gymnastics night for us which means I have to have dinner going before I head out the door so the guys don't have to starve and I don't have to come home and cook which means dinner won't be done until 8 or later...ugh.  Friday nights are always pizza night at our house so it means I just had decide which pizza recipe to use or try out.  Having a set meal theme at least one night a week makes menu planning quicker.  So here is what is for dinner at our house this month:
  1. Slow Cooker Chicken and Quinoa Chili
  2. Calzones
  3. Lemon Butter Chicken
  4. Slow Cooker Hoppin' John
  5. Chili & Cornbread Skillet
  6. Love that Quinoa Burger
  7. Mexican Zucchini Beef Skillet
  8. Slow Cooker Ham & Beans
  9. Meal Lover's Pizza Cups
  10. Shepherd's Pie
  11. Baked Penne
  12. Chili Cheese Frito Bake
  13. Mulligatawny Soup
  14. Filet Mignon (normally we aren't so fancy, but someone gifted us steak for Christmas)
  15. Balsamic Glazed Pork Tenderloin
  16. Italian Sausage & Pepperoni Stromboli
  17. Chicken Bacon Ranch Casserole
  18. Pasta e Fagioli Soup
  19. Taco Pizza
  20. Cheeseburger Tater Tot Casserole
  21. Bacon Pasta
  22. Chicken Fajita Soup
  23. Deep Dish Skillet Pizza
  24. Dinner for 8 - this is a small group dinner for church where everyone brings an assigned dish
  25. Copycat Carrabba's Sausage & Lentil Soup
  26. Easy Chicken Cordon Bleu
  27. Chili
  28. Shrimp Boil Foil Packets
As always you can find the recipes I use for my meal planning on Pinterest, specifically my February Menu Plan board.  You will also find other recipes on there that I have used in past years so if there is something on our menu for this month that you don't like you can find another meal on that board to substitute.  What is for dinner at your house this month?

I am linking up HERE.