Embracing a Healthy Family

UltraKey Online Family Subscription from Bytes of Learning Review

My children are all self-taught typists so there was no formal education that taught them the proper way to place their finger on a keyboard or the correct posture required to achieve optimal results. My review of the UltraKey Online Family Subscription from Bytes of Learning provided a program that allowed for concise, clear instruction supported by voice-supported instruction with animation and videos. Bytes of Learning utilizes technology by developing and publishing multimedia software tools and material to help teach people of all ages. Another feature that caught my attention was the ability to have an interface that allows me to control what my students (aka children) will learn. The program itself is equipped with unlimited administration as well as school and class manager sizes so whether you need it for a single child or many, it's an ideal product to try.

The Ultrakey Online Family Subscription is an affordable choice for most families with options ranging from 3 user, 5 user or an 8 user priced from $30 to $50 for a year. It truly is an all family program for use by adults or children.

UltraKey Online Family Edition

Getting Started:

  • Setting up the UltraKey Online Family Subscription was easy and after I registered, I was able to start by familiarizing myself with the Bytes of Learning program. After I read the overview, I started enrolling my students which was very intuitive and easy. Next, I had my first child start using the program. 
  • The "Go to my Instruction" option provides the student everything they need to begin their lessons. It might feel overwhelming for them at first as there is a lot of information in front of them which is why it's important for the parent or teacher to review the program to provide the initial foundation of what is expected of the student. It is very easy to use. 
  • I suggest starting with the Play Introduction to UltraKey first with the student. Next, the assessment test is a great way to ensure the student is beginning at an appropriate level as well as setting goals (challenge level). The levels can always be adjusted and it will teach the student proper posture and correct striking technique by finger placement.
  • Lesson and skill check modules are the main part of the program. The students learn from first practicing isolated keystrokes. They then move to letter chains, then letter pairs, then words and finally, sentences. The end of assignment skill checks ensures the student is meeting their own goals. There are even 3-D model of stretching techniques.
  • There are buttons at the top that provide additional resources for the students such as posture reminders, finger placements and they can access the lessons, skill checks and much more!
  • The Left Buttons also provide further resources for the students such as setting their goals, settings, learning, reports and more.

Practice and Learning Time:

My first student, aged 14, started her first lesson and didn't have any issues with the program. It will take a little time since she has never had formal keyboarding lessons but that is part of learning something new. The best part of the program, for my schedule, is most of it is very user friendly and doesn't require me to sit side by side throughout the entire lesson. She was able to navigate through it completely on her own after I walked her through the introductory information and explained the features of the site.

My second student, aged 10, is not always cooperative when it comes to learning something that does not interest her. She's adamant that she knows how to type the way she likes so having her sit down to try out the program with little resistance was a win for me. She took the assessment test and completed the first lesson with no fuss. She explained it was hard for her as she couldn't see the letters as she typed which I had to explain the purpose of learning how to keyboard properly. I was able to convince her that by learning proper keyboarding, it would allow her to write more stories and accomplish more tasks that she sets her mind to. She was a little confused since in Lesson 1, capital letters were intermixed in the lesson before being introduced at a later lesson. 

NOTE:  It was explained to me that the UltraKey Online program presents sentences and paragraphs with upper and lower case throughout the program to model correct punctuation which makes absolute sense and I'm glad they do that!  Until the shift key is taught at lesson six, the student will receive the correct number regardless if they capitalize or not.

After utilizing the program, both students didn't give me a lot of grief as they normally do when they aren't interested in learning a skill. They did understand the fundamental benefit in proper usage of the keyboard, placement of fingers and posture. The continuous reminders to sit properly was a feature I also liked since I am alwasy reminding them to sit straight.

I had my first student complete lesson 1 (shown below) to provide an opportunity to see the ease of use of the program. At the end of the lesson, she took an assessment and was able to see her progress for net speed and accuracy which she passed both. There was a recommendation statement to help her increase her speed and accuracy which was nice to help her understand where she could improve. There are 12 lessons that the student will work through to include skill checks. Goals can be changed as well and at the end of the course, the student will receive a certificate!

Overall, I think it's a great program for many reasons. It's very affordable, has flexibility for the number of students one might have, it reinforces keyboarding fundamentals in a non-boring way, it's challenging and having real time progress is motivational for students.  The ease of use and flexibility for children and adults is also an asset to families. I even had my seven year old granddaughter ask to start the program! I would recommend  UltraKey Online Family Subscription from Bytes of Learning. We tried another program last year but this one was unanimously approved as being our new program.
UltraKey Bytes of Learning

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UltraKey {Bytes of Learning Reviews}

My Next Laundry Appliances: LG Twin Wash System at Best Buy

The reviewer has been compensated in the form of a Best Buy Gift Card and/or received the product/service at a reduced price or for free.

The picture above leaves me with serious laundry room envy!  I love everything about this room as well as the LG Twin Wash System at Best Buy.  I have found through the years that a quality wash system really does make life easier.  Old outdated systems are a drag in my books and when I saw the image above, I instantly fell in love with the look. Granted, I shouldn't just judge a system by its looks but that is what grabbed my interest at first.  From the LG Front Load laundry paired with the LG's SideKick Pedestal Washer, I started to learn more about the system.  In another year, I will be on the hunt for a new system and with LG's reputation, I will be seriously in the market for this sleek set. 

The beauty of the front-loading washer with the LG SideKick pedestal washer is that as you wash a load of clothes in the top part, you can wash a smaller load to include delicate loads in the bottom portion creating an efficiency with your time!  Alternatively, if you just need a pair of pants or a shirt washed, throw it in the SideKick! Features among the washers vary but some of the ones from the LG Twin that peeked my interest included:

  • Various wash cycles which comes in handy for any size family but particularly for large families like mine.
  • Large capacities to ensure thorough cleaning of items such as comforters or just large loads.
  • Smart ThinQ technology that allows you to remotely start the washer and monitor the progress with your smart phone.  This is a great feature for multi-level houses or just for people who are busy and needed reminding that the wash is complete.
  • Downloadable features such as special cycles and the ability to monitor energy usage.
  • Five temperature settings as you chose to care for your clothing.
  • Steam that helps to ensure the detergent is properly dissolved so no more residue left on clothing providing a greater cleaning power.
  • The LG Twin has an ergonomically elevated door to make loading and unloading easier.
  • A TurboWash 2.0 feature that saves up to 30 minutes on larger loads.

Those are some of the main features that drew me to the LG Twin Washer System and there are more. 

My current laundry system is outdated and old. It does not have the sleek appearance or the modern technology which saves time and helps save money by faster washes, less laundry detergent and deeper cleanings so I know it's done right the first time. I have other LG appliances such as my refrigerator and after many years, it looks new and I've had no problems with it.  

The LG Twin Washer System at Best Buy has a special deal from January 11, 2018 through April 25, 2018, where you can receive up to $500 off a LG laundry solution for your home!

Shoreline Inn: Muskegon's Only Waterfront Hotel Review

On the bitter cold shores of Muskegon Lake lies the only waterfront hotel in Muskegon, Michigan.  It's a very nice town to visit and has beautiful views from many locations of Lake Michigan.  This was our second visit to the Shoreline Inn and was even more pleased the second time.  This time, we walked the beautiful Terrace Point Marina to the Lake House and had dinner at a surprisingly busy restaurant.  The service was good and the food was delicious. Our waitress was exceptional. She was going out of her way to take pictures of a couple celebrating a birthday or other event. She was caring and attentive to their needs even though she was very busy.  We never waited for anything as she was very good.

Our rooms, suites both times, had full atrium windows and doors with French balconies that were beautiful.  The rooms were spacious and we rather enjoyed the fireplace and whirlpool providing that little extra romantic nudge we needed as busy parents.  It was fully equipped with a microwave, refrigerator, free wi-fi, flat panel TVs and a no pet policy.  This is important to me because I have an asthmatic child and no family should have to depart from a hotel in the middle of the night due to an asthmatic hotel as we have had to do at other chains.   Another feature about this inn I like is the on-site bistro that offers various libations and food.  There is a store on the premise to purchase some local beer or even brands you know of along with snacks and some souvenirs. 

Customer service was exceptional and we had no issues.  As I write this, I'm getting ready to make another reservation as the drive is well worth it!  

If you haven't been here, give it a try!  Here are my five top reasons why you should plan a trip to the Shoreline Inn:

  1. It's a very clean hotel with great amenities without the price.
  2. A great getaway that allows you the convenience to peruse the town or stay onsite and take advantage of the Bistro, the Lake House or order room service.
  3. It's near beautiful Lake Michigan which is a site to see any season!
  4. The service is exceptional.
  5. Muskegon is a beautiful city full of great people!

Our last visit, we arrived early enough to inspect the downtown area and it was quaint and historic.  I loved the older architecture style of some of the building that were still present such as the Amazon building.  We ventured to Hackley Park, a National Historic Designated Park dedicated to the memory of Civil War Veterans. Being history buffs, particularly the Civil War, we loved it.  The center had an eighty-foot tall soldier's monument and statues of Farragut, Sherman, Grant and Lincoln that bordered each corner of the park.  The Christmas lights were up so it made it more timely and pretty.

Check The Shoreline Inn out for more information.

Book of Life Family Movie Night and Homeschool Churros Recipe

We enjoy family movie nights in our house as a break from our routine homeschooling days.  We generally choose a new movie but much to our chagrin, there hasn't been any new good family oriented movies released.  My youngest has been craving churros so she proclaimed it would be a Book of Life Mexican Family Movie Night.  We, in the past, went the whole nine yards and made tickets and other concession stand type products via the Silhouette Digital Cutter but this time, we gave all honors to my youngest.  She had fun prepping the movie with a menu, tickets and even an autograph session with one of her stuffed animals for her niece and nephew.

She was also responsible for the churros as it was her recipe to make to fullfill homeschooling's culinary arts.  She did find it a bit difficult and dangerous trying to squeeze the dough out into the hot grease so she gladly allowed me to finish that task but she did all the other steps.  It was a fun evening without a lot of fanfare during the movie and at the end of the night, we smiled and realized how fun simple things can be!

Below is the recipe she used and note, you can have a chocolate dipp which we decided against.

Cave Tools Smoker Box for Great BBQ Taste & Coupon Code

Disclaimer:  I did receive a complimentary product in exchange for my review.  The opinions are of my own.

It's in the dead of winter right now but that doesn't halt a true barbecue fan from utilizing their skills to create some fabulous food for their family.  My son-in-law has a smoker that he has been using since the summer honing his skills in becoming a top notch BBQ chef.  With winter, comes shorter days and with our last product from Cave Tools, the BBQ Grill Light, he still able to work his magic for us in the darkened early evening.  is perfect for this!  The light is portable and with the easy to use with the upgraded handle mount that fits both square and round bars.  The touch on/off switch is perfect for hands that are full holding utensils or sauce and the three brightness settings is ideal for any amount of darkness.  This review focuses on the Cave Tools Smoker Box for BBQ Grill Wood ChipsThis is for use in a gas or charcoal grill but he used it in his smoker.

He hadn't used a smoker box in the past and just tried to be creative and find what he could use around the house.  The box, 25% thicker stainless steel, didn't warp when he used it in spite of the intensity of the heat.  The hinged lid allowed him to place more chips in as needed without a hassle and the box was good sized to hold a large amount of wood.  He did have to fill it again due to the amount of meat he was smoking but it was much easier with the Smoker Box.  Another feature he liked about the Smoker Box was there were no holes on the bottom which prevented chips from falling into the fire.

A couple of other bonuses about the Smoker Box are it has a lifetime warranty and they provide a downloadable Professional BBQ Recipe book, step by step instructions, tutorial videos and access to over 35 cooking videos.

It makes a great gift for that person who loves to grill out. He used the Cave Tools Light while smoking and the Cave Tools BBQ Smoker Box was a very welcome addition to his endeavor in achiever BBQ smoker champ in the area! 

Historical Indiana Nike Missile Site C-47

Employee at Gate in Munster, Indiana Site

I was rather surprised to find out upon driving home a few weeks ago to learn about how the cold war impacted northwest Indiana many years ago. I grew up in this area and spent 18 years never knowing anything that lurked so close as to all the memories I made before moving away.  There isn't just one Nike Missile Site within the vicinity of where I live rather there are three.  The closes one is the Nike Missile Site C-47 was a former missile site near Portage, Indiana. The Nike defense system was a Cold War-era missile system in the United States. The Nike missiles were radar guided, supersonic anti-aircraft missiles. 

Nike missile sites were constructed in defensive rings around major urban and industrial areas. Chicago was likely selected because of its population, the presence of several military bases, and the Gary, Indiana, steel industry. Nike C-47 near Portage designed with two units nearly a mile apart. The first section was the Launcher Area and is located on the south side of County Road 700 North, approximately 1/4 west of County Road 500 West, in Porter County, Indiana. The second area was the Control Area, located on the north side of County Road 600 North, near Wheeler. Sometimes called Administration Area. The base was operational by 1956, construction begun in 1954. The  pictures below depict the remains of the area in Portage.

Part of the site (in Hobart) has been converted to a paintball park.

More information from NikeMissile.org:

The "Hercules" were nuclear capable and could destroy fleets of Soviet bombers over a wide area. These were deployed at a few selected sites. The Hercules could reach Soviet airspace to intercept aircraft. Hercules missiles had the potential to be used against ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles). C-47 was one of the first Nike sites to receive the Hercules missiles.
The Nike system protected the United States until 1972. The bases were closed in accord with the SALT treaty limits, and the onset of "d├ętente".


To be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, Nike sites should be exceptional historically and retain a high degree of integrity, including all three major components: (1) administration, (2) radar, and (3) launch functions. There are fifteen Nike sites in Illinois that are part of the Chicago-Gary Defense Area. Several have some buildings and launch areas. C-84 Palatine, Illinois was the last substantial site to be redeveloped.
Five of the bases in the Chicago ring were in Indiana. C-47 is the only site to retain all three functions. A few buildings remain at several of the bases in Indiana. The National Park Service uses several buildings from a base near the Chellberg Farm for offices and service buildings at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. As elsewhere, they are remnants of bases, not complete units. The early use of nuclear missiles on the site furthermore makes C-47 rare and exceptional site.
A Nike Ajax and Hercules are on display in front of the VFW post in Cedar Lake, Indiana
A Nike Ajax is on display near the Toledo Rockets Glass Bowl Stadium on the campus of the University of Toledo in Toledo, Ohio.

The other sites:
C-44 Nike 2B, 4C/60A/24L-AA - Hegewisch /Wolf Lake, Illinois (dual site) - Abandoned and overgrown at the south end of recreation area. The access road entrance is at Ave J & 133 Street largely obliterated. The launch site is also abandoned. It is on the north shore of the lake, where S. Wolf Lake Blvd. becomes S. State Line Rd. The buildings are gone but foundations remain.
C-45 Nike 2B/20A/8L-A - Gary Municipal Airport, Indiana - Redeveloped area at the north tip of the airport. A general aviation hangar, parking lot and ramp area for aircraft parking were created. The former launch site is across Industrial Highway. The launch site was razed but remnants are still visible.
C-46 Nike 1B, 1C/12H, 20A/12L-U, (8L-H)
Munster, Indiana - Redeveloped into an industrial park. It is on the west side of Calumet Ave. N of 45th St. The launch site is on west side of Columbia Ave. It was razed in 2008, now in private ownership.
C-48 Nike 2B/20A/8L-A - Gary, Indiana - Redeveloped and abandoned from as an automobile dealership on Grant Street. The launch site was redeveloped into commercial/industrial site near NW corner of 35th Avenue and Grant Street.

Top 10 Photos from the National Dunes Lakeshore and Portage, Indiana Riverwalk in Indiana -20 Wind Chill

Last week, we endured -20 to -30 wind chill temperatures in Porter County, Indiana. I hadn't felt temperatures so cold since I moved away from the area in 1986.  I wanted to walk around the Portage National Dunes Lakefront but alas, it was too cold but I did snap these 10 photos.

Self-Paced Homeschool: SchoolhouseTeachers.com Review

High-quality, Self-paced, Online Homeschool Resources {SchoolhouseTeachers.com}

High-quality, Self-paced, Online Homeschool Resources {SchoolhouseTeachers.com}

Note:  this post has affiliate links.

Homeschooling is not an easy task once you first decide to take the lead in your child's education. I started homeschooling many years ago to curtail germs as my youngest was prone to severe asthmatic episodes when sick with a cold. Throughout the years, I have tried many curriculums, both in book form and online classes, to no avail.  I truly believe the best system is one made of different mediums which is why I gravitated towards SchoolhouseTeachers.com. When I read that the Homeschool Review Crew was seeking new reviewers, I jumped on the chance to apply. As a member of the Homeschool Review Crew, I received the Yearly Membership to SchoolhouseTeachers.com in order to write this review.

The ability to access online classes and video components as well as access to downloadable and printables with over 360 courses for all ages and levels in every subject, drew me into having to be a member of the Crew!  The online electives are vast and full of great topics to those that are already interested in those subjects or to some that may not even realize they might love that direction such as drama. The best part for me is the ability to plan my children's schedules as to how I feel meets their individual needs. The fact that it's self-paced was critical as having one child with learning disabilities, I found online schools were too rigid with timelines and due dates. I have another child that is advanced, so she's not bored with waiting for these due dates to pass. This is perfect and I'm very happy to find non-common core resources.

  • Navigation:  As I first became aware of SchoolhouseTeachers.com, I found the ability to navigate between subjects and class levels effortless which cut down on the learning curve and allowed me more time to dive into what was being offered and how I wanted to plan the new school year. 
  • Course Information:  Upon selecting a course(s), information is readily available that discusses the course introduction, length of course, age and grade recommendations, an outline of the course, introductory video, certificate of completion as what child doesn't like to see progress achieved on paper?  There are other features to each course when a student first begins but those are just a few.
  • Video Library:  Hundreds of videos are available to stream including from such providers as Creation.com, Vision Video, Discovery House and more. Most videos are available worldwide and are accessible immediately from the site.  My pre-k grandson was drawn to the videos immediately as I was navigating through different options.  My middle one, an avid art fan, was drawn to the Art videos. To be honest, there were courses that I'm even going to partake in not only to increase my own knowledge but to further encourage my children into learning more.
  • Planning Resources: There are an array of resources ranging from weekly schedules to even sample 9-week schedules to aid in helping you build a custom schedule.  There are schoolhouse homeschool planners, ready-made calendars, printable information charts such as sign language, branches of the government, types of clouds and so much more. The Applecore Recordkeeping feature helps parents in course tracking, grade reporting, report cards, portfolios, attendance keeping and transcripts.
  • Resources:  This is another great feature full of many options to choose from whether it's topics such as High School Help, Special Needs, Literacy Center, Just for Parents and much much more.  
  • World Book Resource Library:  This resource is separated by Library, Grade and Subjects for a total of 10 libraries that holds an amazing amount of resources to aid in educating children.  It's really a marvel!

Whether you are new to homeschooling or not, the resources, the set-up of SchoolhouseTeachers.com is nothing like I've used before. I would recommend this particularly to the new homeschooling parent in breaking through the nervous barrier on the decision to homeschool.  I would also recommend it to the experienced homeschooling parent as it truly is a one stop website for educating all your children.

I wanted to get started as soon as possible in planning one of the courses for my children, so I chose Elementary Spanish. The course 'How To' and 'Introductory' provides the starting information to get started.  

To the right of the website, is a 'Course Outline' that details every other week video lessons and the weekly worksheets.  To the left, the student clicks on 'Go to Class Lessons' button. 

Once the student clicks on one of the video images (lesson number), the window opens with the video lesson and each week's lesson for that particular video. For the first lesson, there was the video, a downloadable worksheet for week one and an on-your-own review handout, the next downloadable worksheet and a review of last's weeks.  I also like there is a Bible memorization exercise with each lesson.

It's short, concise and not too complicated.  I'm even going to take this course with my girls so I can finally learn another language.

I did glance at the Drive Thru History course and really enjoyed how the first lesson was broken down to the beginning of American history with Christopher Columbus and incorporated religious aspects into the teaching.  The video lesson was captivating and very educational starting out in Spain and moving along the path towards America.

I'm hoping by reading my review, you will be able to learn about the many resources available for homeschooling your child or children. After trying too many different curriculum's and spending a lot of money, I only regretting now learning more about SchoolhouseTeachers.com before now. I am a bit overwhelmed by all the resources and am glad that there is a 'where to start' resource page as well. I initially felt I would need to really spend a solid month getting absorbed with everything that is offered but after jumping in, I realized that it's all very intuitive and easy to use. Since one of my children has difficulty with reading, I sought the information available at the Literacy Center.  Again, I was extremely pleased with all the resources:
  • Downloadable books for K-4th grade.
  • Trek's Travels series of 12 early readers for PK/K which will be a great asset to my pre-K grandson.
  • Welcome to Reading collection of four series of early readers for K-2nd grade.  This will work perfect for my granddaughter in kindergarten.
  • The Classics is a collection of nursery rhymes, songs and stories for Pre-K-2nd grade.
  • Strategies in working with your child(ren).
  • A Getting Started section.
  • Comprehensive Skills to include a link to fun comprehensive games in World Book Early World of Learning Library.

I wanted to share what I liked the most after just getting started with SchoolhouseTeachers.com.  It's a great opportunity if you are already homeschooling or if you are on the fence and are thinking about starting.  It covers Elementary Homeschool Courses, Middle School Homeschool Courses and High School Homeschool Courses.  For myself, it has every resource I could possibly use and I am beyond excited to get started with many of the fascinating online electives!

Now through January 31, 2018, there is a sale going on!  The Ultimate Annual Membership is only $90 (normally $179) or $9.95 a month for the Ultimate Monthly Membership (regularly $19.95).  If you renew, you are locked into that pricing!  Use code NEWYEAR18 for the annual membership discount or MONTHNEWYEAR18 for the monthly discount.  New members only.

Homeschool Curriculum for Everybody - {SchoolhouseTeachers.com Reviews}
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