Embracing a Healthy Family

Cave Tools Smoker Box for Great BBQ Taste

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! 

Click on the link to learn more about the Cave Tools BBQ Smoker Box.  

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 "détente".


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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HORMEL GATHERINGS® Party Trays Perfect for All Gatherings

I received free product and a store gift card in exchange for my honest review. All opinions and content are my own.

I had my first experiencing serving HORMEL GATHERINGS® Party Trays to my guests this year at Thanksgiving and I couldn't be happier with the ease at preparing these plentiful trays full of cheese, crackers, hard salami and pepperoni.  As I planned for my all day event with family, all 15 people in attendance, I knew I had to be creative to ease the use of the kitchen and to alleviate some of my time as I'd be busy preparing the meal.  The HORMEL GATHERINGS® Party Trays are perfect as I chose to offer up one earlier in the day just on in the ready to use tray in the living-room as everyone gathered to watch games.  The second tray was served as an evening snack when everyone was ready to just snack. 

The HORMEL GATHERINGS® Party Trays I purchased had Hormel® Hard Salami, Hormel® Genoa Salami, Sargento® Pepper Jack Cheese, Sargento® Havarti Cheese, Round Crackers and Peloponnese Pitted Olives. 

The variety of tastes went well with my guest's tastes.  I had one who liked olives and the little ones ate the Havarti cheese and crackers alone.  All the adults loved the Pepperjack and Havarti cheeses with the salami.  I think given the quantity of items, it was worth the money even if it does cost a little more for convenience.  I ended up purchasing another one to take on a 12 hour road trip due to the convenience, taste and quality minus the olives due to mess. The other nice feature of the trays is that each item is individually packaged so you can decide not to place all of the items out at once.

Unfortunately, by the time the rest of my guests arrived, I was too busy preparing dinner to take a picture with them.  I'd say my step-son was a huge fan of the tray! For the price, quality and convenience, I would recommend HORMEL GATHERINGS® Party Trays.  The combined flavors were perfect, the cheeses had rich taste and the salami was different enough to give a subtle change in flavor but increased the pairing with crackers and the cheese.  My husband was probably the biggest fan as he loves cheese, salami and crackers but I'm not a big fan of the mess he makes on the floor!  

It was a great day of good food, fun times and more memories as it was our first co-family holiday at my house.

HORMEL GATHERINGS® Party Trays are also good for any gatherings, traveling, camping or just a lazy night watching movies.

Looking for more ideas or to be inspired?  Don't forget to check out Hormel Facebook, Hormel Pinterest or Hormel YouTube.

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Horse Riding Lessons as Part of a Homeschool Curriculum


We have been homeschooling for quite a few years and I am thankful for the opportunity to continue being able to shape my children's future directly every day in more than a typical parental way. I have come to love homeschooling due to the flexibility and this flexibility reaches across the subjects I teach, how I teach them, schedules of teaching and fun activities that supplement learning. I also have found, as many others state routinely, children learn best when doing something they love.  Albeit riding lessons will not cover every subject but it does cover science as they are learning with each lesson more about horse anatomy.  

When they arrive, they start out with grooming the horses and preparing them to ride. Before they do start riding, the instructor gives them lessons in the horses anatomy and other interesting facts they should know should they continue with their love of horses. We were pleasantly surprised to be invited to an event in a couple of days where a chiropractor will come in and provide a lesson on their care which will cover anatomy.  The instructor is a homeschool parent and understands how these extra learning events will benefit the homeschooled child.  We are so lucky to have find such an extraordinary place.

Here are just a couple of other pictures I took today:

Rogue One: Our Easy to Replicate Jyn Erso Costume

There are links to support a non-profit.

After searching for a suitable Jyn Erso costume for my middle child, we decided to put it together ourselves.  Either they were of poor quality or cost a bit more than I could justify. This year, we utilized the Rogue One's images to find a perfect ensemble straight from Amazon mostly because I was not wanting to sew.  We looked up what other people used and continued from there utilizing what we already had at home which consists of black riding pants or leggings would suffice and a pair of brown boots.

We purchased the Frogg Toggs Cascade Classic Vest, a Hanes black V-Neck women's shirt, the KMystic Infinity Loop Scarf and Jyn Erso Belt with Holster.  Although more expensive than I would have preferred, I figured spending a bit more for the belt and holster was okay since we were piecing together a costume that I had no idea how it would look.  You could purchase a more inexpensive holster at a fraction of the cost for the same effect.  The nice thing about this costume, my daughter can still wear it as it turned out to be very fashionable albeit without the holster.  

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Park is Next Best Thing to Florida for the Midwest

As the summer days swiftly departed, fall fought with summer to take hold. We enjoyed a few more late summer days at the beach a few days ago. I kept telling my children that we had to partake in the beautiful weather as the days were numbered until next year. As sure as I spoke, fall is upon us with cloudy skies and cooler temperatures. We were able to take one more bathing suit day at West Beach located at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Park and it was fun! The beautify about the Dunes is year round, there are activities and it's great outdoor adventure especially for the homeschooled family.

My kids are Florida lovers so even though we have not been able to relocate there yet, the trips to the sandy beaches affords them something to look forward to year round. On a clear day, the Chicago skyline is quite visible as well as the steel mill plants that once led the way to prosperity to many while allowing families a good income raising their families in yesteryear. Lake Michigan is truly a natural beauty to the sometimes ugly in appearance of northwest Indiana.  

Even though the weather is no longer hot, we will take advantage of what the park has to offer and have some fall and winter fun!

Additional information:

History & Heritage

The Potawatomi people were among the first to call Porter County home. In fact, a local archaeological dig has unearthed native artifacts from up to 9,000 years ago. The first non-native visitors to the area arrived in 1650: French fur traders who founded an industry that flourished for a couple hundred years and included trader Joseph Bailly. Bailly’s homestead is now part of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. What began with the fur traders continued as pioneering spirit and then the railroads brought immigrants from across Europe. Many of their stories and traditions continue to color our way of life. You’ll discover Swedish farms and churches, Victorian homes, Irish pubs, German choirs and more.

It happened here…

Did you know that entrepreneur Orville Redenbacher launched his first gourmet popcorn product from a farm near Valparaiso in 1971? Or that the Underground Railroad, a secret network of escape routes for 19th century fugitive slaves, is thought to have included a stop on the lakeshore of Porter County? How about the fact that The Indiana Dunes was the intended site of a macabre plan by Chicago counterfeiters to hide the remains of President Lincoln until they received a ransom of $200,000 and the release of their star engraver from prison? Have you heard that the historic Civil War-era Memorial Opera House in Valparaiso was said to be a favorite venue of “The March King,” conductor John Philip Sousa, who led a concert there in 1898? The Opera House also hosted the famous Marx Brothers vaudeville comedy trio in 1919.