Embracing a Healthy Family

I Love My Toyota Highlander

I haven't written a post on brand loyalty in some time. As I was driving yesterday, I happened to hit the button to see what my mileage was on my 2013 Toyota Highlander.  I hadn't looked in some time as I'm not the one that gets the oil changed and I rely on the alert reminders that it's time to change the oil so that's my excuse for having no idea what it would read. 94,790!  I was astonished and I'll tell you why.

This SUV was purchased in El Paso, Texas after it was briefly used by Air Force pilots to drive during an air show at Ft. Gordon. This SUV has been around the block and then some! It went a couple of times from El Paso to Augusta, Georgia as my oldest found out she had ovarian cancer and needed to surgery. It has went numerous times to Indiana to see my family, namely my father. It was also present for my father's funeral a couple of years later.

It also has seen a lot of fun and participated in making memories on many different road trips. Our biggest road trip outside of back and forth to Augusta, was starting in Texas, moving up through New Mexico to Colorado as I had to stop and see where Peyton Manning played given how much I love that man!  No, I'm not a stalker! I also wanted to see the playground built in memory of a sweet little girl who was murdered. Her name was Jessica Ridgeway. After Colorado, it was onward to see the Crazy Horse Memorial and Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. From there, we went to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and eventually stayed at a ranch in Idaho. On our way home, we continued down Utah and Arizona until back again in Texas. 

This Toyota also went from El Paso to Virginia a couple of times crossing many more states. Another time, it visited Gettysburg, PA to pay our respects to the men of the Civil War. It also visited many many Civil War battlegrounds.  It's been to Florida several times and visited cool places like Ft. King George and many more. 

Needless to say, this Toyota Highlander has probably seen more states than many people in our country. Obviously with 97,000+ miles! The big deal about this is that this vehicle has NEVER been in the shop. I've never had any issues with it with the exception of maybe a minor recall for a part. It's now nearing the time where it needs a visit as it sounds like I'm almost driving a diesel now. The brakes are starting to get a little loose but stop on a dime. It won't be long though. I did replace the tires once. I've owned quite a few new cars throughout my life and none have ever had such a great driving history as this Toyota. I'm amazed and couldn't be happier!  

My son-in-law works at a Toyota plant which I'm pretty proud of because Toyota is about quality. Last weekend, I was able to see the new Toyota Highlander in our local parade and it looks amazing!  I don't hear much about people giving others grief about buying American but I can tell you living in a town that has a big facility, buying a Toyota does support America. I see the vast number of employees parked at their facility and I see all the feeder businesses that cater to them. Buying a Toyota is buying American.  What can I say other than I love my Toyota!

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance from The Jim Henson Company Giveaway Coming Soon


We have an exciting giveaway coming soon straight from The Jim Henson Company as they celebrate the broad critical acclaim for their epic fantasy adventure, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance.  Not only do they get the rewards of the exciting reviews and interest but you will also have an opportunity to enter to win a collection of these sensational new books and comics. These are available just in time for Christmas so if you won't want to wait to see if you can win a set, they are available now.

Background Details:

Called a “perfect revival” (The Washington Post), “a whimsical, fun and entertaining series” (The Hollywood Reporter), and “a prime example of how television can do fantasy right” (Variety), the Netflix Original series, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, is a 10-episode puppet-filled prequel to the 1982 classic cult film.

And now, fans of The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance can become further immersed in the lore, legends, heroes and villains of the expansive world of Thra with all of these new books!   New fans can learn more about their favorite characters from the series, while longtime fans can delve further into the rich canon of this pop culture phenomenon, and everyone can discover the behind-the-scenes magic that brought the many creatures of Thra to life.

Giveaway Details:

Our upcoming giveaway will include a 3-book package from Penguin Random House: Heroes of the Resistance: A Guide to the Characters of The Dark Crystal (hardcover): Age of Resistance; Aughra’s Wisdom of Thra (hardcover)and Shadows of the Dark Crystal (paperback) - (Value: $32.97).

Again, these are available now:  IndieBound, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.

In the interim, follow to stay up to date on the following social media:

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Follow the Dark Crystal

Additional Information:

And for comic book fans, from Boom! Studios is Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, a 12-issue official prequel to the Netflix series. Return to another world, another time, Before the Age of Wonder. The Skeksis rein over Thra, but there are distant echoes of rebellion. Gelfling and unlikely heroes emerge to champion what is good and just, but their paths to legend started long ago. Epic tales of adventure, magic, and mystery send us back in time to the Age of Resistance to witness the untold histories that forged these protectors of Thra. Based on a story by The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance series writers, Will Matthews & Jeffery Addiss, writer Nicole Andelfinger (Lumberjanes) and Matias Basla ( Sparrowhawk ) tell the tale of the mighty Ordon and a young Fara on an impossible quest.  An all-new arc from writer Adam Cesare and artist French Carlomagno spotlighting Hup, the heroic Podling, debuts on January 15, 2020.

Availability:  Print copies available at local comic book shops (comicshoplocator.com) or at the BOOM! Studios webstore. Digital copies available from content providers, including comiXology, iBooks, Google Play, and Madefire.   Individual issues MSRP $3.99; Ages 12+

More about the Netflix Original series!

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The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance is a 10-episode puppet-filled prequel to the 1982 classic film that follows three Gelfling who discover the horrifying secret behind the Skeksis’ power and set out on an epic journey to reignite the fires of rebellion and save their world.  Directed by Louis Leterrier and executive produced by Leterrier, Lisa Henson and Halle Stanford, the series stars an ensemble of fantastical, state-of-the-art characters and creatures created by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop™ and designed by Brian Froud, the original feature’s conceptual designer. Taron Egerton, Nathalie Emmanuel, and Anya Taylor-Joy lead a stellar voice cast including Awkwafina, Helena Bonham Carter, Natalie Dormer, Mark Hamill, Lena Heady, Jason Isaacs, Theo James, Toby Jones, Keegan-Michael Key, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Simon Pegg, Mark Strong, Alicia Vikander, and Benedict Wong.  

Author Mattie Richardson/Appaloosy Books: Horses in History Series Review

My girls really like horses and my middle one LOVES them which is why I thought it was a great match to review Mattie Richardson's Horses in History Series by Author Mattie Richardson/Appaloosy Books. Turns out that Ms. Richardson is a fellow redhead which also appealed to my middle one who also has red hair. The series, recommended for ages 8-14, includes four paperback books: AppaloosyDusty's TrailGolden Sunrise, and Day and Night. Ms. Richardson even signed each one making it more special for them when they received the series. We also received the brand new Day and Night Enrichment Guide for the Day and Night book in PDF format.

What makes the books even more interesting is the historical nature they take on. Each book takes place during a different historical time point so one is not required to read before the next.

The first book, Appaloosy, has a few black and white illustrations that compliment the story. It is told by Storm, an Appaloosa of course! The book has a table of contents and begins with native Nez Perce words and their meanings since they are incorporated into the story. The main character, Storm, a young stallion desires nothing else but to be free. Unfortunately for him, he is owned by the Nez Perce tribe. Try as he might, he attempts to not be domesticated and wins out until his luck runs out. After being too persistent in not getting broke, the Indian handed Storm on to his son, White Feather. White Feather was different and he ended up surrendering to him and became his loyal warrior. Time proves that things always change and now, after a turn of events, he was in the hands of the white man. As the story continues, he faces trials and tribulations as a horse on the western front and eventually becomes the horse of a girl named Faith. He finally learns to trust again and although he has a chance to finally be free, he will have to decide but you'll have to read to find out what he chose!

Near the end of the book is a section titled Blast from the past that provides additional background information with historical facts.

The end of the book provides a little about the author, Mattie Richardson, and the illustrator. Ms Richardson was only thirteen years old when she wrote Appaloosy and published it when she was sixteen!  To me, that's pretty amazing as the books are so well written, researched and entertaining. Clarissa Richardson drew the illustrations when she was only thirteen as well. Both are quite accomplished and great role models! Ms. Richardson has other books and has a new one titled The Secret of the Hemlock Forest.

My daughter read Appaloosy and enjoyed how history was told from the horse's perspective. My other daughter read Day and Night. She likes how the perspectives were changed from chapter to chapter. She thought it was a unique way to tell a story. Both of my girls are always writing and hope to be published too so she provided them with a push.

The Day and Night Enrichment Guide PDF has eight parts and includes work in reading comprehension, vocabulary, history, a soldier's life, the history, geography, horses and history, creating your own story and a biography. It's a wonderful addition in creating a more in-depth educational experience with the story and the Enrichment Guide.

There are numerous fun and educational activities on every page.

Day and Night

Day and Night The Story of Tucker and Shiloh in the Civil War is told by Tucker who was a horse in the U.S. Mounted Infantry and Shiloh who was a horse in the Confederate Volunteer Cavalry. This is an interesting and captivating story of two brothers, horses, get separated during the Civil War. Just as humans, some fought for the north and some for the south, Tucker is on the north side and Shiloh is on the Confederate side. This story dives into other aspects of the Civil War that not everyone has heard or thought about like women in the war and border wars. 

The Civil War is one part of history that fascinates me and a couple of years ago, I took my girls to Gettysburg and other places like Manassas and Antebellum. This story was even more interesting to them. I liked how she wrote of the various states the men were from as well as their occupations such as doctors, farmers and railroad men and how no matter their backgrounds, they united for the common good. As I noted above, my other daughter liked how the chapters changed the voice from Tucker to Shiloh and back again. She thought it provided a different perspective on what life was like pending which side one was fighting for.

Dusty's Trail

Dusty's Trail is told by Dusty who was an American Quarter Horse. His story is about the Pony Express in the 1860's. Dusty being a Quarter Horse means he can run a quarter of a mile really fast but being fast for long distance is not their forte. Dusty prefers to take on the quiet life but his faithful human companion, Levi, has other plans for him. This is a great story to tell the readers more about the Pony Express as usually people just have images of mail delivery but there was much more to it. One excerpt details them being attacked by Indians with arrows shooting about. It's another tale that provides not just a story and adventure but provides an educational opportunity.

Golden Sunrise

Golden Sunrise is told by a Palomino horse named Cheyenne during the 1800s in Texas. Another story my girls can relate to as we used to live in Texas. Those that know history and Texas know of the fight to gain independence against Mexico. One of the biggest historical events in Texas happened during this time period. There have been many stories told about the Alamo but I've never read one in the voice of a horse. She once again set an adventurous story that was charming and delightful.

Overall, it's a fun entertaining series to read and to learn more about historical facts. She is a very talented author and has a way in engaging the reader into the stories while teaching a very important subject of history.


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Check out what others on the Homeschool Review Crew, a division of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, thought by clicking on the (photo) link below:

Book Set: Appaloosy, Dusty's Trail, Golden Sunrise & Day and Night {Mattie Richardson/Appaloosy Books Reviews}

Your Amazing Name - Personalized Adventures for EVERY name! Review

Amazing Names by CrossTimber

Children love videos especially ones that have are personalized which is why I wanted to review Your Amazing Name - Personalized Adventures for EVERY name! by CrossTimber - Name Meaning Gifts. It is a fun adventure filled video that makes for a nice gift for little ones especially because it's all about them ... their name that is! We had a chance to review it and had fun watching my grandson's reaction. The video is longer than I had expected at a little over 28 minutes but he watched with his eyes glued to the computer. It was delivered digitally making it easy to store and share.

I thought it was really neat to see his artwork on the screen and then they turned it into a rocket ship. He was excited to see his name flash on different screens.

The music is playful and the character illustrations are cute and whimsical. They name the child's name over and over to really see that the video was made for them. They don't miss an opportunity to have the child's name on something on the set to further personalize the video. There are even Biblical passages throughout the videos reinforcing the Christian connection that I love. The interaction with the child's drawing was pretty cool too. 

At the end of the video, is the letter that is written to the child detailing how his or her name was chosen. It's a wonderful keepsake that the child can retain forever. He smiled big when he heard that part. It concludes with the meaning of the name and a certificate to include a personalized set of activity sheets too.  The ending with the Biblical versus were the perfect ending!

Overall, it is a fun video for your kids to have and the ability to write a letter to have forever is a nice touch!  The personalized activity sheets were a hit too.


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Check out what others on the Homeschool Review Crew, a division of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, thought by clicking on the (photo) link below:

Your Amazing Name - Personalized Adventures for EVERY name! {CrossTimber - Name Meaning Gifts Reviews}

Goldtown Beginnings Jem's Adventures by Kregel Publications Homeschool Review

Finding good books for kids is fun for me as my whole family enjoys reading. We had an opportunity to read two books from the Goldtown Beginnings Series by Kregel Publications review. The books, Jem Strikes Gold and Jem's Frog Fiasco, were full of fun and adventure.


Set in 1859, the series by Susan K. Marlow, tells the imaginative tale of the series hero, Jem, and his adventures set in Goldtown, California. It's the height of the gold rush and 7 year old Jem and his family pan gold. Jem and his dog brings readers ages 6-9 an adventure to not forget.


The 78 pages paperback is short and packed with words which is perfect for the young reader. The black and white illustrations are just right for the storyline offering no distractions. It's really a good book for the next stage reader. It is a cute story with a few main characters consisting of seven year old Jem, his younger sister Ellie, their parents, a bully named Will and a dog. The story provides the reader with a bit of history going back to the California gold rush and seeing what life was like for a child. The children back then did a lot of work and when he wasn't panning for gold, he was with his sister delivering pies and laundry. The siblings show empathy and care towards one another and face adversity against the bully child named Will. Along the way in the story, Jem meets a dog that will prove its weight in gold. The stories do note God and praying but it's not full of multiple references to Biblical versus or God. Both stories are clean and provide a lesson.

The end of the book includes two pages looking back in time and providing more history on California and gold.

Example of "New Words" to review.


This one is 80 pages and is also a paperback. It's book two in the series and Jem is now working for cafe owner, Mr. Sims, to help pay for dog food for the dog he found in the last book named Nugget. This story spans across the adventure of Jem's job responsibility of catching frogs for the menu. As Jem works, Nugget and his sister Ellie get in the way providing for a frustrating time for Jem as he learns it's not quite so easy to catch frogs. As Jem's anger elevates, Ellie becomes missing and the story line continues with finding Ellie and what happened. Of course, I don't want to give away the whole story. 

The ending two pages include a factoid about coyote holes. 


There are also some fun activities to go along with the books with a free Activity Guide. The guides include a daily schedule that coordinates with each chapter. Each book has a Guide that is 128 pages.

I first started by printing the Schedule for both books. I'm going to focus only on the Jem Strikes Gold book as my homeschool lessons. The book is broken into 24 days which can be any set of days you prefer.

For Day 1, for example, we read chapter 1, discussed the new words (11 new words) and completed activities on page 7 of the Guide.

As the days proceed, the activities increase. For Day 18, we read Chapter 9 and completed page 18, 9-12.

Overall, we enjoyed the books as part of our night time reading hour. The ability to incorporate some extra work was a bonus for me with the worksheets provided. The stories were short enough to not lose my granddaughter's attention yet exciting enough to keep her wanting more. We look forward to the next books in the series and recommend each one.


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Check out what others on the Homeschool Review Crew, a division of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, thought by clicking on the (photo) link below:

Jem Strikes Gold & Jem's Frog Fiasco  {Kregel Publications Reviews}

British Beef Tenderloin Pie - Modified

I previously wrote and shared our British Pork Pie recipe since we started on a little road of discovery all about Britain.  I'm a dual citizen (by descent) since my mom is from there thanks to a changed law that recognizes the maternal link.  I'm also an ardent Jane Austen fan and that is slowly creeping into my daughter's interest.  I instantly fell for a quirky movie based on the love of Austen titled Austenland.  Low and behold, my younger who is a self-proclaimed 'mini-me', loves it too which has inspired all this new found interest in England.  We previously had our first tea party with homemade strawberry scones followed by a luncheon with finger sandwiches which didn't go over well since they are not egg fans.  

Our latest dish was a modified pork pie using beef tenderloin or filet mignon which was very tedious to make.  

So, with only three dishes on hand, we proceeded to make our British modified pork pies.  I called my mom since she's the resident expert in this area and when I told her what the recipe entailed, she proclaimed it wasn't like the pork pies she grew up with and that they ate them cold and they had a gel substance inside.  I can honestly say I can do without the gel thank you very much!  So here are our pictures of the long process but very condensed:

The dough is made after the beef and bacon mixture have been prepared and is cooling in the refrigerator.  It was a basic flour and lard recipe and was simple to make.

I added small bits of potatoes this time.

The skillet included onions, garlic and green apple:
Half the beef and thick bacon mixture is pulsed in a food processor and returned with the other half.   It does not look too appetizing!

My two girls are the pickiest eaters ever but they really enjoyed the filet mignon pot pies!  It was a win!

Not quite like the recipe picture but it was still good!  Want to try it?  Here is the link for British Pork Pie recipe.

Our Calvert Homeschool Online Review: Making Homeschooling Easier

As we move into a new semester, I wanted to try out another online homeschool curriculum to see how my children would adapt to it. I chose to review the Calvert Homeschool Online family plan by Calvert Homeschool. With this review, we had access to all the courses from grades 3-12. This was a nice feature because it allowed me flexibility when assigning courses to each of my children. 

Signing up was easy and setting up both of my girls was equally easy. Whenever I sign on now, I see the following in the screen shot below. It's arranged really nice in an aesthetically pleasing flow. The dashboard provides a one stop area for managing my students, messages, the application, reports, and administration. The help feature is also an asset.


Once the courses are assigned, click on Calendar to see all the assignments that are due each day. If you have more than one student, it will list them. I like how I can view everything in one location. For this example, I'm going to use Little Women: Theme of Ambition as I click through the calendar.

By clicking on the link, it provides another window that provides objectives, vocabulary words and much more for each lesson.

There are many great features for the teacher/parent to access and to manage their students to include great reports.

STUDENT LOGIN - Geography 300

For my review, I will focus on History and Geography 300 with my older student. The course begins with an overview and an introductory and moves into lessons. First, the student reads the material and then answers the questions. For this course, she had a couple of assignments and then when complete, she had her first quiz. Once started, the quiz has to be completed.

In between assignments and quizzes are projects. After a few assignments, projects and quizzes, there are unit Review Activities which consists of multiple games the student can choose from. These games help the student retain what they learned and can be repeated as many times as one likes. The teacher/parent will be required to grade some questions or assignments.

As the student(s) progress, reports such as this one can be run to see how they are doing:


For the next part of the review, I'm going to focus on my younger student who utilized Science 800 - Our Atomic World. The course is set up just like the one my older student used. The videos are nice additions to the learning material and what she liked the most were the duration of each lesson. She is not always a huge fan of online curriculum but didn't mind this one at all given the shortness of each one. She liked how they mixed up reading material with videos and other exercises.

The course assignments started with core objectives. For Safety First, she was able to read the rules of safety and had the option to print off the rules to reference later. As noted above, Calvert does embed videos to compliment the lessons and they also provide a transcript of the video. After each page, they have the option to continue reading or they can proceed with answering the graded questions. Sometimes, Calvert even throws in a pop quiz to keep the students on their toes. Once they move to the question section, they can choose to enter any notes that might want to remember and they have have three attempts at answering them. Once they complete them all, they will get a final confirmation that they are done and then they can mark the lesson complete and move forward. 

Overall, both girls liked the length of each section. They thought it was a nice compliment of different ways to teach each lesson from reading to video to projects and quizzes. The only improvement I would have is to return to the course the student was in when an assignment or quiz is complete. I'm suspecting the reason it does not do that is the expectation is once an assignment is complete, the student would move to another subject. Nonetheless, it wasn't a big deal and I really liked how Calvert Homeschool has set up each subject and the curriculum. I think each assignment's length is just right and the projects are pretty cool too. We recommend. 


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Check out what others on the Homeschool Review Crew, a division of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, thought by clicking on the (photo) link below:

Calvert Homeschool Online {Calvert Homeschool Reviews}

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