Another Amazing Game from Chara Games: 3 Seeds

We’ve been so fortunate to receive another cool game to review from Chara Games.  You might remember our fun with Chara GamesCommissioned, earlier this fall (you can see our Commissioned review here).  This time, we were introduced to and played 3 Seeds, and I’m excited to share our experiences with you!

 

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What is Chara Games?

Chara Games was created by Patrick and Katherine Lysaght back in 2014.  Their goal is to provide amazing Christian gaming opportunities for families, with tabletop games.  The name of the company, chara, comes from Biblical Greek and means “unshakeable joy.”  Just the emotion we want to create with our families in not only our daily lives together, but our fun times and activities!

 

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Our first experience with Chara Games was with Commissioned, the tabletop board game focused on the growth, trials, tribulations and joys of the early Christian church.  We were so impressed with our Commissioned gaming experiences, and couldn’t wait to try out 3 Seeds.  Although the games are extremely different (a board game vs. a card game), our experiences were equally as amazing!

 

What is 3 Seeds?

 

Commissioned {Chara Games}

3 Seeds is a quick, fun card game for 2-5 players, ages 12 and up.  It takes about 30 or 45 minutes to complete a game.  In 3 Seeds, each player starts with a different crop card (Resilient Raspberries, Attentive Avocados, Limber Lettuce, and so on), drawn from the Crop deck.  Each player has a color-coded 3 Seeds pack (with a matching color game cube playing piece), which contains cards that are played on the crop card, in the categories of Time, Money, and Labor.  Each crop, in order to be harvested, requires a certain number of these cards played upon it (by any of the players).  Event cards can be played on the crops with a number of outcomes on them, such as Harvest Bonus, Time Bonus, Wild Seed, Crop Swap, etc.  Harvest cards are applied when crops are completed, and add a point value to the players’ crops.   Points are tallied on the numbered scorecard, and each player moves his colored cube (matching that player’s 3 Seeds cards) along as crops complete.  The game is finished when all crops are scored and the Crop stack is empty.  Total points are added up for each player and added to their totals, and the winner has the highest overall score.

 

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How we played 3 Seeds

We’re a 3-person family, so we followed the instructions for 2-3 players (removing the Crop cards with a 4 in the corner).  We played at our dining room table.  There is plenty of room on a tabletop (or even an ottoman) for game play.  My husband, 14-year-old son and I played together.  The first time we played, we kept out the instruction booklet and referred to it off and on, but we got the hang of the game really quickly.  The person-to-person play moves quickly, and it’s exciting to watch what we play ourselves and what the other players do.  Each player tries to complete his own crops, but helps the other players complete their own (which everyone then receives point value for).  The Event cards and the Harvest cards add extra excitement and intrigue to play.

 

3-seeds-pic-1What we thought:

My husband LOVED it.  He particularly loved adding up the point values when crops were completed.  He says, “I liked the mathematical aspects of it.  And, it was fun and easy to play.”  My son enjoyed it too.  When we played it the first time, he loved it immediately.  Later on, as a matter of fact, one night when our choice of family activity was either a favorite movie or something else, he said, “Let’s play 3 Seeds!”

 

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I’m the gardener in the family.  So the game’s subject matter (planting and harvesting a crop, along with everything that goes into that)  is automatically interesting to me.  I love the silly aspects of the plant names and descriptions.  I love that it’s easy for everyone to play.  While it does have a competitive element, it’s also very cooperative.  I found that it was a wonderful way for us to hang out together, compete in a gentle way, and master a new family favorite!

In this day and age, sometimes families with full schedules have to really be purposeful about spending quality time together in non-electronic or non-techy ways.  Of course movie nights are fun (and we are a family that really loves movies), but if your goal is to have fun while the family is really interacting, board and card games are a fabulous way to go.

And Chara Games has provided the perfect vehicles for family fun, with both 3 Seeds and CommissionedThe games are very different, yet both are quite incredible.  We both admire and fully support (and recommend!) Chara Games, and we’ll be avidly watching for any and all games they produce in the future, while continuing to enjoy the ones we have!

 

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Where to find and purchase 3 Seeds

If you’re an Amazon shopper, you’ll be thrilled!  Chara Games is selling 3 Seeds there, and you even have time to get it before Christmas!  Just click on Amazon 3 Seeds and you’ll go right to the game page.  It’s the perfect stocking stuffer OR family gift!


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Visit Chara Games at their social media sites:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CharaGames/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/CharaGames@Charagames

Enjoy!  –Wren

 

DISCLAIMER:  From time to time, finchnwren may receive a free product or service in exchange for our honest opinions expressed in our blog.  We are not required to write a positive or glowing review, nor are we additionally compensated for these reviews.  We share our own opinions, and our family’s opinion, of these products.  We’re disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.

Make Your Bible Journaling Amazing with this Bible Journaling Kit~A Review and Giveaway (Ends 12/7)

**Congratulations to Ken O, selected as the winner of the Bible Journaling Kit!”

I have just had the opportunity to be creative with the neatest product!  FlyBy/Propeller Consulting, LLC sent me this Bible Journaling Kit from Ellie Claire to review.  It has been so fun to integrate into my Bible journaling and has really inspired me!  Best yet, you have two ways to enter for a chance to win your own kit!

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What is Bible journaling?

I believe that there has been a true resurgence of the creative arts lately in America.  You can see this even at the grocery store, where you can see neat coloring books with incredible drawings just waiting for you to fill in with color.  This creative expression has found its way into Bible study and devotional times, as individuals have taken art into the white spaces of their Bibles.  Lettering, drawing, painting, and stickers all bring verses or ideas to life with vibrant color.

Publishing houses are even creating Bibles that have margins or pages especially made for Bible journaling.  I am blessed to own several Bibles for my own reading and Bible study; but I was given a Journaling Bible (published by Crossway) which I use for journaling.  You can also use a plain journal.  All you need are colored pencils, ink, and whatever else you might like to use to color and illuminate verses.

And why would you want to write or draw in your Bible anyway?  To make special note of meaningful verses.  To help you remember those verses.  To express creativity with the words of life that the Bible contains.  To use art time to create something that inspires your spirit.  I’m sure there are more reasons…those are just a few that I came up with!

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What is in this Bible Journaling Kit?

This kit has everything you need to get started with Bible journaling!  (Except your own Bible or a journal.  You’ll need to provide that.)  All of these art supplies are neatly boxed in a sturdy blue slipcase:

  • 8 colored pencils which twist to advance
  • A felt-tip archival pen
  • 3 sheets of 24 sticker tabs
  • Alphabet stickers (4 sheets of two different fonts)
  • Clear stickers with inspirational phrases and symbols (4 sheets of these, too)
  • A plastic protector mat with 8-inch ruled lines on one side, and wavy borders on the other
  • A lime green zippered case to keep all your supplies (it even has a strap to slip around the cover of your Bible)

bible-journaling-2How I used the kit and art tools

I am pretty new to Bible journaling.  I have a Pinterest board that is devoted to Bible journaling ideas.  And I have that Bible that’s made just for journaling.   I also have a TON of art supplies (we love doing art in homeschool and I teach an art class at our local coop).  But somehow, prior to receiving this Bible Journaling Kit, I just hadn’t quite been able to make the jump INTO Bible journaling.

It turns out that having the right supplies can make all the difference!

One of my favorite verses, Psalm 20:7, reminds me of a special time I spent in Russia.  So my first experience with this neat Bible Journaling Kit was to illustrate that.  I chose the famous Russian landmark, St. Basil’s Cathedral, for my drawing.  I pulled up a picture of the cathedral online and drew it free-hand (in pencil, of course!).  Then I used the twisty colored pencils from my kit to draw it in.  I was pretty excited that I had all the colors I needed!  After I colored everything in, I used the felt-tip pen to highlight and outline.  Last, I wrote in a phrase from the verse.  (I clearly need to work on my lettering some more!)

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Next, I was reading my Bible one day and ran across this verse:  “But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy and her people to be a gladness.” –Isaiah 65:18.  I loved that!  There are many places which are wonderful to visit, but how many of them were actually created to be a joy?  I knew I’d found my next verse.

I didn’t freehand this one but used outlines from a coloring book that I own, that I thought really communicated the idea of an Israeli city.  Again, first I used pencil, then the twisty coloring pencils, then outlined with the felt-tip pen.  (I still need to work on my lettering!)  Then I wrote a phrase from the verse and, at the bottom of the page, the verse address.

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Wren’s Ideas for Bible Journaling:

First of all, don’t be discouraged if you think you’re not creative or you don’t know where to start!  ANYONE can do this.  Do an online search for “Bible Journaling.”  Browse Pinterest.  There are some amazing ideas out there to get you started!  Then, get (or win!) your supplies.  Then, jump in!  You can see below that I’m doing a heart for my next journaling project.  It’s coming along, slowly but surely.  🙂

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Here’s a process which has worked for me that you can try, if this is new or seems overwhelming to you:

  1. Think of a verse that you love or that is meaningful to you.
  2. Brainstorm; what images do you think of when you meditate on this verse?
  3. Practice.  Draw those images on printer paper.
  4. Trace or draw in your Bible or journal with pencil.  (Unless you’re a super-confident artist, in which case, you can just draw already!)
  5. Color in your drawing.
  6. Find a font you like to letter a phrase or the address for your verse.  Print it out, place it under your page, and trace.  Color it in!
  7. For interesting definition, highlight your colored drawing with a black felt-tip pen.  It really makes things pop!
  8. Now—enter my giveaway.  Maybe you’ll win this cool set of Bible journaling supplies!

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Enter here for a chance to win–two ways!

First, you can enter here via my Giveaway Tools entry form.  Just click on the pink link below, which will take you to my Giveaway Tools form:

Entry Form for Bible Journaling Kit

In addition, the publisher is also giving away 5 Bible Journaling Kits!  Just enter via this link for your chance to win:

http://bit.ly/BibleJournalingKitGiveaway

Where can you purchase your own Bible Journaling Kit?

Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/BNBibleJournaling
Amazon: http://bit.ly/BibleJournaling
Books-A-Million: http://bit.ly/BAMBibleJournaling
Christian Book Distributors: http://bit.ly/CBDBibleJournaling

Enjoy!  –Wren

“Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the
Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post. Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Charming Children’s Book from the Hobans: “Charlie the Tramp” Review & Giveaway! Ends 12/6

**Congratulations to Laurie N., the winner of this giveaway!  She’ll be receiving a copy of Charlie the Tramp from FlyBy/Propeller Promotions!**

 

I have the most charming children’s book to share with you today, and a giveaway of your very own copy for you to enter!  FlyBy/Propeller Promotions kindly sent me a hardback copy of Russell and Lillian Hoban’s book, Charlie the Tramp, republished by Plough Publishing House for its 50th anniversary!

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I’m sure you are familiar with the Hobans’ other wonderful books for children:  Bread and Jam for Frances or A Bargain for Frances, about a little badger girl and her crazy adventures.  In Charlie the Tramp, we meet a different animal; little Charlie, a beaver, who is certain that he wants to be a tramp, not a beaver.  His adventures are no less interesting than Frances’ are, however.

Charlie’s loving family (his grandfather, his dad, and his mom) are surprised one day when Charlie informs them that when he grows up, he wants to be a tramp.  “A tramp!” the adults say.  His father and grandfather talk about the good work they’ve always done as beavers…but Charlie is drawn to the life he imagines tramps have.  And, he’s particularly keen on the fact that tramps don’t have to learn how to do beaver work, like chopping down trees, making dams, keeping sharp teeth.  No, tramps get to carry sticks with their belongings tied up at the end of them.  They get to sleep outside in beautiful weather.  They just get to tromp around and have a good time.

charlie-pic-2This is the life, Charlie thinks.  Dad and Grandfather tell him that they’ve got lots of little jobs for him to do.  But those little jobs just sound like work to him!

Charlie is ready for an adventure.  So he asks permission to sleep in a field.  His parents agree, so he ties up some Fig Newtons and Good-and-Plenties in his kerchief on his stick, and heads off.  Belatedly, the men remember wanting to be tramps when they were beaver children.  Mother says that all men “…want to be tramps.”

Charlie’s adventure…and the discoveries he makes while he is camping out about what he is really meant and designed to do…are gently and beautifully shared.  And of course, there’s a lovely reunion at the end of the book!

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Charlie the Tramp is a departure from many books available for children today.  Charlie’s parents trust him to come to a good conclusion, without hammering home the truths he’s actually going to discover.  It’s a sweet story (even if parents will want to remind their children that outside of the Hobans’ characters’ worlds, kids won’t safely trudge off to be tramps and sleep outside wherever!).  And it’s a story that parents can use to remind kids that they are designed by God for important work that is just perfect for them, as well as deeply satisfying, to do.  Lovingly illustrated by Lillian Hoban and penned by her husband Russell, this is a book that would be a lovely addition to family libraries.

And you can win one for your own family!  Just enter via the Giveaway Tools link below, by clicking where it says “Entry Form.”  That will take you to the entry page.  Giveaway ends at 11:59 on December 6.  Blessings!

Enjoy!  –Wren

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Russell Hoban (1925-2011) first became famous for his children’s picture books about a badger named Frances and other animal characters that have a lot in common with children we know – bedtime for Frances, A Baby Sister for Frances, Bread and Jam for Frances, and Emmit Otter’s Jug-band Christmas.

ABOUT THE ILLUSTRATOR

Lillian Hoban (1925-1998), one of America’s favorite children’s book illustrators, is best known for a young chimpanzee named Arthur and his little sister, Violet. She also illustrated six of Russell Hoban’s books about Frances the badger, which have taken their place among the great classics of children’s literature. Lillian Hoban was born in Philadelphia and attended the Philadelphia Museum School of Art. She studied dance for ten years and became a professional dancer. She began to write and illustrate her own stories only after having children, basing her tales on their experiences.

Plough editor Sam Hine says, “As a parent of young children I’ve rarely found new books of this quality. So, like many other parents, I find myself returning to the books of my own childhood. Among these Charlie the Tramp was a hands-down favorite. We’re thrilled to acquire the rights to this timeless classic and make it available to a third generation.”

OFFICIAL WEBSITE:  http://www.plough.com/en/topics/culture/short-stories/charlie-the-tramp

AMAZON:  https://www.amazon.com/Charlie-Tramp-Russell-Hoban/dp/0874867800/  

“Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255:  “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”):  Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway.  Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation.  I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller /FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again.  Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

Our Review of Chara Games’ Cool Board Game: Commissioned

We have had a chance to review something that we normally don’t get to check out: an awesome board game from Chara Games!  It’s called Commissioned and it really is like nothing our family has ever played before.  Let me tell you about our experiences!

 

commissioned-banner-1What is Chara Games?

Well, first of all, you’re going to want to know what “chara” means.  If you’re a Greek scholar, you already know…but for all of the rest of us, here’s the definition:  “unshakeable joy.”  Now who wouldn’t want to purchase things from a gaming company with a name like that?  Patrick and Katherine Lysaght created Chara Games to produce Christian-themed board games which will bring the whole family together for fun, fellowship, and (of course) joy.  Currently, Chara Games has produced two games;  Commissioned and 3 Seeds, which we’ll be reviewing a little later this month for you.  (Stay tuned for that….after experiencing Commissioned, I have high hopes for more gaming fun with 3 Seeds!)

 

commissioned-pic-1Commissioned is….

a tabletop board game based on actual history, in which players build the early Christian church, starting in Jerusalem (where, you might know, the Christian church began) and moving out into Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the known world at that time.  The game is designed for 2-6 players, and those aged 14 (or even, perhaps, 13) and up will play and enjoy the game most effectively, although younger players can definitely play with the help of a parent or an older sibling.

Players choose to play as one of the first apostles (Peter, John, James, Andrew, Paul, or Barnabas).  Each of these has a small playing board which describes the apostle and provides instructions for the game and for what happens during each turn.  To begin the game, players are given 6 Faith Cards.  Then, the first player takes the shepherd’s staff and draws a Trial Card, which determines what happens to that player and the board during that turn.  The Trial Card describes a struggle that the apostle or early church faced.  In Commissioned, those trials can include losing a missionary, blocking church growth, losing church members, or imprisonment, to name a few.  There are also increasing levels of difficulty, so once you’ve mastered the basics of the game you can continue to play other interesting challenges.  The goal is to build the Church and start new groups in different regions and cities, along with collecting the books of the New Testament, building your faith deck, and persevering through the trials.  Generally, game play takes about one hour from start to finish.  Watch out, as you don’t want your churches to be extinguished!

 

commissioned-pic-2How we played it

I am someone who would always rather read directions than watch a video on how to do something.  (I realize in this day and age, I’m in the minority!)  However, this is one time when you absolutely want to watch Patrick Lysaght’s 24-minute “How To Play” video.  (This is found at the Commissioned link.)  This game is so enjoyable, but just reading the directions (which are very clearly written and beautifully illustrated) wasn’t quite enough for us.  So, the first two times my husband, son and I played Commissioned, we watched Mr. Lysaght’s video AS we were playing.  He describes how to set up the board, what each game piece or card does, and then he takes you through playing an actual game.  The first time, we sort of understood it.  But the second time, our reaction was, “OH!  That’s how you do it.  How cool!”

We’re a 3-person family, so we had a perfect number of players (although clearly, we could have had more people over to play and things would also have worked well).

 

commissioned-pic-3What our family thought

We loved it!  We enjoyed playing a board game together; honestly, we’ve played more cards or video games in the last couple of months than board games.  So it was wonderful to have a fascinating game we could enjoy together.  Our son is 14, so I think it was also good timing for him, as there are some tough things that happened to the early Christian church that do come up in this game; like lions, imprisonment, persecution.  Yet the cool thing is that players can see, in a gaming fashion that I know they can then apply to real life, that tribulations CAN be overcome.  Plus, it’s just fun!

I found it interesting to see how the three of us reacted as we played through the game.  In many ways, Commissioned is a collaborative game, so players work together using their Faith cards to overcome struggles.  My son did a great job in seeing what cards would most benefit us as we worked to overcome the struggle.  My husband is apparently the strategy king; he reminded us here and there how we could move in ways that would benefit the church overall.  Me?  I just loved playing the game with my guys, and being reminded of some of the amazing things God did in the early church.  We all liked the way it gives a very visual image of what life was like in the early church, from a macro perspective.

We say:  big thumbs up!

 

commissioned-pic-5Who would enjoy Commissioned?

If you, or someone you know:

  • loves tabletop or board games
  • enjoys world-building games
  • has played that Catan game and liked it
  • is looking for ways to enjoy family game time
  • is interested in learning how the Christian church might have spread
  • or is just looking for a fascinating new game…

then you might just love Commissioned!  You don’t have to be a Christian to thoroughly enjoy this game…although enjoying history would probably be a plus.  The game is interesting historically, extremely fun and fascinating to play, and something that we truly enjoyed.  The more you play it, the more you’ll understand it; but those who’ve played world-building, collaborative games before will probably get it immediately.

Honestly, anyone who likes board games should check this out!

 

commissioned-pic-4You can find Commissioned at:

Visit Chara Games to purchase Commissioned.  And read more about this neat company while you’re there!  Other Crew members of the Homeschool Review Crew also played and reviewed Commissioned.  If you click on the banner below, you can read about their experiences!

3-seeds-reap-where-you-sow-3_zpswpje7juhAlso–we’re really excited about reviewing another game from Chara Games called 3 Seeds.  Keep an eye out for that review, which is coming soon!

Visit Chara Games at their social media sites:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CharaGames/
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/CharaGames/  @Charagames

Enjoy! –Wren

Commissioned {Chara Games}Crew Disclaimer

Accountable2You ~ Our Experiences & Review

Recently, we were selected to try a new program that is guaranteed to result in meaningful conversations between parents and kids:  Accountable2You‘s Family Plan.  Homeschool Review Crew members reviewed a variety of plans from Accountable2You.  Let me share with you about our experiences!

 

accountable2you-bannerWhat is Accountable2You?

Accountable2You is a company which has built programs and apps which can enable families to monitor their own  Internet and website use.  It helps families–both parents and kids–to use their computers and devices with integrity and transparency, and encourage them to have honest conversations about that use.  There are four plans which users can sign up for:

  • The Individual Plan, for one person’s use.  Up to 6 devices can be used with this plan.
  • The Family Plan, for (obviously) families.  Up to 20 devices (computers, cell phones, tablets) can be monitored with this plan.  The members of one household can use this, even if a child or children are away at college.
  • The Group Plan could be used by a group with various members who aren’t necessarily related but are part of group.
  • The Small Business Plan is ideal for businesses whose employees might have online access.

The person in charge of the plan uses the Accountable2You website to set up accountability partners.  They download the Accountable2You software onto computers, tablets, or cell phones.  Then, the account holder can set up words which can flagged when the child or accountability partner searches for them or enters websites with those words.  The account holder can get text alerts or daily emails which detail the computer use of all accountability partners.  In addition, there is a GPS locator option for phones so that parents can see where their kids (if the kids have cell phones) are at a given time.  Time limits for device use can also be set.

Why we felt this might be helpful for us

Does this sound a little Orwellian to you?  As I was writing the paragraph above, that is sort of what I thought it might sound like!  However, Accountable2You is not spyware.  It’s rather a healthy way for parents to keep tabs on what types of websites their kids are using; how much time they’re spending online; and also a way to keep kids safe, by providing the kind of information sharing within a family where those sites can be viewed and discussed by a responsible parent to a child.

The Internet is an awesome tool.  I think occasionally of how wonderful it would have been to access its enormous resources in previous years, or when I lived overseas and often did public speaking.  At that time, I was limited to the study resources I had taken with me; while we all had email accounts there just wasn’t a lot of search engine capability with the Internet in those days.  (It wasn’t as long ago as it sounds!)

However, as we all know, there is a dark side of the web.  As parents, we know this.  And we can personally avoid those sites with objectionable or even dangerous materials.  But part of parenting is teaching our kids about that kind of safety.  How can you know what sites your child is accessing—so that you can discuss that with them and set healthy and protective limits?  Accountable2You enables you to do just that.

 

a2u-example-2How we used it

We downloaded the Accountable2You software on our family computer, which sits just off the family room in our dining room.  It’s always located there so that anyone can see what the user is doing at the moment; this was a recommendation years ago from our pediatrician and we still follow it.  Our family computer is the main place our son does his gaming, and he also visits the LEGO website via it.

Next, I set up the list of words that would flag me if sites containing them were accessed.  I won’t be too specific and tell you exactly what I entered, but the list covered words that would likely lead to questionable websites as well as those related to gaming that I know already are frequently accessed.  Accountable2You also has an automatic listing of words that could indicate unhealthy use.

I didn’t download the software onto my Kindle Fire for the reason that there just isn’t room.  For the last 4-6 weeks or so, I keep getting a pop-up message that says, “Your Kindle is using 90% of available storage.  Please click here to delete items.”  But, everything I have on there is something I want there….so I ignore that.  Anyway, it kept me from being able to install the Accountable2You software.

I set up our account to send us daily emails, called Activity Reports, of the sites which were accessed.  You can see one of those above.  It is completely thorough and lists everything that was visited on that day.  You can also click through those emails to the Accountable2You website, which shows you a full report.  (Those are kept for 15 days, by the way, but can be downloaded onto an Excel spreadsheet on your own PC.)

 

 

a2u-pic-3Our impressions and recommendations

Overall, I give Accountable2You good grades (so to speak).  I love the daily emails which help me see what my son has accessed over the past day.  He and I talk about where he can go online already, but this tells me (and him) just how much time he’s actually spending online.  That kind of record-keeping is useful; I’ve already seen him back off using a particular site just because the site informed him how much time he was already spending on it.

It is not a filter (although the company does have some recommendations for that sort of product).  But it provides a way for parents and children to speak frankly and openly about the things they’re doing online, and how long they’re doing them.  We have talked about my son’s website visits, but thus far they were already things I knew about and had approved.  However, if something else ever came up, I could see it in the Activity Report and could engage my son in conversation if necessary.  It could also provide ways for spouses to do the same thing with each other.

So for us, it wasn’t something I used for GPS locating or time monitoring (on that second one, simply because he’s always in the same room with me when he’s online).  Rather, it was a way to provide conversation points and really just illumination for me about the ways my son’s heart is engaged when he is online.  I appreciate that so much because that helps me to engage with him myself, even better.

If you’re looking for a way to monitor your child’s online activity, and a way to be able to talk with them about it and help set appropriate boundaries, you may just love Accountable2You.

 

a2u-pic-4Find Accountable2You at….

You may sign up for the Family Plan and any of the other plans at  Accountable2You.  Currently, it’s priced at $9.99 per month.  What a useful tool to help engage families about Internet safety and wise use!

You can also visit Accountable2You at their social media sites:

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/accountable2you
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/accountable2youllc

Other Homeschool Review Crew members reviewed the same plan that we did; and some used others.  Click on the banner below to find out more about their experiences!

Enjoy! –Wren

 

Accountability across all your devices {Accountable2You}Crew Disclaimer

Wonderful, Meaningful Gifts from CrossTimber ~ A Review & Giveaway!

We have had the most beautiful experience for our family recently!  We were selected to review CrossTimber for the Homeschool Review Crew, and received their Personalized Framed Plaque with Name Meaning and Bible Verse, with the option to choose any name for personalization that we wished.  (I’ll share more on that below!)

 

crosstimber-bannerSo what’s in a name?

Everyone’s name is special to him or her.  And important.  You know how good it feels when someone you admire or just met got your name right.  We feel seen, and connected, when people use our names and use them well!

But, there is so much more to a name than that.  It is part of our identities and becomes part of our makeup.  It is so very personal and really connects to our hearts.

John Dehnart and his family know this.  In fact, John has spent years, all the way back to his high school driver’s ed class, noticing the meaning of others’ names, investigating them, and blessing the owners of those names with the special meanings of their names.  What a ministry!  This grew out of John’s own printing business and personal interactions with other students, and over the years since then (during which he married, and he and his wife are raising a family) it has blossomed into a wonderful business, CrossTimber.  All focused around sharing the special meanings of individuals’ names from a Christian perspective, and inspiring verses of Scripture to go with them.  How encouraging!

Personalized Framed Plaque with Name Meaning and Bible Verse {CrossTimber} Reviews

What does CrossTimber do?

CrossTimber researches the meaning of individuals’ names.  They really look deep for what God would say about a name, based on its original meaning in its original language.  They also look at history, for others who bore that name and what can be inferred from that.  Then, they connect it with Scripture verses (or a verse) which embodies that.

From there, CrossTimber offers beautiful and encouraging products which can display these names, their meanings, and the Scripture verses.  These gifts can range anywhere from framed prints, to coffee mugs, to bookmarks, and much more!  All of the gifts can be personalized with particular backgrounds (and CrossTimber has a LOT that you can choose from) which include landscapes, animals, musical instruments, castles and lighthouses….hundreds of choices!

When a person wishes to order one of these gifts, he can use the Chat Box at CrossTimber to ask John about his name.  After some research, John will respond with that name’s meaning and verses.  Then, the person can place his order using that information.  He’ll select backgrounds, frames (if he’s ordering one of the framed prints of a name and its meaning), and anything additional he’d like.  Then—the ball is in CrossTimber’s court!  They print and prepare the gift and then ship it to the purchaser.

crosstimber-mMy experience

CrossTimber very generously offered Homeschool Review Crew members a beautiful, personalized gift:  a Personalized Framed Plaque with Name Meaning and Bible Verse.  I was particularly interested in what John might have discovered about my name.  I really love my name; but do you know what it means?  “Dark.”  I have to say that since I’m not a Star Wars Sith Lord and really try to stay away from the Dark Side….I never really liked that!  Of course, I was named after a great character in a movie; and I’ve always liked everything else about my name.  Just not its original definition.

Well, I was not the first person to feel that way!  When I contacted John about the meaning of “Melanie,” he responded with the most incredible and amazing account of my name and what it meant.  There were some amazing Christian women in the 5th century with my name.  The meaning John sent to me and to others with my name?  “Hidden and Protected.  One who is a Child of God.”  Oh!  How beautiful.  And how special to me.

He also included a Bible verse which fits that meaning seamlessly.  So I couldn’t have been happier with the results!

(My guys' names are blurred for their own preferences)

(My guys’ names are blurred for their own preferences)

Our family’s experiences

I was so happy with my own name that I emailed John back and asked him about the meanings of my husband’s and son’s names.  CrossTimber had given me a Personalized Framed Plaque with Name Meaning and Bible Verse free of charge for myself.  I had had such an amazing experience myself that I ordered (and paid for) the same framed names and meanings for my husband and son.  John gave me a discount for that order and included free bookmarks with our names and meanings which matched the framed prints.

So what would I say about CrossTimber?

Occasionally you meet people who are in the jobs that seem to be the absolute perfect fit for them; vocations where they are able to use all of their giftings, their temperaments, and their abilities.  This is truly John Dehnart and CrossTimber!  It is so obvious that he finds incredible joy in connecting people with the true and life-giving meanings and Scriptures of their names.  And not only that; he does it well, and he does it right!  Serious investigation truly goes into each name.  It’s not in any way random or careless.  And for me?  My experience with John and with CrossTimber couldn’t have been more positive or encouraging.  I loved what I learned about my name and its meaning and history.  And now I have a lovely framed gift to remind me of that on a daily basis!

Check out CrossTimber for lovely and inspiring gifts for people you’d like to bless or encourage.  You can purchase truly wonderful and encouraging gifts that others will treasure for a lifetime.  You’ll be glad you did!  You can also click on the banner below to see what other Crew members’ experiences with CrossTimber were like.  Lots of names out there—and lots of neat experiences!  You can visit CrossTimber’s social media pages at:

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/meaning.name/
Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/crosstimber

CrossTimber 2016 giveaway

And, you can enter to win your own beautiful name meaning gift!

CrossTimber is hosting a giveaway where you can enter to win your own name meaning gift!  Through Dec 4th, CrossTimber is sponsoring a Name Gift Giveaway.  Enter the giveaway for a chance to win another free Name Gift or $10 gift certificate!   Winner of the Grand Prize may select either a Personalized Mug OR a Name Plaque or 8×10 Plaque!  9 others win $10 Gift Certificates.

Just click on www.Meaning.Name/giveaway.html to enter.  Remember, the giveaway closes Dec 4th, 2016. Or you may enter via the Rafflecopter form below!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Enjoy!  –Wren

 

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Best Freezer Meals Plan Ever! finchnwren’s Review of MyFreezEasy

How thrilled I was to be selected to review MyFreezEasy for the Homeschool Review Crew!  My family received MyFreezEasy.com Freezer Meal Plan Membership  to use and review.  I only have three words to say about this:  love, love, love!

myfreezeasy

MyFreezEasy is…..

…hands down the best freezer meal resource I’ve run across.  What is a freezer meal, you ask?  A freezer meal is a recipe that you’ve made ahead of time, placed in ziplocs or foil pans, and popped in the freezer.  Ideally, you prepare several at a time.  Then throughout the week, when both meal creativity and energy might be at a low point, you have all the ingredients for a delicious and healthy meal ready to go.  You can either cook it in the evening or put it in the crockpot in the morning.  Either way, you have something healthy and delicious to feed your family, but all you have to do is provide heat of some sort!

myfreezeasy-1Erin Chase at MyFreezEasy has created an incredible array of delicious, healthy freezer meal plans.  Via subscription, you can access these meal plans, which come in all these different varieties for different taste buds and preferences.  With the Basic Plan, you have these meal types available:

  • Traditional
  • Gluten-Free
  • Slow Cooker
  • Clean Eats
  • and the 20 Meals Plan, which has a variety of protein and meal categories

With the Premium Membership, subscribers have access to the first five plan types, plus the ability to customize their family dinners by adding or subtracting meals.  Each month, subscribers get brand-new meals for that month, which also correspond nicely to the seasons the months fall in.

Erin’s meal plans contain the recipes themselves, shopping lists (by recipe, category, or store section), assembly instructions, and actual cooking instructions.  Each of these enables home cooks to prepare amazing meals and save money,  time and energy!

 

myfreezeasy-2Here’s how we used our membership:

With the Premium Annual Membership, we had access to *every*single*recipe* on the MyFreezEasy website.  (For the current month, that is; menus are rotated, so you’ll want to save each month’s to a file on your own computer so that you can access your faves again.)  So to begin, I saved a number of menus for September to our PC: the Clean Eats Plan, the All Chicken Meals Plan and the All Ground Beef Meals Plan.  I selected the following 5 meals to prepare for my first week, and printed copies of them so that I had ready access:

  • Paleo Minestrone Soup
  • Dutch Oven Italian Chicken and Potatoes
  • Chicken Fajita Bake
  • Peach & Balsamic Chicken Skillet
  • Frito Pie filling
  • I also threw in soft taco filling

On a Saturday afternoon (which is prime meal prep time for me), I laid out the 5 printed recipes around my kitchen.  Next, I got out 5 large bowls or pans.  I then got out 6 (remember, the extra taco filling) ziploc freezer bags, wrote the names of the recipes on them in Sharpie (Erin Chase also provides printable labels you can tape onto the bags), and opened them and placed them in the bowls.  (This gives me a stable way to fill them and keep the ingredients from spilling out of the bags as I prepare.)

Next, I got out the canned goods and spices that would go in each bag.  I chopped any fresh veggies I’d be using (onion, carrots, zucchini, etc.) and got out any frozen fruits and veggies necessary.  I opened the cans so that they were ready to go, and pre-measured the spices into ramekins.  I browned 3 pounds of ground beef and drained the fat (that was the only protein I had to pre-cook).  Then—filling the bags!

Following the recipes’ assembly instructions, I dumped the veggies, the spices, and the proteins into the bags.  (Often, I’d leave out any extra liquids to be added at cooking time for two reasons: first, that takes up less freezer space overall; and second, it’s important to add room-temperature liquid to frozen crockpot meals to prevent shock or breakage to the crockery liner.)  Once I’d finished filling the bags, I sealed them, squeezed out any excess air, and put them in the freezer.  Ta-da!  A week’s worth of meals!  (It did take me a little over an hour to prep all of these; but I really think that much of that is due to the fact that all these recipes were new to me.)

 

myfreezeasy-3What about the recipes?

All I can say is—-delicious!!  The process itself is so easy to do and really does save time and money.  But all of that would mean nothing if the recipes themselves weren’t tasty.

But they were.

And not just tasty!  Delectable.  Filling.  Full of fiber, protein, veggies.  And most definitely tasting like they came out of a great home cook’s kitchen!

Our family’s favorites, so far, were varied.  The Dutch Oven Italian Chicken and Potatoes.  (What an imaginative use of baby potatoes!)  And the Italian Sausage Skillet.  (My son’s absolute fave so far; it’s one we’re already repeating.)  The Peach & Balsamic Chicken Skillet (because what could be better than balsamic vinegar in a sauce?).  Also, the Chicken Fajita Bake.  Sadly, the minestrone and the Frito Pie filling had to be pitched before we could eat them, because I discovered that our favorite organic grocery store had sold us some bad ground beef.  (Fortunately, I was the only one who ate it…so that’s something!)

But let me tell you what’s on this week’s menu.  Slow Cooker Red Pepper Chicken.  Italian Sausage Skillet (again).  Chicken Fajita Bake (again).  Best Meat Loaf Ever.  Red and Green Chicken Enchilada Bake.  I can’t wait!

 

myfreezeasy-4And this is why I love MyFreezEasy!

After a full day of homeschool, piano, and/or coop classes, I am not as energetic as I was when I woke up at 6:00AM.  (Understatement.)  So coming up with dinner at 4 or 5PM?  Not my best hours, for sure!  So, to have a meal plan in which all I have to do is to select the meals, then print the recipes and add the ingredients to the grocery list (my awesome husband is our grocery shopper), then assemble the meals, so that all I have to do on a given day is put them in the crockpot or into the oven?  (Or maybe into a skillet on the stovetop.)  Most definitely a lifesaver!  Here are my top reasons why I love MyFreezEasy….and why I think you will too!

  • The meals are healthy! and delicious!
  • They are incredibly easy to prepare beforehand
  • They help keep our grocery bill low
  • They make my family happy
  • The variety is interesting and ever-changing
  • MyFreezEasy makes meal planning and prep easy and non-stressful
  • The meals can be customized for our own family’s needs

I really could go on and on.  But I think you get the idea!

 

myfreezeasy-5You can find MyFreezEasy here:

Visit MyFreezEasy.  Check out Erin Chase’s awesome MyFreezEasy.com Freezer Meal Plan Membership.  It is worth every penny…and then some!  You can also read about other Crew members’ experiences with MyFreezEasy.  And you can also learn more by stopping by  MyFreezEasy‘s social media links!

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/freezeasy
Instagram:  http://www.instagram.com/freezeasy
Pinterest:  http://www.pinterest.com/5dollardinners/freezeasy

Enjoy! –Wren

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