Natalie’s Reading – August 2009

August 31, 2009 Categories: Books , Homeschooling | Comments Off  

Halfway to Forever by Karen Kingsbury
False Notes (Nancy Drew: All New Girl Detective #3) by “Carolyn Keene”
Inkspell by Cornelia Funke
Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke
Coming Attractions by Robin Jones Gunn
High Risk (Nancy Drew: All New Girl Detective #4) by “Carolyn Keene”
Princess in the Spotlight by Meg Cabot
A Time to Dance by Karen Kingsbury
To Dance: A Ballerina’s Graphic Novel by Siena Cherson Siegel and Mark Siegel
Beyond the Grave (39 Clues, Book 4) by Jude Watson
The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
Lights, Camera… (Nancy Drew: All New Girl Detective #5) by “Carolyn Keene”

Review: Kitchen Basics: Rules, Tools, and Etiquette – plus a terrific giveaway for homeschooling families!

August 30, 2009 Categories: Contests , Homeschooling | 4 Comments  

(Kitchen Basics: Rules, Tools, and Etiquette was provided to me by Ginger Kids for the purpose of review.)


Multicultural cooking company Ginger Kids’ Fun makes it simple for parents to get cooking with kids with their recently launched Kitchen Basics: Rules, Tools and Etiquette – a cookbook introducing children to the kitchen with delicious recipes that celebrate other cultures. These simple recipes let kids easily prepare meals such as Hungarian Crepes and Sushi rolls. Cartoon characters such as Jeffrey Referee, Anna Bandana and Nine Ballerina share tips throughout the book on cooking rules, tools and etiquette.

Kitchen Basics: Rules, Tools and Etiquette features:

~ The ABCs of Baking including important kitchen safety tips
~ Nutrition checklist
~ Cooking terms and tools
~ Measurement and common abbreviation table
~ Dinner table etiquette tips

This book has caused quite a bit of excitement at our house, and has made the kids want to help with dinner – which is a pretty cool thing! Jonathan was so excited to try some of the recipes that he even sat down and read all the ABCs of baking and safety tips and read through all the recipes to decide which one to try first. And he’s my “Aw, Mom, do I have to read?” kid.

The great thing about this book is that it isn’t just a cookbook; it also includes a lot of great information to get your kids familiar with the different utensils, measurements, and skills needed to follow any recipe.

Kitchen Basics: Rules, Tools, and Etiquette is available to purchase from Ginger Kids.

Now, for the really exciting part:

Passport to the World Membership Giveaway

Would you love to embark on a world adventure with your kids, without ever having to pack a suitcase? The Passport to the World Club from Ginger Kids Fun! is the perfect way to give your child an exciting, hands-on world adventure in the comfort of your home! By choosing one of two affordable monthly membership options, kids will have a blast cooking up new international cuisine, interacting with children from other cultures, learning new languages and more.

The monthly membership provides a fascinating view of the world by engaging the five senses. Children will experience a wide variety of activities in a magical, interactive online journey of each monthly destination. They will listen to a fun-filled musical tour of each cultural destination with a CD from Putumayo Kids. A hands-on cooking experience teaches kids to practice their creativity and imagination, and the result will fill their senses with delightful aromas and delicious flavors.

The Passport to the World Club membership will be available for purchase at starting September 2009. Memberships can be purchased on a month to month basis or as a twelve month VIP package. Sample destinations include Jamaica, Greece, Italy and Israel! Those that join the twelve month program will receive a FREE welcome package complete with Ginger Kids apron, Kitchen Basics: Rules, Tools & Etiquette cookbook binder, Cookbook binder with country tabs to store 12-months of recipes and a Ginger Kids Passport.

To celebrate the Passport to the World launch on 9/9/09, Ginger Kids Fun! is hosting ‘9 Days of Giveaways’ and is giving one lucky reader a three-month online membership. Kids will love the easy –to-navigate online portal providing an entertaining and educational platform to learn about different cultures. Watch a preview of the site here.

Doesn’t that sound terrific? I am really excited about this giveaway. Here are the details:

~ For one entry, leave a comment on this post.

~ For a second entry, post about this giveaway on your own blog, with a link to this post. Then come back and leave a comment with the link to your post for verification.

~ For a third and/or fourth entry, post this giveaway on Twitter or Facebook, and then leave a comment telling me which one you did.

~ All entries must be received by 11:59 pm PST, September 6, 2009. On Monday, September 7th, I will use to draw a winner. I will then forward the winner’s e-mail to GingerKids and they’ll contact the winner with information about signing on to their free membership.

Good luck!

Congratulations, Natalie!

August 29, 2009 Categories: Kid Stuff | 4 Comments  

Natalie performed at the fair this weekend, singing two songs. She made it through rounds one and two to perform in the Grand Championship, and was singled out for a special award for one of her songs. I am so proud of her! You can see the videos of both songs at Kevin’s blog.

Extreme Health Makeover: Week Four

August 25, 2009 Categories: Extreme Health Makeover | 6 Comments  


Another week has gone by, and 3.4 more pounds have hit the dust. Woo hoo!

At last night’s meeting, we discussed LAB values. I need to go in to the clinic to have some blood drawn (oh, goodie!) so they can check my cholesterol and glucose levels. The doctor who is on the leadership team – and also happens to be our family doctor, Dr. Bacon (he’s terrific!) – gave us some very encouraging statistics. He talked about metabolic syndrome – which is basically a progression of health conditions that leads to diabetes and heart disease. He said that long-term studies have shown that lifestyle changes like the ones that we are making are more effective than any pill on the market for preventing diabetes and heart disease. That’s pretty amazing!

So, next week, I’ll fast overnight and get my blood drawn. It will be good to know the values (if anyone wants to know what healthy levels are, I can tell you – I took very good notes :) ) and also to see the difference at the end of the year.

Featured DVD: SpongeBob SquarePants: To SquarePants or Not to SquarePants

Categories: TV on DVD | Comments Off  

(SpongeBob SquarePants: To SquarePants or Not to SquarePants was provided to me by Special Ops Media for the purpose of this feature.)


The release of a new SpongeBob SquarePants DVD is always cause for rejoicing at our house, especially since the puny cable package we can afford does not carry Nickelodeon. The kids will still watch the yellow square-panted hero, though, on DVD – over and over again. So I’m also glad when a new one comes out.

SpongeBob SquarePants: To SquarePants or Not to SquarePants includes the following episodes:

To SquarePants or Not to SquarePants
SpongeBob’s shrunk his last pair of square pants, and no store has any others! Without his square pants, will anyone recognize him?

Squid’s Visit
Squidward says he wouldn’t leave the comfort of his home to visit SpongeBob. So SpongeBob redecorates the pineapple to look just like Squiddy’s place!

The Splinter
When SpongeBob gets a stubborn splinter, Squidward threatens him with being…sent home!

Slide Whistle Stooges
Patrick and SpongeBob use their new slide whistles to add sound effects to Squidward’s every move!

Boating Buddies
To regain his impeccable driving record, Squidward has to attend boating school…with SpongeBob!

The Krabby Kronicle
For Mr. Krabs’ new tabloid, SpongeBob wants to write the truth. Mr. Krabs wants “wild and juicy” – true or not!

The Slumber Party
Pearl asks Mr. Krabs to leave the house so he doesn’t ruin her party. So Mr. Krabs sends SpongeBob to crash the bash!

Grooming Gary
Gary gets a makeover to compete in a pet show. He can’t stand the primping, and neither can any of the competitors!

SpongeBob SquarePants: To SquarePants or Not to SquarePants is available now on DVD. The DVD special features include an animation art gallery with storyboard panels and character art.

Featured DVD: The Suite Life on Deck: Anchors Away!

Categories: TV on DVD | Comments Off  

(The Suite Life on Deck: Anchors Away was provided to me by Click Communications for the purpose of review.)


Set sail for fun and adventure with Zack and Cody in The Suite Life on Deck: Anchors Away! The guys are somewhat more mature, but that doesn’t stop them from pulling high-seas high jinks in four outrageously funny episodes from the smash-hit Disney Channel original series! Plus, this DVD includes the two-part pilot episode, bonus episodes, cast interviews and more!

The coolest twins on TV (Cole and Dylan Sprouse) are still living the “sweet life,” though now they’ve checked out of the Tipton Hotel and moved aboard a luxury cruise ship, the SS Tipton. While juggling the ups and downs of Seven Seas High School and their jobs on the ship, the guys hang out with the crew (including Brenda Song as London and introducing Debbie Ryan as Bailey) or pursue their latest crushes (Cody goes overboard trying to impress Bailey and Zack woos a beautiful first-class passenger). And life gets really exciting when their pal Maddie (Ashley Tisdale) makes a surprise visit and wins the heart of a prince!

Natalie’s review: I love The Suite Life of Zack and Cody and this is just as funny and crazy. A lot of people may think it is kind of stupid, and I can see that, but I think that this show is awesome. I do recommend this to everyone!

The Suite Life on Deck: Anchors Away! is available now on DVD. The DVD special features include two bonus episodes, and an interview with Debbie Ryan, the newest cast member.

Featured DVD: Sonny With a Chance: Sonny’s Big Break

Categories: TV on DVD | Comments Off  

(Sonny With a Chance: Sonny’s Big Break was provided to me by Click Communications for the purpose of review.)


Sonny Munroe takes Hollywood by storm in Sonny With a Chance, the fresh new comedy about a show within a show! In Volume One: Sonny’s Big Break, get to know Sonny from the very beginning with four hilarious episodes that will have the whole family laughing out loud!

Demi Lovato (Camp Rock, Princess Protection Program) stars as Sonny, a Midwestern girl who gets her big break when she is invited to join the cast of the hit teen sketch comedy show So Random! Sonny can’t wait to become friends with her castmates, but not everyone is thrilled to share the spotlight, so Sonny must rely on her quick wit, talent and good humor to get her through any challenge. Come along for the ride and share the excitement as Sonny lives her dream!

Natalie’s review: This show is hilarious and awesome. My brother Noah was laughing out loud also. Demi Lovato is a great actor and this show fits her perfectly. I totally recommend Sonny With a Chance to you all! I know you will all like it!

Sonny With a Chance: Sonny’s Big Break is available now on DVD. The DVD special features include: Mackenzie Falls season finale cliffhanger short – watch the rival show that everyone’s talking about!; “Sonny in the Middle” Bonus Episode; and Demi’s Big Break – check out Demi Lovato’s audition.

Big catch-up post, plus some links

August 23, 2009 Categories: Books , Homeschooling , Kid Stuff , Movies , This and That , Videos | 1 Comment  

Whew – it’s been a whirlwind week, with no signs of slowing down. Adding in my weekly support meetings and weekly training sessions, plus three trips a week to the gym on my own, has made things feel very busy – not that I’m complaining, since it’s working. Plus we have one more week of summer vacation before our homeschooling year starts back up on the 31st, and the kids want to suck as much free time and fun up as they can, while they can, so there has been a lot of shuttling kids to the city pool and park.

Friday, the kids and I headed down to Silverwood for our once-a-year amusement park day. We went with a friend and her daughter. The kids all read their 10 hours (outside of school reading) for a free ticket. Why don’t they have a similar program for adults? My admission ticket was $43.75. Add to that snacks – not even a meal, just snacks, because they won’t let you bring in any of your own food – and it was a very expensive day. Glad it only happens once a year. And also grateful that they do have the reading program for kids, or we would never be able to afford it.

The kids were all at sleepovers last night, so Kevin and I went out to Mexican food to split an order of chicken fajitas, and then came home and watched Psych on DVD. I love that show. Slept in this morning. I have to go pick up the boys here in a couple of hours, and then this evening we head south to Mom and Dad’s to celebrate Mom’s birthday.

The upcoming week will be just as busy, but with fun stuff. We’re having an extra play date with Michelle Tuesday afternoon, because she leaves on her dream trip to Edinburgh and London on Thursday. For four weeks. Sob. I’m so happy for her that she gets to go, but what will I do without our weekly gabfests?

Then, next weekend is the fair, and Natalie is competing. She will be singing twice for auditions on Thursday, and then if she moves on, again for the Talent Show on Friday, and, possibly, the Grand Revue on Saturday. She had an extra lesson with her voice teacher on Saturday, and I cried: she sounded so beautiful and looked so grown up.

After our fair weekend, it’s time to get back into our school routine. I’m ready. I think the kids are, too, though they might not admit it.

Well, it’s almost time to go pick up the kids, and I haven’t even put my makeup on. I just have enough time to share the links I’ve been collecting:

~ Win some cool Simply Fun family games at 5 Minutes for Giveaways.

~ Sherry has a great post about Miley Cyrus’s recent exhibition of poor choices.

~ Project 2996 is a project for bloggers to help commemorate the Americans lost on 9/11.

~ Am I the only grammar geek who has dreamed of doing this?

~ This little boy is an amazing guitarist.

~ Ever feel stumped for the perfect retort? Check out this list of imaginative insults.

Here’s what’s been going on at Books and Movies lately (By the way, Books and Movies was nominated for two Book Blogger Appreciation Week Awards: Best General Review Blog and Best YA Lit Blog, so thanks to anyone who nominated me!):

~ Book Review: Daniel X: Watch the Skies by James Patterson & Ned Rust
~ Literary Road Trip: YA Author Chris Crutcher
~ Book Review: Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant
~ Book Review: The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall
~ Enter to win a copy of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
~ Movie Review: Lost in Austen
~ Book Review: Ten Big Ones by Janet Evanovich
~ Some movie links and trailers
~ Author Interview: Elle Newmark, author The Book of Unholy Mischief
~ Book Review: Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon

Hannah Montana: The Movie – Winner!

August 22, 2009 Categories: Contests | 2 Comments  


Congrats to Karen, who wins the copy of Hannah Montana: The Movie! Please watch your e-mail so I can get your mailing info.

Extreme Health Makeover: Week Three

August 18, 2009 Categories: Extreme Health Makeover | 3 Comments  


Another good meeting last night, where one of last year’s program graduates introduced us to SparkPeople, which is a free site where you can track your nutrition, weight loss, and fitness goals. I especially like their recipe calculator, where you can input all of the ingredients of a favorite recipe, tell it how many servings, and then it gives you the nutritional breakdown – essential for counting calories when cooking at home.

So far, I’ve two weeks behind me of cardio three times a week, weights three times a week, and staying within my calorie restrictions. I weighed in this morning and was down 2.6 pounds.

I’ve found that walking on the treadmill for 20 minutes makes my lower back ache, but I can do 10 minutes on the bike and then 10 minutes on the treadmill with no back pain. I’ve increased my weights on two of the five machines I use – and when laughing with the boys yesterday, I felt stomach muscles I haven’t felt in ages.

I also noticed that I’m walking faster when I’m out and about. I know these don’t seem like very big amounts of progress, but to someone who is morbidly obese and been pretty much sedentary for the past few years, it’s a huge deal.

Goals this week include getting my 8 cups of water a day, getting 8 hours of sleep a night, and surviving a trip to a theme park with the kids without succumbing to fair food.