Archive for Books

Talk Like a Pirate Day 2014 – Pirate Picture Books for Preschoolers


We love International Talk Like a Pirate Day & turn it into a week long pirate extravaganza.  Being on the Great Lakes, we are blessed to have a Schooner Festival every few years that just happens to coincide with Talk Like a Pirate Day.  How smart are they!?  Anyway, we just got back from two weeks in Florida and are just celebrating pirate week before we start on the hard subjects of school next week.  Today I’m going to share 3 pirate books for littles that I hadn’t mentioned before.

  First up is Shiver Me Letters.  Shiver Me Letters is a fun little book with fun illustrations.  The captain tells his crew he can’t do much with just an “r” (arrrrh.  Get it?) and to go find him the rest of the alphabet.  The story is told in rhyme and the letters are cleverly hidden in the illustrations.  They are easy to find if you listen to the story.  Super cute & great for kids learning letters.

Twenty-Six Pirates is another alphabet book.  This one tells the story of twenty-six pirate on a ship through rhyming couplets.  It’s a favorite and gets read so much that I need to get a new one already.  There is a pirate for every letter of the alphabet.  Hubs & I love W.

Pirate Wade,
Mistakes were made.

The illustrations are funny and we laugh each time we read it.  I would recommend this one, too.

  The last one is one I bought last year, Do Pirates Take Baths?.  I got it because its illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott & we love her style.  For whatever reason, I had it in my head that I thought this book was a waste, but when I read it a few weeks ago, I thought it was really cute.  It’s filled with questions about pirates and the answers are written in a very cute rhyme.  It has answers for everything from Do Pirates Take Baths? to Do Pirates Have Birthday’s?   It’s the current favorite of my almost 4 year old daughter.  Another cute pirate book worth adding to the collection!

You can read about other fun pirate picture books in these posts:

What are your favorite Pirate books?

Jen S.



Click here to see all my Pirate Week Posts!

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7 Minute Life {Schoolhouse Review Crew}


I love God things, don’t you?  Recently, I had the opportunity to review The 7 Minute Life™ Daily Planner through the Schoolhouse Review Crew.  I have to admit, I was kind of “meh” about.  I had a planner I loved.  It’s been replaced.

7 Minute Life Planner

The 7 Minute Life™ Daily Planner is a 90-day spiral bound planner created by Allyson Lewis of The 7 Minute Life.   Studies have shown that adults have short attention spans; maybe even as low as 7 minutes!   The idea is that in 7 minutes of planning a day, you can do the most important things and stop JUST doing the urgent.  Set up in 90-day increments because 90 days is enough to see progress and to reassess if things aren’t working.  Coming from a sales background, this planner has several features toward sales goals including contacts, thank you notes, voicemails, and 7 Minute Life Connections.  It also has a notes section, sleep, exercise & water tracker, appointment section and more.  Each 270+ page planner is $24.95.


Likes & Dislikes

So.  I am a productivity & planner junky.  I have used GTD, Franklin-Covey and dozens of others over the past 15 years. Honestly, I wasn’t even looking for a new planner because I had one I loved.  I love this one more.

Before I could use it, I had to spend a few days thinking about the big picture. Really, it was overdue for an update; I last did it a few months before my 15 month old was born.  She went about it slightly differently with values/character traits as your first step.  It was an exercise I had not done before.  After that it was mission statement time, which I also reworked a bit.  I got a little stuck on goal-setting but after thinking on it for a week or so, I realized I had more 90-day goals than I thought.

I used The 7 Minute Life™ Daily Planner to track all aspects of my life–home management, work, writing and the teaching portion of homeschooling.  I loved that all my hats were in one planner instead of 4.  The most life changing part was the 5 before 11.  In my case it was usually 5 before 5, but my kids are 6, 3.9 & 1.  Sometimes there are other issues, you know?  But I know the difference between lazy and otherwise occupied.  There is a “did I do what I said I would do” checkbox.  Even though everyday was a no, I’m still closer than I would have been because I did several important things.

I still haven’t FULLY adapted it to suit my needs yet, but I spent my entire 10-day vacation pondering it in the downtime.  The beginning has 12 months of smaller calendars (3 to a page) for long-term planning.  I used that to note important things like trips, classes, etc. that need to be planned around.  Then it has 12 months of larger calendars, 1 per page.  This annoyed me at first.  Who needs 2 sets of too small calendars in one book?  Then I figured it out.  The first is long-term planning.  The second set would be great for a blogging editorial calendar.


The appointments, 5 before 11, voicemail, spending record, and daily summary were no brainer and used as you would expect.  I used unfinished tasks for less important to-do’s like errands.  The other feature I adored were the two big unfinished work tasks & unfinished home tasks (4 & 2 pages, respectively).  I loved parking projects there for the 90-day period, to revisit later.  Like the goals, I didn’t fully understand the value until a week or two into use.  I had work projects, writing projects, and blogging & reviews quickly filling my work tasks and completing random things filling my home in completed tasks.


As an introvert, I love the 7 Minute Life Connections because I truly need to be that intentional about adult interaction.  I’m one of those people who has no “best friend(s).”  I’m still trying to determine what I should do with the Contacts section since I don’t sell.  I honestly can’t wait to stalk everyone else’s reviews to see how they have tweaked theirs :)!


Overall, I thought the principles and habits in The 7 Minute Life™ Daily Planner were excellent ones and I’m really glad that I was picked for this review.  I like that the pages are undated and so I don’t feel like I’ve wasted 1/3 of a book while on vacation.  I love the short term (90-day) goals.  I like that it really focuses on people and the really important things and not just tasks.  I love the task pages and the whole idea.  I end the day feeling like I’ve done some really important things, even if I only get 2 or 3 of the 5 accomplished.  It’s a great way to focus with my very limited time.

I’m looking forward to tweaking it a bit more and want to look into their big fancy package with the books, binder, cd’s, more planners, etc.   I have a few other learning things I’m finishing up right now and I’m trying to divert funds to feed the travel bug.   But it’s on the short list!

Overall, if you are doing any sort of work at home, The 7 Minute Life™ Daily Planner is fabulous.  If you “only” manage a home and/or homeschool it might be a bit overkill unless you are a type-A planner addict like me :).  But if you run a business too, whether that’s freelance work, etsy or blogging, the 7 Minute Life Daily Planner can help keep you balanced & focused.

Hubby read through the beginning planning pages and thought it was all good stuff but he needed an app; he will never use a paper planner.   Hint hint :).  You can check out sample pages here and videos about how to use each section of The 7 Minute Daily Life Planner here.


Click here to read what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought of The 7 Minute Life(TM) Daily Planner!

Jen S.


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A Grand Design {Book Review}

Dislciamer:  I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review.


Have you ever been to a place where the historical significance was so thick you could smell it?  Or so beautiful, you considered moving there?   For whatever reason, Mackinaw City & Mackinac Island do that to me.  As a child, a trip there was always at the top of my birthday wish list and I dreamt of working there in the summers as a teen.  When I had the opportunity to review A Grand Design, a new Quilts of Love novel set in my favorite place in Michigan, I had to ignore my self-imposed fiction embargo, and share it with you.

A Grand Design is a Christian romance set in modern times.  It does, however, take place on Mackinac Island.  If you are unfamiliar with it, it’s an island that has left time behind–there are no motor vehicles of any kind.  You either use horses, bikes or walk.  And a busy career gal from Grand Rapids has just won a “honeymoon” package on the island.  That she entered on a dare.  It’s a total God thing because her grandmother lives there and she used to be there all the time.  Until.  Until what? You’ll have to read to find out, but it comes back to haunt her.

While she is there with her BFF, she goes on a quest to all her grandmothers old friends collecting quilt blocks for a friendship quilt.   And the driver her grandmother hires is pretty special ;).  But special enough to stay?  Hmmmm.

LOL!   As you can tell, A Grand Design was a fun story.  The island culture and background were pretty spot on.  The author did take liberty with a few things I’m not sure I liked.  Like to Grand Rapids to Mackinaw train.  I’m sure it existed at one time, but not in my lifetime.  I’m also not sure how I feel about the part of her past coming in.  Would he really care 15 years later?  Maybe.  That end of backstory was tied up fairly quickly.  I read it 3 times and I’m still not sure I fully understood how the brooch thing played out.   I think she did several things on purpose though, because they were mentioned in the discussion questions at the end.

Overall, though, I did enjoy reading A Grand Design. I love Christian fiction but HATE when it feels like an after thought; it wasn’t.  The characters were interesting, the setting fabulous.  The romance at the end was pretty awesome, too ;).  If you are still in need of a beach read, go it out!


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Don’t miss this month’s Quilts of Love book, A Grand Design by Amber Stockton. Who hasn’t struggled to let painful memories go and move into God’s healing? You’ll be sure to love this heartfelt and encouraging tale set on historic Mackinac Island.

Celebrate August’s release by entering to win a Kindle from Quilts of Love and RSVPing for the “Fall into Fall” Facebook author chat party.

Quilts of Love Kindle HDX Giveaway, Amber Stockton, A Grand Design

One winner will receive:

  • A Kindle HDX
  • A Grand Design by Amber Stockton
  • Hidden in the Stars by Robin Caroll

Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on September 16th. Winner will be announced on the Quilts of Love blog. Plus make sure you RSVP to the October 7th author chat party with Amber Stockton and Robin Caroll for an evening of book chat, quilting tips and tricks, prizes, and more!

RSVP today and spread the word—tell your friends about the giveaway via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on October 7th!


Good luck!!

Jen S.

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On The Road to Joyful Motherhood {Book Review}

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for your support!

I read a lot of books. And I read a lot of books on motherhood. Frankly, its the area of my life where I feel I need the most work; being a good mother comes naturally to some people, but I am not one of those. So of course when Jessica Fisher over at Life As Mom asked for people to review On The Road to Joyful Motherhood eons ago, I said yes.

One of the things I like best about this book is that its a 30-day journey to joyful motherhood. I don’t have to read a whole book. I can read a few pages and do a simple activity and begin to bring back the joy. It’s so easy for the joy to get sucked out of you. One snotty argument about bedtime can erase a whole day of fabulous behavior amiright? Or maybe potty training isn’t quite finished. Sigh. I need to revisit being a joyful mother. Daily. Or hourly. Or on a bad day, by the minute.

Obviously, I didn’t get to the readings daily. It look me 4 months to get through 30 days of reading. It’s been awesome to go through the tips and realize that something is out of control. Again. In fact I got stuck on simplify for about 2-1/2 of those months. The kids have NOTHING right now. It’s all locked away. If they don’t care about it enough to pick them up, they obviously don’t need them. Plus, it’s summer. So go outside. Ahem. They are happy to not have toys everywhere and not have to pick up much. Plus, mommy isn’t nagging them all. Day. Long. Ask me about this again in winter :).

On The Road to Joyful Motherhood is set up as a journey, complete with mile markers to number the articles. She talks about aspects of motherhood like simplicity, accepting parts of life that will not change (like boys, noise & wrestling), gratitude, going outside, reading good books and more. My favorite was the section on words. I felt very convicted to change after reading it and added to more resources to specifically help me change my ways. It’s really that big of a problem for me.

If you are feeling like you are in need of a reboot, the beginning of the school year is a good time to step back and reassess. Even if your kids are signed up for music lessons, 2 sports & youth group, it’s still not to late to calm down life. It might be too late to recoup your money outlay, but which is more important, $100 or your families happiness? Which will matter more in 3 years. Go check out On The Road to Joyful Motherhood. Then come back & share.

I’d love to hear what changes your family has made!

Jen S.

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My Whole Self Before You – Book and Curriculum based on The Lord’s Prayer {Review}

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of these items in exchange for an honest review. This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for your support!

I was put in touch with Susan Case Bonner by a friend of my husband’s. He owns a book publishing company in town and her book My Whole Self Before You won his Moonbeam children’s book award. After we spoke & discussed various marketing and mommy blogger ideas, she put together a package of items relating to My Whole Self Before You. She sent a copy of:

When I first received it, I was under the impression that it was a Catholic children’s book, but its not. It’s the only book I’ve seen that could be used by Catholics and Protestant equally. Everyone says the Our Father; it’s just called different things. She also separates the Doxology from it and makes a note that its a difference between Catholics and Protestants. Really she is just rephrasing the prayer for easier understanding.

My Whole Self Before You was the original (I think) and its a picture book that rephrases The Lord’s Prayer / Our Father so that kids really understand the prayer they have memorized. It’s a lovely hardcover book with pictures of children and stained glass windows. At the end is a guide for prayer and devotion with 80 (!) discussion points.

The Picture Prayer Book version is the same book minus the prayer guide. The Prayer Guide Devotional is a spiral bound version of the discussion points only. If you only buy one, get the original. It has both pieces and therefore a longer useful life. If all your kids are older, the Prayer Guide/Devotional will probably be sufficient.

As a book, on its own, I’m kind of lukewarm about My Whole Self Before You. I’m not a fan of books with photographs or kid photos in them. Not sure why, but its a personal taste thing for me. But, she breaks down the ideas in the Our Father as a rhyme. And a well-done rhyme at that!

When I read it to my 6.5 year old after a hiatus, she said, “It sounds like a prayer.” When I explained that its the Our Father broken down into easy to understand words. I read her a verse or two and how it corresponded to the prayer and she all but ripped the book from my hands so she could read the whole thing. She had hit a point where it clicked, you know? So I would say that having the study guide for ages 8-12 (3rd-6th grade), is probably pretty spot on.   She gets it at 6, but not enough to do a full fledged study of it.


Where I really get excited about this book is the Study Guide. The study guide contains 80 2-page lessons that really go into depth as a bible study. The study guide comes shrink wrapped & 3-hole punched and is non-reproducible. It’s intended for grades 4-6 and digs deep into the bible as it relates to aspects of the Our Father. My daughter is several years too young for it, but I’m excited to use it when she is. You could get through it in a school year if you did 2 lessons a week. There are even extra activities on their website.

photo (14)

The worksheets do not appear cumbersome to complete, but look like they would provide deeper understanding & relationship with God. As I said, I have not USED it yet, so I cannot tell you if there is anything contrary to Catholic (or any Protestant) teaching in it. There is an endorsement from the superintendent of our area Catholic schools and they are presenting it to the schools soon so take that as you will.

photo (13)

Overall, My Whole Self Before You is a book suitable for both Catholic and Protestant families. While I’m not a huge fan of the picture book portion on its own, I think the Prayer Guide & Devotional as well as the study guide could be awesome tools for your older elementary student. I’m excited to share how we like it in a few years!

Jen S.

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