Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Fish Nuggets & Hush Puppies

I love discovering new recipes online.  I hardly use cookbooks (but I pin plenty of recipes on Pinterest). I'm always trying new recipes and I've decided to try to post more of our family's favorites on my blog this year!

Tonight I made delicious fish nuggets and hush puppies!  Hubby said they taste exactly like Long John Silver's.  I'd like to think they taste even better.  They were a big hit!!

I made both nuggets and hush puppies at the same time, frying them together in batches in the oil.

Fish Nuggets


3-4 fish fillets, I used swai fillets
3/4 cup flour
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
3/4 cup water
enough oil to fill a large skillet about 1 inch deep


Cut fish into 2-inch pieces.
Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly.
Add water and stir until just combined.
Heat oil to between 360 and 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Coat each piece of fish in the batter and fry until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes per side.
Sprinkle lightly with salt.

Hush Puppies


1 small onion, minced
1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1/2 c. yellow cornmeal
1 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. dried parsley
1 large egg
1 c. milk


Combine the minced onion, flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, sugar, onion powder, and parsley in a bowl. Whisk the egg and milk in another bowl. Whisk the egg mixture into the flour mixture until just combined.
Heat oil to between 360 and 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Carefully drop tablespoonfuls of batter into the hot oil.  Fry about 4 minutes per side.  Transfer to a paper towel-lined baking sheet using tongs or a slotted spoon. Sprinkle lightly with salt.


Thursday, January 8, 2015

Review: Homeschool Planet

We have been off from school since before Thanksgiving when our school year ended.  In that time, we celebrated both the kids' birthdays, two major holidays, bought a house and moved!  It's been a bit hectic to say the least.  Now that we're getting settled at our new place, I’ve been spending some time working out our lesson plan for the coming school year: slotting in spelling lists and math assignments, divvying up science units and lining up books to read for both personal reading time and family read-aloud time.  And I’ve got JUST the tool to help me do it!

everything you need to organize your home
and homeschool in an easy-to-use online planner

Honestly, I don’t have time to learn new software at this point in my life.  And it’s not because I’m slow on the uptake when it comes to technology!  I’m pretty savvy!  But time is a precious commodity for a homeschool mama.  That’s the thing I’ve loved the most about Homeschool Planet; it’s completely intuitive!  I have been able to do everything I’ve wanted without struggling to figure out how.  

My favorite features

  • BOTH a Calendar View and a Planner View: ‘cause variety is the spice of life, right? Plus, sometimes you need to view information in different ways.
  • Separate logins for Miss M to view her own assignments and check them off when complete.  What better motivator than a chance to use the computer, right?
  • Color Coding: need I say more?  I love the wide range of colors to choose from!  They make the whole thing more lovely to look at and easier to navigate.
  • Blocking out the school year: like Amy at One Blessed Mama, I love being able to block out our Sabbath Schooling schedule (generally about 6 weeks on, 1 week off).  Homeschool Planet has made this supremely easy and even allowed me to make last minute adjustments without throwing all my lessons out of whack!  That right there?  That’s gold, baby!
  • Automatic Rescheduling: every homeschool mama knows she needs to be able to shift lessons when Life Happens.  Homeschool Planet makes this super simple.  With the click of a button you can reschedule a single assignment, merge it with another day, or shift the entire class down by a day (or more!)
  • Not limited to just lessons: one thing I don’t want to do is juggle a calendar for school, for church activities, for birthdays, etc.  I want everything in one place, thankyouverymuch.  Homeschool Planet makes it very easy to do that!  I can keep track of article deadlines, blog post due dates, dentist appointments, relatives’ birthdays, etc.

Try before you buy

No one wants to waste their money on a product that isn’t going to work for them.  That’s why you can try Homeschool Planet free for 30 days.  They don’t even collect your credit card information, so there’s no risk!  Best of all, if you do decide to buy a subscription, all the information you have entered will be preserved! You will not lose your hard work!

Currently subscription prices are $65/year or $6.95/month.

You must be a member of Homeschool Buyers Co-Op, but don’t worry! It’s free to join!

I haven’t encountered any glitches or problems using Homeschool Planet, but if you do, I’ve heard wonderful things about their customer service including the ability to “roll back the clock” and restore your information going back a certain amount of time.

What didn't work for me

I have no particular love (or hate!) for the widgets along the sides of the planner.  They don't excite me in any way, nor do they particularly get in the way.  They're just...there.

I really don't like that the video starts playing when you go to the information page about Homeschool Planet.  But that doesn't affect daily use of the planner!

I definitely did not like the pink default scheme when I first started using the planner, but thankfully it wasn't difficult to find the setting to change that.

I have no use for the on-the-go features of Homeschool Planet.  I don't have a smartphone or a tablet, so those features remain untested and unused here on Sycamore Hill.  But for those of you who do use make use of this technology, my con may be your pro!

Overall, I find Homeschool Planet to be a very powerful and useful tool both for getting the big picture of our homeschool year and for managing the day-to-day lessons.  I expect to keep using it on a daily basis the rest of this year, if not beyond!

See what the rest of the Home & School Mosaics reviewers thought!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

{Book} Review: The NKJV Study Bible, Full-Color Edition

This has got to be one of the most gorgeous Bibles for adults (i.e. not a children’s Bible) I have ever seen. The full color printing simply makes it a pleasure to read. Yes, I am addicted to color. Life is too glorious to be drab. When I received my copy for review, I was nearly giddy with the pleasure of its colorful and illustrated pages.  I told Hubby, "I wanna take this to Bible study tonight so I can be one of the cool kids."  Ha!

In all seriousness though, I’ve always appreciated Thomas Nelson Bibles.  
I’ve seen Bibles from some other publishers (cough-Zondervan-cough) fall apart in less than a year, but Nelson Bibles seem to be put together quite a bit better. This one is no exception. In fact, it comes with a lifetime guarantee. That, of course, doesn’t cover normal wear and tear, but if the pages suddenly start falling from the binding by the handful as has happened to me with other Bibles in the past, they should replace it for you. Here’s hoping I don’t have occasion to test that out!

About the Book

The Thomas Nelson Full-Color NKJV Study Bible features beautiful full-color page design; gorgeous photos, maps, and charts right in the text (as opposed to only finding them at the back of the Bible); word studies; cross-references; textual and cultural notes; introductions, outlines, and timelines for each book; and a sizable concordance which is one of my favorite features. It is hardcover with sewn binding. It lays open on the table quite well. It’s not a small Bible weighing in at just under four pounds and measuring over 9 inches tall, 6 inches wide, and 2 inches thick. But you would expect that in a study Bible.

It does not have the words of Christ in red, which is a little disappointing.

However, you don’t have to take my word for how gorgeous it is! Go look at it here (but don’t forget to come back and finish reading my review)!

The NKJV Study Bible, Full-Color Edition

by Thomas Nelson Publishers
ISBN: 978-0529114389
2400 pages

In my opinion, this would be an excellent Bible for a man as-is.  Or, clad in a gender-appropriate cover, it would make a great Bible for any high school or college student! Perhaps a graduation gift this spring?

You can find it on Amazon or from the publisher.  
I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion through the BookLook Bloggers book review program.  The FTC requires that I disclose this information, but it in no way changes my expressed opinion and I wasn't required to give a good review.

I review for BookLook Bloggers

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Review: Who Created Everything? {an audio drama} by Wizzy Gizmo

Here on Sycamore Hill, we love audio dramas.  It probably stems from my own childhood memories of living without a TV.  There I’d be sprawled out on my back in the middle of the living room floor, listening to Children’s Bible Hour on the radio and watching the ceiling fan go ‘round.  I can still “see” many of the dramas that played out over the waves just as I “saw” them in my mind’s eye way back then.

Nowadays we don’t listen to the radio much but we have plenty of options via CD, mp3, and internet streaming.  My kids especially love to listen to audio books and audio dramas as bedtime stories to help them wind down and prepare for sleep.  So when we received Who Created Everything? from Wizzy Gizmo to review, we were ecstatic!

Who Created Everything? is a 36 minute audio drama about the events found in the first chapter of Genesis.  Professor Wizzy Gizmo puts the Bible on his Gizmovision machine and before you know it the adventure begins!

The first time I put it on, it started up automatically while I was in the other room. I had sent Little Guy in for a nap and when I came back in to put him down, he was listening to it. His eyes were wide and he said in a very quiet, serious voice, "Mom. I like this."

Who Created Everything? is available here as a CD + Digital Download for $14.99 or as a Digital Download only for $9.99.

Wizzy Gizmo as a company desires to put tools in the hands of parents that will allow them to implement the teaching of Deuteronomy 6:5-7 into practice in their own homes.  They seek to create quality art without sacrificing solid Biblical teaching.

"We set our sights on creating content equal in quality to the BIG name companies, with a commitment to communicate the truths of God's Word in the process."

Audio dramas based on Scripture are one excellent tool to bring discussion and learning to many your everyday activities.  We like to listen to Who Created Everything? on long car rides (none of us are able to read in the car without getting queasy, so audio dramas are an excellent alternative!), while tidying up the house, and as a good way to wind down after a busy day.

Miss M has been particularly taken by Who Created Everything?  She said, "I actually thought that they were going through a time machine, but it wasn’t a time machine...you can basically see, touch, feel and smell all the stuff that’s in it.  It’s really cool!

"There were two songs or three in it. I like that.  At the end there’s basically a sound track with all the music playing in the background."

"I like the duck [Qwacky].  He sings funny rap songs sometimes.  And he tells the kids what words mean.  He’s a talking mechanical duck, like a walking dictionary."

"Wizzy Gizmo is like an inventor.  But he makes things so the kids can learn about God.  It reminds me of Psalty’s Hymnological Adventure through Time.” 

Wizzy Gizmo has other products besides the audio drama including a book of Who Created Everything? and some really cool sets of Fast Track Bible cards that tell the summary and key bits about every book in the New Testament.  You can read reviews of many of these other products from my Home & School Mosaics teammates.

Check out my honesty policy.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

{Book} Review: NKJV Adventure Bible

One of the most exciting times in a child's life is when they are beginning to unlock the mysteries of the written word. We are just starting to get there with my son. He'll be five soon and has been working his way through our kindergarten curriculum. He's beginning to find -- and read! -- words everywhere! From street signs to grocery store advertisements to picture books to song lyrics. He is beginning both to recognize familiar words and to sound out new-to-him words! I know it won't be long before he develops into a fluent and avid reader, just like his big sister, and just like me!

Because Little Guy will soon be reading on his own, I wanted to get him a Bible, God's Holy Word, of his own. Although it is somewhat more difficult than a children's translation, Hubby suggested we get the NKJV for Little Guy since that is what he uses. Like father like son, right? I was very pleased when I received a free copy of the NKJV Adventures Bible from Zondervan.

About the Book

The Adventure Bible has been around for several years now in the ever popular NIV, but now it is available in the classic text of the New King James Version! And this gorgeous text is just brimming with color and extra little tidbits of information that draw kids in and captivate their imaginations, teaching them about the Scriptures and furthering their relationship with God. Some of the features include:
  • Life in Bible Times—Articles and illustrations describe what life was like in ancient days
  • People in Bible Times—Articles offer close-up looks at amazing people of the Bible
  • Let’s Live It!—Hands-on activities help kids apply biblical truths to their life
  • Did You Know?—Interesting facts help kids understand God's Word
  • Words to Treasure—Great verses to memorize
  • Book introductions, a concordance, and 8 pages of full-color maps

Adventure Bible, NKJV
Features written by Lawrence O. Richards
ISBN: 978-0310746263
Publisher: Zonderkids, a division of Zondervan
1,568 pages

From the dot-dot-dot path prints to the X-marks-the-spot symbols, from the bright red parrots and poison green frogs, there is color on every page bringing additional information and insights. This Bible is FUN to look at! It evokes a piratey adventure journey complete with chests piled with gold coins (I mean, Words to Treasure) that is both pleasing to the eye and exciting for young children -- boys in particular.

The Adventure Bible would be perfect for boys of any age -- from the emerging reader (hey, they grow and learn fast!) to the intrepid early teen embarking on a new phase of life. Even my kindergartener is enjoying thumbing through the pages, spying out maps and charts, looking for words he knows, and asking someone older than him to read Scripture to him from it. Best of all, when Daddy reads aloud from his Bible, the little tyke can follow along with his own text because the words are the same! Although he can't read on his own yet, Little Guy can't wait to carry his new Bible to church with him this week!

Find it from the publisher here or on Amazon

I review for BookLook Bloggers

Sunday, September 7, 2014

{Book} Review: Jesus by Nancy I. Sanders

Disclosure: I received this product free in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own. Your opinions and results may vary.

My daughter is nothing like me.  Her personality is her very own!  Even her taste in books differs greatly from mine.  When I was her age, I didn’t care a fig for non-fiction books.  I specifically remember looking at the Children’s Non-fiction Section at the public library and thinking how boring it was.  (I did, however, borrow every Alexander Key book the library had over and over and over again).

Miss M, on the other hand, shows no discriminatory tendencies toward non-fiction.  In fact, she adores the Who Was... series of books and has asked for specific titles on more than one occasion.  Rosa Parks, Helen Keller, Martin Luther King, Jr., even J.K. Rowling!  So when I had a chance to review Jesus from the Get to Know series by Nancy I. Sanders, I just knew it would be a hit!

About the Book

"Jesus - part of the Get to Know series - is a unique biography about Jesus, the Son of God. Focusing on the life and character of this Biblical hero, using color photographs, maps, and other visual resources to tell the whole story, young biography fans will come to learn more about this man of God and the role He plays in history. Featuring a bibliography and scriptural references throughout, this is sure to become a favorite for young readers and for first book reports."

Jesus (Get to Know)
Written by Nancy I. Sanders
ISBN: 978-0310745167
Publisher: Zonderkids, a division of Zondervan
128 pages

Now the first concern with any book that deals with Biblical figures or topics is accuracy and on this count I can safely say that Jesus is clean.  I find it to be an accurate distillation of who we believe Jesus is based on the Bible and history.  I read the book from cover to cover and though I found the text a bit choppy and dull (hey, I told you I’m not a huge fan of nonfiction, but especially at this early elementary level) I did not find anything objectionable in the way the author portrays Jesus Christ or the events of His birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension, or His coming again.  It systematically lays out the reasons we know Jesus is who He said He is and it pulls in quotes from "eyewitnesses" including the apostles who walked with Jesus and other historians from that era who wrote things about Him. Bottom Line: for my daughter who loves to read these kinds of biographies, it is a book worth owning.

The book itself is printed on nice glossy paper and is filled with full color illustrations, headings, definitions, and factual tidbits.  It’s quite nice to hold and gorgeous to look at!  It has a bibliography in the back as well as footnotes and a list of resources for young students which would be great for teaching even slightly older students about using and citing sources for their writing.  Bible verses are quoted from the NIrV.

The back cover lists Common Core Standards:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy. RI.2.5
All in all, I find this a book worth adding to our home library and would like to eventually acquire the other books in the series: MaryKing David, and Apostle Paul.

Find it from the publisher here or on Amazon.  

I review for BookLook Bloggers

Friday, June 13, 2014

{Book} Review: Panama Girl

We love books.  (You probably know that by now.)  And my kids love to be read to while they eat lunch or play with clay or sit in the hammock chair on a gorgeous spring day.  One of the latest books we read together is Panama Girl by Ida (pronounced EE-duh) Freer.

Panama Girl
Written by Ida Freer
ISBN: 978-1480076792
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
156 pages

This is a story about a 12-year-old girl named Surni from the Embera people in the Darien jungle of Panama.  As you read, you get a clear picture of life in the village and how the Embera have lived for generations by finding everything they need for food, clothing, shelter, and transportation in the jungle.  But change is coming to the jungle.  Visitors from Panama City are arriving with increasing frequency and Surni and her people must learn to adapt to new ideas, new technology, and new beliefs.  Surni herself faces many challenges and proves that she is a girl of great courage, love, and intelligence.

Panama Girl is a self-published book and though it is in its second edition, it could use a good scrubbing by an editor to correct some annoying blunders (missing words, completely random and useless commas, etc).  Several times I was halted in the midst of my reading by these errors which distract from the flow of the story.  But typographical issues aside, it is a great story!  

Ida Freer's website seems to indicate that this book is geared toward the middle school aged child, but that seems a bit old for me. It was perfect for my 4 and 7 year olds to listen to aloud and would be a great book for an 8 or 9 year old to read, in my opinion.  That isn't to say an older child might not enjoy it, but the vocabulary is a bit simplistic and repetitive.  It'd be easy reading for an older child; not challenging literature.  Of course, everyone needs some easy reading mixed in with their challenging stuff too!

There are a Teacher's Guide and Student Workbook for this book available from www.idafreer.com.  We didn't "do" anything academic with the book...just enjoyed the story.

Go here for more information about the Embera. Note: from that page there are links to photos of the Embera people, some of whom are a bit too nekkid for Western liking.  Just saying'.  You've been warned.

Disclaimer: I did not get this book free for review; I bought it with my own money from Amazon like a regular person. I just wanted to write a review since we enjoyed it so much.  Guess I didn't need a disclaimer after all.