Saturday, November 30, 2013

I Can’t Believe It!

I can’t believe that Thanksgiving is over and December 1 is tomorrow.

Have you gotten everything accomplished this year that you had planned on doing?  I don’t know if I have or not.  I never made a list.  That is something I will need to do this next year.

I plan on having a fun December with the children.  We are going to work on the school basics, but we are also going to have fun.  We are going to finish decorating the tree, bake, and learn more about the events surrounding Christ’s birth.

What are you planning on doing during December?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Picture of the Week!- November 27, 2013

I recently saw this as part of a wood floor.  I thought the idea of three-dimension on a two-dimension surface was really neat.

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Friday, November 22, 2013

Gratitude Challenge 2013- Sunsets

Sunsets are one of my favorite things in nature.  They can either look very pretty or not.  When I see pretty colors I tend to take some photos.  I was very grateful this passed weekend to see a beautiful sunset. 

The sunset reminds me that tomorrow is a new day.  We can start fresh and renewed.

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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Gratitude Challenge 2013- Camouflage

Today I am thankful that wild animals have camouflage.  It is always fun to drive down the road or go hiking and try to find the animals that are hiding there, like the deer in this photo.

As I think of us and our relationships with God and others, we are not to be camouflaged as the wild animals are.  We are to stand out from the background and the crowd.  We are to be the light of the earth.  We need to shine for God.  We should not be afraid either, bad things may happen to us, but we are His.  He will make sure we are protected on this earth.  We can also lead others to Him by being the light and not camouflaging ourselves.

Be the light today.  Shine for God!

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Gratitude Challenge 2013- Protective Coverings

Today I am grateful for protective coverings.  In Wyoming, and much of the West, that protective covering is sagebrush.  I am currently enjoying the protective covering of a warm house and warm clothes.

More importantly though, for all of us is the protective covering which comes from God.  Ephesians 6:10-20 shows us how to put on the armor of God so that we can be strong in Him.

I pray that all of you today will put on God’s protective covering.  Have a glorious day in the Lord!

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Gratitude Challenge 2013- The Little Things

Today I am thankful for the little things in life.  My family and I were recently hiking in the woods and my husband saw this little mushroom along the path.  I hadn’t even noticed it. 

This mushroom reminds me of all of the other little things that we miss every day, because we are focusing on the big things.  I know that I need to take time each day to focus on those little things.  I could potentially be missing out on something big that God has in store for me.

So, today I would like all of you to focus more on the little things and less on the big things in your life.



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Gratitude Challenge 2013- Rhubarb

Rhubarb is one of my all time favorites.  We usually just cook it and mix it with sugar, but there are so many things that can be made with it.  You can make pies, crisps, jellies, and more.  When I typed rhubarb into Google, I got over eight million results.  I realize that a lot of those are probably duplicates, but wow.  So versatile, that is why I am thankful for rhubarb.

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Picture of the Week!- November 21, 2003

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I could not believe all of the flowers that bloomed this past summer.  There were many months of flowers.  Yellow was a prominent color.  They were so fun to look at! 

Have a wonderful week!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Gratitude Challenge 2013- The Sunflowers of Nebraska

I am really enjoying putting together my nature theme this year for the Gratitude Challenge.  It has been a lot of fun!  Today I am continuing with flowers in Nebraska.


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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Gratitude Challenge 2013- Clouds Again

Since I am doing a nature theme this year, I have decided once again I will be thankful for clouds.  They are always so pretty.

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Gratitude Challenge 2013- Beautiful Wyoming

I am always thankful for Wyoming!

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At Home in Dogwood Mudhole, Volume One: Nothing That Eats, by Franklin Sanders (Schoolhouse Crew Review)

We received At Home in Dogwood Mudhole, Volume One, Nothing That Eats, by Franklin Sanders, for review purposes!

Product Links: At Home in Dogwood Mudhole

Vendor Contact Information:   Franklin Sanders from At Home in Dogwood Mudhole

Age Appeal: Adult

Format: 379 pages, is available in paperback, Kindle, ePub, or PDF

Price: $22.95 for the paperback, $16.95 for ebook formats

At Home in Dogwood Mudhole, Volume One: Nothing That Eats, by Franklin Sanders, covers the time from June 1995 to September 2002 and has been taken from his newsletter, The Moneychanger.

In this volume, Y2K is foremost in the minds of Franklin Sanders and his wife, Susan.  They also want to leave some of the stresses that modern life brings, behind.  They decide to move to a farm with their children and their families.

They move several times and finally settle on a farm near Dogwood Mudhole.  There the families have lived together with a variety of dogs, chickens, horses, and other livestock.

Please check out this Sample Chapter!

Our Experience: 

I always enjoy reading memoirs and my children enjoy listening to them.

I decided that I would read the book first, then I would read the parts that I thought would be best for the children.  B and C listened to stories about chickens, pigs, and dogs.

I gave the book to Dad and he read it on his own. 

Mama’s Thoughts:
  • I liked the use of photos and maps.  It made it more personal for me.  It was fun seeing the family at Civil War functions, their horses, dogs, and more.
  • Since I have never read his newsletter, The Moneychanger, it was great being able to read what was happening in their lives over the years.  I would think that it would have been fun for Sanders to go over what had happened in his life while he put this book together.
  • I thought it was great to have the addresses and websites of different places that he thought were important like Redwood City Seeds.  It would have been great to have a list of them in the back of the book for easier access.
  • I grew up on a ranch with horses, cows, dogs, and chickens.  I found that I could relate to the life the Sanders live.
  • My favorite parts of the book involved the chickens and pigs.  I couldn’t believe the antics, especially with the pigs.  These stories had me laughing, really laughing.
  • I thought the length of each chapter was great.  They were short, so I could read them when I didn’t have a lot of time.
  • My brother and father enjoy reading books like this so when I see them again, I plan on sharing it with them.  I know they will enjoy the book as much as I have.

B’s Thoughts (boy, age nine, officially in fourth grade):   

I liked what Mama read to me.  I liked the parts about the Sanders family getting poultry.  Those parts were kind of funny. 

I think this book would be good for people older than me.  I think this book is a very good product.

C’s Thoughts (girl, age seven, officially in second grade): 

I liked the photos.  I liked the stories Mama read to me.  It would be good for people my age and older.

Dad’s Thoughts:

I found At Home in Dogwood Mudhole to be an enjoyable read.  Franklin Sanders  provides an entertaining story telling of his life events that will keep you coming back for more.  His chapters are just the right length for good stopping points, even though you won't want to put the book down.  This is a book that we'll read to the kids at home and on road trips.  I personally look forward to reading volume 2.

Mama thought this book was great!  You should buy a copy today.


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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Writings We Have Read!- November 12, 2013

B and I both read the Boxcar Children Beginning: The Aldens of Fair Meadow Farm by Patricia MacLachlan.  It was not a very good book, because it was about how happy they were, then tragedy struck.

I’m not sure what B has been reading by himself this week, and it is too late tonight to ask him.

C has been reading Little House on the Prairie.  I’m so proud of the improvement she has made in the past couple of months.

Together we have read:

The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson and illustrated by Beth Krommes

Earl the Squirrel by Don Freeman

Miss Suzy by Miriam Young and illustrated by Arnold Lobel

Ladybugs Can’t be Tall by Kevin Hill

Those were wonderful picture books and we finally finished Detectives in Togas, by Henry Winterfeld, for history.  I think we will go to the American West for our next history book.

Have a wonderful week of reading!


French Essentials (Schoolhouse Crew Review)

We received French Essentials for review purposes!

Product Links: Full Access Program (one full year, all modules, of their French lessons)

Vendor Contact Information:  French Essentials

Age Appeal: ideal for grades 3-8

Format: online exercises and tests, downloadable lessons (PDF format), and workbook (PDF format)

Price: $149.95 for one year of access for all of the modules, $69.95 for 90 day access per module

Does your family want to learn French with a combination of PDF Lessons, workbook, and online exercises?  French Essentials could be just the program for you.  It is divided into five modules and each module can take a year if the children are younger, and less if the children are in high school.  

Our Experience: 

B has been wanting my mother to teach him how to speak French for a while, but their schedules have never worked out.  He was very interested to try French Essentials.

C was not interested in learning French, so B and I worked together after she went to bed.  I did have C work on a couple of lessons, so she would know if she liked the program.

B and I would usually work on the PDF lesson on Monday night, then Tuesday night he would work on the workbook, and the rest of the week he would work on the online exercises and the test.  We would spend time during the day speaking the French we had learned.

Mama’s Thoughts:

  • B was always excited to learn and work on his French lessons.  It made me happy to see him so excited.  He was even happy if he got the answer wrong.  This has been one of the few subjects that does not upset him when he gets the answer wrong.
  • In the PDF lessons were the links to videos which had different speakers.  We had a hard time knowing how to correctly pronounce the words, because each speaker said it differently.  It would be nice if each person said the words the same, especially for those of us who have never worked with French before.
  • I thought the combination of online activities and PDF exercises were perfect.  B was able to learn how to say and spell the words correctly with all of the practice he did.
  • I would like to see a basic daily lesson plan.  I was not sure what to do on a daily basis, so B and I accomplished what we could do in 30 minutes.
  • The parent’s section of the French Essentials website includes a FAQ section, details about each module, free samples and more.  I thought it was a great resource.

B’s Thoughts (boy, age nine, officially in fourth grade):   


Comment vous appelez-vous?

Moi, je m’apelle B. Et Toi?


I really liked French Essentials. It was a good product if you want to learn French. I liked how the online exercises opened up in a new tab, however in module 5 it did not. I did not like that. I liked the workbook.

I think this product is good for kids my age and older.

Au revoir!


C’s Thoughts (girl, age seven, officially in second grade): 

I liked what I did.  It was fun learning how to speak French.  It would be good for children my age and older.

Dad’s Thoughts:

B has been working on their French at French and thus in the last few weeks I have been met with various French greetings and phrases upon my arrival at home.  I work for a French multinational company so I interact with the French language on a weekly if not daily basis and I am impressed with how well B is learning his lessons.  The lessons are presented audibly with visual aides and are reinforced in English.  This method works well.

While the teaching method is solid there are some rough edges that need to be addressed about the website.  One is that the program runs best in Firefox.  That's ok with me as I am used to using multiple browsers and Firefox can be downloaded for free, however, this fact should be boldly stated on the Parent page even though it is listed on the Free Registration page.  Let parents know from the get go.  At the beginning of each module instructions are provided on how to make the most of the lessons.  I found the instructions wordy and lengthy.  People like quick and simple.  If the instructions are put into single line bullet points it will clarify the instructions and get people into the lessons quicker.

The biggest issue is web page navigation.  Once you select your module the page quickly comes up with the instructions and you can scroll down to get a listing of lessons and their respective tests.  Click on the lesson you want and you are redirected to Quizlet's simple and clean lesson web page.  It's good, but, when you want to navigate away from this page back to the instruction/lesson page you can't.  You're taken to a different page on and you can't easily get back to You can get back to what you were doing by clicking on "Flashcards" but that still doesn't return you to the instruction/lesson page.  Anyone should be able to do that with just one click.

The teaching is solid, it works, and is a good program for learning French, but until the web page navigation flows better I would hold off on signing up.  Once that issue is resolved French Essentials will be time and money well spent. 

Mama definitely recommends French Essentials!


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Monday, November 11, 2013

Picture of the Week!- November 10, 2013

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Does anybody know where this is?

Gratitude Challenge 2013- Wind River Canyon

There are many wonderful things to see in Wyoming.  This past summer I was in Wind River Canyon, it was beautiful.  Today I am very thankful for Wind River Canyon.

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Sunday, November 10, 2013

Gratitude Challenge 2013- Water in the Spring!

I have already posted one Gratitude Challenge for water, but this one is for water in the spring.  It is always important if you live in a dry country to have enough snow during the winter, to have spring runoff.  It is always wonderful to have dams and reservoirs filled with water.

I am always thankful for water!

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Saturday, November 9, 2013

Gratitude Challenge 2013- Yellow Flowers

There were so many pretty flowers this past summer, so today I am thankful for yellow flowers!

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Friday, November 8, 2013

Gratitude Challenge 2013- Tulips

On this day I would like to be grateful for tulips of all kinds.  I do not remember what kind this one is.  I just thought it was so pretty with the fringed edges.

Have a wonderful weekend!

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Bible and Prayers for Teddy and Me retold by Christina Goodings and illustrated Janet Samuel (Review)

Bible and Prayers for Teddy and Me

Retold by Christina Goodings

Illustrated by Janet Samuel

(received in exchange for an honest review)


Genre- Nonfiction / Christian / Bible Story

Published by- Lion Hudson

Copyrighted- 2013

Number of pages- 64

Age Group- Preschool- Kindergarten

Description of book- hardback, listed price- $12.99, ISBN 978-0-7459-6350-1

Bible and Prayers for Teddy and Me includes twelve stories, which show the reader how God loves and cares for them.    Each story is wonderfully illustrated and includes a story and prayer.  Some of the stories are David and Goliath, Jesus as a teacher, and Moses.

My thoughts-

I always enjoy reading and looking at illustrated Bible storybooks, like Bible and Prayers for Teddy and Me.  I especially enjoyed reading this one, because of the prayers and how each story was perfectly suited for children.

One of my favorite stories was about the lost sheep, because that prayer was about how we feel after being naughty and how we would like God to bring us back to him.  The illustrations of the sheep, shepherds, and the children with the teddy bear were priceless. 

I found all of the illustrations and stories to be some of the best that I have ever read.  This book is perfect for reading as a bedtime story or as character development.  This book is perfect for children between the ages of three and five, but I think that it would work well for children up to the age of eight. 

I highly recommend this book for all children.  This book would make a wonderful gift and you could include and teddy bear too.

Disclosure of Material Connection- I received Bible and Prayers for Teddy and Me, retold  by Christina Goodings and illustrated by Janet Samuel, for free from the Kregel Publications’ Blog Tour.  All links were current when posted.  I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Under the Rainbow by Catherine Campbell (Review)

Under the Rainbow: A mother’s experience of the promise of God

By Catherine Campbell

(received in exchange for an honest review)


Genre- Nonfiction / Christian /

Published by- Lion Hudson

Copyrighted- 2013

Number of pages- 192

Age Group- Adult

Description of book- paperback, listed price- $13.99, ISBN 978-0-85721-445-4

In Under the Rainbow, author Catherine Campbell relates her life with two disabled daughters and her journey with God.  There was much tragedy and loss in her family, but she realized the role that God had and how He always has and always will keep the promises He has made.

About the Author-

Catherine Campbell is an author, speaker, and former nurse.  She currently lives in Northern Ireland.  She has written God Knows Your Name, Broken Works Best, and Rainbows for Rainy Days.

My thoughts-

Under the Rainbow: A mother’s experiences of the promises of God, by Catherine Campbell was both heartbreaking and uplifting.  I was captivated by Campbell’s honesty and how open she was with her experiences with her daughters.

I have never heard of microcephaly and their family became so strong when they had to go through that experience twice.  As I read this book, I could feel her passion and love for her children.

I hope that many people read this book and share it with others.  There are many people in this world who have children with disabilities and struggle to find the God’s goodness in it all.  Campbell’s book can reveal to them how God can keep His promises and give them encouragement.

Please pick up a copy, read it, share it, and tell people about this disease. 

Catherine Campbell’s website is  There is more information about her books and her speaking obligations.

Disclosure of Material Connection- I received Under the Rainbow: A mother’s experience of the promises of God by Catherine Campbell for free from the Kregel Publications’ Blog Tour.  All links were current when posted.  I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

IXL Learning (Schoolhouse Crew Review)

We received IXL Learning for review purposes!

Product Links: Online Math Membership (Pre-K - 12) and
Online Language Arts Membership (2nd - 4th)

Vendor Contact Information:

Age Appeal: Pre-K to 12th grade math, 2nd-4th grade currently for language arts

Format: online program

Price: $9.95 per month for math or language arts, $15.95 a month for both, $79.00 for either math or language arts, and $129.00 a year for both for one child. Each additional child is only $2 per month, or $20 per year.

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Are you looking for a fun online program for your children to use to reinforce their learning in language arts or math?  IXL might be just the program for you!  There are more than 2,500 skills to learn and they can practice with the click of a button.  They receive medals and awards when they accomplish different skills.  They will also receive printable certificates for their achievements.

You can try out the program for free with 20 questions for the day.

Our Experience:

I was excited that we were able to use IXL Learning.  We had come across the program before and C was disappointed when her 20 free questions were done for the day. 

We used IXL five times a week for both language arts and math.  We did each subject for twenty minutes each day.  When B and C worked on each subject I let them select what topic they would work on.  I knew that as long as they were working on their grade level they were learning and expanding what they needed to know for their grade level.

I was glad that I was able to select the state we live in.  I knew then that B and C were getting the specific education for our state.  It was a comfort.

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Mama’s Thoughts:
  • I liked that B and C could pick which topic they wanted to work on.  In math, C worked on money, patterns, addition, and more.  B worked on geometry, rounding, probability, word problems, and more.  In language arts they worked on future tense, antonyms, nouns, verbs, and more.
  • It was great that B and C didn’t have to work on a certain grade level.  If they had a problem with the grade level they were working on they could select a lower grade to get some easier practice first.
  • One thing I didn’t like was that when the children entered the “Challenge Zone” at a score of 90 and they missed only one question that their score dropped back into the 80’s and  they had to answer a lot of questions to be able to get back to 90 again.  I realize that going back down was for mastering the skill.  I found it discouraging when I tried it and all  I had done was miss one question and had to go through the process all over again.  I think it would be better if you could miss two questions, instead of just one.
  • I enjoyed being able to try the program under my name.  It made me realize how much I have forgotten or never had the chance to learn in school.  It was fun to see what they were learning.
  • I know IXL Learning is generally not used as a teaching tool, but as review.  I thought their explanations of the incorrect problems taught them what they need to know, unless it was something more complex like multiplication and division.
  • The children were so excited when their certificates called, “Certificate of Achievement” came by e-mail.  Their certificates were for time completed, tasks completed, number of questions, and more.  I imagine we could fill our schoolroom wall with printouts of their certificates.
  • I especially enjoyed the weekly e-mail reports I received each weekend on the children’s progress for the past week.  I was able to know exactly what they did and how well they were doing it.
  • I was so impressed with IXL, that I am planning on implementing it into our daily school schedule.  When B and C are using IXL Learning I feel they are learning exactly what they should.

B’s Thoughts (boy, age nine, officially in fourth grade): I liked fourth grade language arts.  I liked learning about action verbs, similes, metaphors, and greets and closings in letters.  You can do more on IXL than reviewing the skills, you learn a lot too.

Although math is not my favorite subject, I really learned a lot.  I learned some geometry, probability, and more.

I think this product would be good for kids my age.  


C’s Thoughts (girl, age seven, officially in second grade):  I really liked math.  I liked learning about money in math.  I liked getting the prizes.  See some of my prizes in the picture below! 

I liked changing the present-tense verb into the future-tense.  I liked all of what I did for language arts.

I enjoyed doing each subject for twenty minutes each day. 

It is good for people of all ages, grownups and children.



Dad’s Thoughts:

The IXL Learning website is a great tool to use in conjunction with your homeschooling lessons to reinforce what's been taught. The design is appealing and it's easy to navigate to get where you want to be and the topics are broken down into easily identifiable categories. IXL is a top notch online practice program for math skills and language arts. Having said that, you will still need to teach the basics of each subject. For example, IXL asks the student which word in a sentence is the noun. The student then selects the best multiple choice answer. IXL doesn't explain what a noun is, the program simply asks you to identify it. I would suggest that to really take the "wow" factor up that IXL provide parents a sort of test module. The module would simply have the same programming that the students see but that the parent would read the questions and have the student verbally answer. This would confirm that students are actually comprehending the subjects and not just mastering multiple choice. Even without the test module IXL is wonderful program to add to your teaching toolbox. I know B & C are enjoying it.


Mama highly recommends IXL Learning!


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Gratitude Challenge 2013- No Flooding this Fall!

In the past few years there have been floods around the country.  We have a little creek near our house, which floods on a yearly basis. 

This past spring it flooded, because of an ice jam under the bridge.  I am thankful that the houses in our neighborhood are safe when the creek floods, because there is a park and golf course around the creek, which keeps us safe.

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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Tender Mercies by Vicki Watson (Review)

Tender Mercies (Sonrise Stable, Book 4)

by Vicki Watson

(I received this book for review purposes.)


Tender Mercies by, Vicki Watson

Genre- Christian / Juvenile

Publisher- Morris Publishing

Copyrighted- 2013

Number of pages- 127

Age Group- Juvenile

Description of book- Paperback, $8.95 from Vicki Watson’s website, ISBN: 978-0-9847242-3-9

In Tender Mercies, by Vicki Watson, Grandma is needed at Last Chance Corral, so she asks Rosie and Carrie to go along to help.  Last Chance Corral is a horse and foal rescue.  Both girls are shocked when they learn the circumstances behind why the foals and horses are there.  They have a lot of fun taking care of the foals and Rosie falls in love with one of them.

Will she be able to take Majestic home with her?  Or will someone else adopt him first?

About the Author:

Vicki Watson has been involved with horses since she was eight-years-old.  She never realized how important God would be and how He would help their relationship through her relationship with animals.

She plans on an initial ten books in the Sonrise Stable series.

My thoughts:  

Tender Mercies, by Vicki Watson, was very informative and thought-provoking.  I never knew about nurse mares and how their foals used to be killed, while the mares would take care of the Thoroughbred foals. 

After reading the first couple of chapters, I realized that a parent may want to read this book before giving it to a child to read, especially one who is more sensitive to death and harm to animals.

I really liked learning about what was happening at Last Chance Corral and how Victoria was able to save the foals.  As I read the book, I agreed with the back of the book which says, “…God who knows when a sparrow falls to the ground, works through the kindness of others to provide for the animals He created.”  God truly does put good stewards on this earth to take care of the less fortunate animals.  

I know that I have mentioned that there are a lot of deep subjects in this book, but the girls have a lot of fun and this book reflects that.  I would recommend it to young girls and also to young boys who enjoy horses.

Informational and Purchasing Links:

Visit Vicki Watson at her site: Sonrise Stables

Visit Vicki Watson on Twitter

Subscribe to her YouTube Channel featuring great horse-related videos.

Disclosure of Material Connection- I received a free copy of Tender Mercies, by Vicki Watson to review.  I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.  The opinions I have expressed are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.  I am part of The CWA Review CrewAll links were current when posted.

Gratitude Challenge 2013- Spring

As winter draws near, I thought I would share a couple of pictures of spring.  As with the other seasons, I am also grateful for spring and how the world looks new and bright, especially if the winter has been cloudy.  Today and always I thank the Lord for spring!


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