Thursday, December 17, 2015

Throwback Thursday - Virginia Soaps and Scents - A Great Company Owned by Some Great Friends!

I am going to be writing a blog post in the next couple of days about some last minute Christmas gifts that husbands can get for there wives. These could easily be bought for Valentines Day as well. So, wives, you may want to leave the computer on with my blog post on the screen so that when your husband gets on the first thing he sees is a "hint, hint" from his wife.
Well, anyway, Virginia Soaps and Scents is on of those products that I am going to feature. We reviewed their products way back in 2009 and we have been using them every since. In fact, I just received an order last week! Their laundry soap is pretty much what we exclusively use to wash our clothes, and I still use their Shampoo Bars. However, the old review was on my old blog so I decided to feature it again here as a Throwback Thursday post. I've changed the prices because some of the things have gone up slightly (the laundry bars haven't gone up at all) but, otherwise, the review is exactly the same as when I wrote it six years ago.
Since reviewing their products, we have become good friends with the family that started Virginia Soaps and Scents, the Spargers. They are a fantastic homeschooling family. Enjoy this Throwback Thursday post and seriously consider purchasing from them. You won't regret it!
Friday, 30 October 2009
Virginia Soaps and Scents
Mood:  smelly
Topic: Homeschool Product Review
Granny's in the cellar
Lordy can't you smell 'er
I was thinking of that song tonight. Before I reveal why, let me just tell you that I have loved being on the TOS Homeschool Crew so far. Yes it's been hectic, and sometimes I haven't felt like writing a review, but I have met so many new friends; tried out so many new homeschool items that I would have never thought of trying; and done so many new things that, if you would have told me a year ago that I would be doing them, I would have called you "crazy".
Tonight was one of those nights. That's why I was thinking about the song. I, Tim Tinkel, yes, little old me, along with the help of John Allen and Joshua, made laundry soap! Don't get excited! I didn't destroy the house! I didn't even destroy any of Sarah's pots and pans. And, no, it wasn't really home made from scratch, it was from a kit...let me explain.
Several weeks ago, as part of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I recieved a box from Virginia Soaps and Scents with three different types of home made soap, a home made shampoo bar, and a small kit to make home made laundry soap. I received them free of charge in order to try them out and review them on my blog. 
And, boy was the TOS Homeschool Crew treated royally! All of the items in the box were especially packaged just for us, and came with a three page letter explaining the company and their products. Great treatment from a company always gets a plus in my book, so they were already ahead of the game. 
Let me just preface this review before I start. We have been using home made soaps for many years now. We have a friend who also has a soapmaking business and we buy from her and have been gifted with many products from her, so hand crafted soaps are not new to us. We love using them and we love that most of them don't irritate our kids sensitive skin. But, I was anxious to see how Virginia Soaps and Scents measured up, and, the shampoo bar and the laundry kit were definitely new to us.
In 2008, the homeschooling Spargur family was doing a unit study on Colonial Life in Virginia and, lo and behold, what should be included in the study? Soapmaking! The soap was a success and they continued experimenting until, six months later, Virginia Soaps and Scents was born. They vowed from the start that everything about their new business would be done in house, from the soap to the printing to the web site, and they have stuck by that vow. 
So how did their soap stack up against our friends soap? Very well.
The Virginia Soaps and Scents website says "Our soaps are made with all natural oils – no chemicals. Each bar is hand cut, so no two are exactly the same." I am not a smelly soap type of person, so I chose the Oatmeal, Milk and Honey bar to personally use. It was the most manly smelling of the bunch that we received Smile. I really liked it! It lathered well and did it's job. According to the rest of the family the rest of the soaps were a hit as well. We set the Coconut Lemongrass bar by the sink, and John Allen, just today, said to give the soap two thumbs up. If my thirteen year old son likes it, it's got to be good!
Now for the Shampoo Bar. I was a bit skeptical of this one. Some of the other members of the crew received their packages before I received mine, and their was quite a lively discussion about the Shampoo Bar on the crew forum. Most liked it, and said that even their husbands used it. That piqued my curiosity, and I was anxious to get the package. I was not disappointed. The letter claimed that all you had to do was wet your hair, rub the bar over it a couple of times, and "you'll have lather clear to your toenails". And, they were right. It did lather well, and got my hair just as clean as using shampoos with a bunch of additives that aren't needed. The Virginia Soaps and Scents site says that their shampoo bars are made with "no added color - only a light oil-based fragrance or no fragrance at all." They also claim that, depending on your type of hair, you may not have to use conditioner anymore after using their Shampoo Bar. John Allen tried it out and gave it two thumbs up as well. He's really getting into this homeschool review stuff Laughing!
Finally, the Laundry Soap. We were sent a kit that made half of a gallon of the liquid soap. Their normal kit, however, makes two gallons. The boys and I had a blast making it. It came with simple instructions and you use everyday pots, spoons and buckets to make it in. The final product is heavier than most laundry detergents, and finally thickens into a gel like substance. But, the litmus test was whether it got our laundry clean or not. I tried it with a bunch of towels first. I measured the required 1/2 cup in the washer, and put the towels in. Sure enough, the towels came out clean and fresh. It was also unscented which made it excellent for our boys who, as I mentioned, have sensitive skin. And, once again, we gave this one two thumbs up.
Wow, three out of three isn't bad! Virginia Soaps and Scents is a hit in our book. And their prices are a hit with us as well. Their 4.5 oz. soap bars sell for $5.95 a bar, 3 for $16.50, or 10 for $45.00. They also have a special - buy 4 bars and get one free. Their larger 5.5 oz Shampoo Bar also sells for $5.95 for one, 3 for $16.50 or 10 for $45.00 and can be mixed with the soap bars for the multiple bar discounts. According to their letter, each bar should give you as many washes as a regular 32oz bottle of shampoo. Finally, their Laundry Soap kits sell for $4.95 or six kits for $25.00. The website says that "you should get 64-72 loads for less than seven cents per load."
Please check out their website for these and many other products. You can find it by clicking here or on any one of the hi-lighted links above. You can also check out what the other TOS Homeschool Crew is saying about this product by clicking here. And, finally, as the Virginia Soap and Scents Website so aptly puts it "Happy Lathering"!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

6 + 1 Great Audio & Audio/Visual Resources Your Kids Will Love While Traveling this Holiday Season!


Are you planning on traveling with your kids this holiday season but dread it? Trust me! I know the feeling. Having two special needs kids in the same car poses it’s challenges when we are in the car for long periods of time. There’s always the bickering and fighting, not to mention the constant “How Much Farther?” and “I’ve got to go to the restroom!”
As full time missionaries we travel a lot. I gave a lot of suggestions for family traveling in my five part series “Traveling With Kids”. In this post, however, I want to focus on six great resources that we have found with-in the last six months and one bonus resource from a few years ago.

Audio – We were blessed to be able to review three great audio CD’s this past year with the Schoolhouse Review Crew. Now, before you turn up your nose and think that audio productions are old fashioned, you need to check these out. There is nothing old fashioned about them. Audio has come into the modern era and these three suggestions are fantastic!

Brinkman Family Adventures – If you are a missions minded family, then you need to check out this missions minded family! Actually the Brinkman family is fictional but they are based on an actual family. This family really believes in missions and their stories are based on true missionary stories sometimes involving themselves and sometimes involving other missionaries. One thing is for sure, though, their radio dramas are exciting. My kids were hooked on the first episode they heard. Check out my review of Brinkman Family Adventures by clicking here and check them out by clicking on the link above!

Heirloom Audio Productions – Can I say “Wow! Wow! Wow!”? These Audio Adventures are A+, #1, Fantastic! There are four of them now and own three out of the four. The newest one just came out last week. The first one we heard, “With Lee in Virginia”, we listened to on the way up to Canada last summer. I’m telling you, you could have heard a pin drop in that car! Every member of this family was transfixed including our three very active boys! After listening they begged us to buy others so we ordered one so that we would have it to listen to on the way home. These audio’s are called audio theater because it is said that these CD’s are “theater for the mind”. The child actually imagines what is going on in their heads as the audio production is playing. It’s hard to explain. Watch the video below and is should give you an idea of what I am talking about. Click here to read my review of “With Lee in Virginia” and click on the Heirloom Audio Productions name above to get to there BIG sale that they are having where they offer all four of their CD’s at a special rate with a lot of added bonuses!

Maestro Classics – We were introduced to Maestro Classics a few years ago when I reviewed one of their great CD’s with John Allen. Joshua was young and didn’t remember it so it was really a new thing for him and Jacob when we got to review another one this past year. What Maestro Classics does is takes great classical pieces such as “Peter and the Wolf” and “The Nutcracker” and tells the story while the music is playing. The kids and I have learned a lot of really neat things about the way music is written. We now understand these musical pieces so much better because are hearing the story along with the music. We realize now why the music sounded so scary or so jubilant. We’ve learned that you can actually “hear” stories in music if you know what to listen for. These are really quality productions and my kids love them. Click here for my review of “The Nutcracker” and click on the name above to get to their website.

Visual – I know that there is are a lot of great and entertaining movies out that you can get for your children to watch while traveling. This is something entertaining and educational both at once.

Living Waters Intelligent Design – If you have a DVD player in your car, then you need to check Living Waters Intelligent Design out. It is fascinating and beautifully done. It gives the example of four sea creatures and how they speak of God’s design for the universe and not evolution. The younger ones will love the video of the great sea creatures and the older ones will love the fascinating facts that are given. Our whole family loves it for those exact reasons. Click here for my review and click on the name above to find out more about it.

Internet  in the Car – Okay, I’ll be honest. I thought it was really neat when cars came out with video players for the kids to watch in the backseat. Now, believe it or not, many cars feature wifi so that passengers can hook up with the internet. If you are one of those that are blessed with those cars, you might want to check out the two companies below that feature great online videos.

Smartkidz Media – Smartkidz Media is not a Christian company, but it is a family company so you shouldn’t find any objectionable. Instead you will find some fantastic videos on Science, History, Geography, Music . . . you can almost find videos for anything! Jacob loves the educational animal videos and Joshua loves the geography and country features. I wish we had internet in the car because they would be entertained for hours on this website alone. Click here for my review of Smartkidz Media and click on the name above to get to their website.

RightNow Media – RightNow Media is another website that features videos but this one is Christian so the videos are mostly from a Christian perspective. There are some wonderful Christian biographies on there and some great science videos produced by Phil Vischer from Veggie Tales fame. And, speaking of Veggie Tales . . . yep! . . . you can find them there as well! Plus there are Bible studies, missionary stories, educational stuff . . . I could go on and on but I will let you explore yourself. I haven’t written an official review on RightNow Media yet, but, trust me, it is great. Click on the name above to get to their website.

Bonus – As I was getting ready to write this blog post I thought about the many travels that we have enjoyed and some of the things that my kids really loved. One of the first things that popped into my mind was Hank the Cowdog so, even though it is from years ago, I wanted to include it as a “Bonus”. ‘'

Hank the Cowdog   - If you have never read a Hank the Cowdog book or, especially, listened to one of the audio books, you have really missed out. They are hilarious and entertaining. The audio books are actually read by the author and he gives different voices to each of the characters. We still joke around about Hank the Cowdog and it is one of Jacob’s favorite series of books. Click here to get to my very old review, and click on the name above to get to the website to find out more about it.

Folks I am not an affiliate for any of the above companies at least not YET! I haven’t had time in the past few months to reevaluate my affiliates, do away with some, and add others. However, when I do, you can guarantee the above companies will be some of the first companies I affiliate with. Remember, I don’t recommend or affiliate with anything that I don’t like or think is appropriate and you can trust that the above products meet my standards. Enjoy browsing around and leave a comment to let me know what audio and visual products that you like to use while traveling.

Merry Christmas and Safe Traveling!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Throwback Thursday–Hank the Cowdog–One of Our Favorite Reviews!

There is a reason that I am posting this now that you’ll find out in my next post. However, this really was one of our favorite reviews and it is timely to post this right before Christmas when you are thinking about Christmas gifts. If you have never read a Hank The Cowdog book you are missing out. Even better, listen to one of the audio CD’s done by the author. They are hilarious! I could go on and I but then you wouldn’t read this classic review from . . . oh my . . . could it actually be six years ago? BTW, even after six years, Jacob still loves Hank the Cowdog!

Families Again Tuesday, 11 August 2009 Maverick Books - Hank the Cowdog!
Mood: happy
Topic: Homeschool Product Review

When I first found out that I would get to review Hank the Cowdog, I was really excited, but when I found out that we would be receiving not one but three Hank items, I was ecstatic!

My introduction to these fantastic books was years ago when I was still substitute teaching in the local public schools. I had gone into the school library and found one of John Erickson's Hank books. The assistant librarian immediately began to sing the praises of this series. She encouraged me to get one of the books on tape to entertain the kids during a trip that we were about to take. I checked one out of the library and we were not disappointed! Hank considers himself "head of ranch security" for the large ranch that he, Drover (his dog sidekick), Junior the buzzard and a host of other characters live. Hank and his friends get into all kinds of trouble and adventures that will leave you rolling with laughter. But, although they help, it isn't the cast of characters that make the audio books so fun to listen to. What is it you ask? I'll reveal that later! 

Since I joined the TOS Homeschool Crew, we get, on average, about a package a week containing homeschool items to review. Whenever one arrives it is like Christmas, and everyone crowds around to see what is in the box. This was no exception. We tore open the package and on top was Hank's "Tornado" game.

Tornado game
The subtitle for Tornado is "The Wildest Race and Chase Game Ever" and they are right. Tornado is similar to Sorry or Aggravation but with a twist. Along with moving Hank, Drover and Junior around the board and trying to reach home without being landed on and sent back to start, you may end up on a tornado space, which could send you flying anywhere. Based on the book "The Case of the Swirling, Killer, Tornado", the game includes a tape with a 30 min. hilarious segment from the book. I was a little concerned that the sending back part would throw Joshua (our Asperger's child) into a tizzy, but I was pleasently surprised that he took it all in stride and both he and his older brother, John Allen, loved it. Little three year old, Jacob, even tried to play. Although he didn't understand the strategy or really what was going on, he loved to spin the spinner, and count how many spaces he was to move. It can also be played while you travel, so the kids even played in the car! The game board folds shut and all of the pieces are stored inside! It, along with the audio tape, can make for some fun and wacky family nights!

Taking the game out of our "Christmas" box revealed our next great gift - "The Case of the One Eyed Killer Stud Horse"!

Hank #8
Since Joshua was in the midst of another reading project, I handed this short chapter book to John Allen. Now, let me tell you, John Allen has never complained about reading. I can assign him to read a book, and he will read it, usually without a problem. But, it takes a special book for him to want to pick it up to read on his own instead of playing one of his favored video games. This was one of those books! It's about an untamed stud horse who keeps escaping from the neighbors field and finding it's way onto the ranch. As head of ranch security, Hank, ends up saving the day, but not before some amusing events. You'll have to read the book to find out about the poison bacon, Sally May's "fundamental disagreement" with Hank, and what Hank is wearing when he confronts the wild horse. Now, although the boys love the Tornado game, and John Allen loved "The Case of the One-Eyed Killer Stud Horse", the family favorite has to be the treasure that we found at the bottom of the box...
  Hank logo

 ...a CD titled "Tales and Tunes fron Hank the Cowdog"! This recording contains story excerpts from ten of the Hank books along with nine original songs. We brought this out to take with us on a recent trip to Grandma's house and were, once again, entertained by the selections. What makes the audio books so great you asked? John Erickson, the author, reads the books himself, but gives each one of the characters a hilariously funny voice. From, Pete the cat's "Paul Lynde" voice to Rip and Snort's (coyotes) untamed, uneducated voices, they are all very entertaining and fit the character to the T!

Mr. Erickson even sings all of the songs in the character's voices. The excerpts include selections from such titles as "The Case of the Swirling, Killer Tornado" and "The Case of the One-Eyed Killer Stud Horse".

Some of the song's are "Drover's Tornado Safety Song"- Turn me loose, turn me loose, I'm as silly as a goose - for barking at a thing that's bigger than a moose

and Rip and Snorts "We Don't Give a Hoot" - We don't give a hoot - We don't ever wear a suit

Our personal favorite, however, has to be "I'm Trapped in Madagascar"  They left me here to rot and to be broiled by the sun, - But only if I'm lucky and the pirates do not come.

The kids continue to beg to play the Tornado game and to listen to the CD. John Allen has even asked for another Hank book to read. Hey, anything is better than him playing video games all day! These books would be great for reluctant readers. Better yet, you could even have them read along while listening to the tape!

To find out more about these great products just press on any one of the highlighted titles above, or here, and you will go straight to the Hank Website. On their website, Hank's paperback books range from $4.24 (for older editions) to $5.24 (for Hank's newer adventures), the Tornado game is only $12.99 and the "Tales and Tunes" CD is just $3.00. You'll also find deals on Hank the Cowdog plush items, t-shirts and other Hank themed games. Have fun shopping, and happy reading.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

6 Ways to Teach Your Family About Giving and Not Just Getting During This Holiday Season

I am by nature a very selfish person. I’ll tell you that right up front. I won’t deny it. Often times I catch myself thinking about myself and what I can get out of situation. There are many times that my selfishness steals the joy that could be had by unselfishly giving to others.
Have you ever heard the old saying that the negative actions of others that most bother you are usually the exact negative things that you don’t like about yourself? Well, I realized that some of the things that I don’t like about my kids is the attitude of want, want, want that they have especially during the holiday season.
As I thought about it, I thought about how many people there are that are less fortunate than we are in our town, country and world, and I know parents often have a difficult time combatting the “give me” culture that we live in. So I thought of six ways that I could get my kids to start thinking about giving and not about getting and I wanted to share those things with you all.
Ways to Share Abroad
Compassion International
When I was in college, I remember a young man named Kees Boer speaking in chapel about sponsoring children from Compassion International. I remember picking up a couple of packets and looking them over and longing to perhaps sponsor some of the kids but knowing that I couldn’t afford it at that time. Years later I reconnected with Kees on Facebook. He was still working with Compassion International and was looking for a sponsor for a young boy from Bolivia named Marcelo. After a little prayer and talking it over with my family, we decided to sponsor Marcelo. Marcelo has changed our life and blessed us in so many more ways than you can imagine. Now, that young boy is in college and we are still sponsoring him. We love Marcelo just as we love the other seven . . . yes I said seven . . . other children that we have sponsored or do sponsor in one way or another through Compassion. My children have been blessed and have learned so much through their correspondence with their brothers and sisters from around the world. Trust me, it will be an investment that will change your life as well. Just click on one of the links above to find out more. If you would rather sponsor through another organization there are many more great ones out there. Compassion International is the one we know the most about and trust them completely.
compassion gift
Give a Goat!
Can’t afford to monthly sponsor a child? Give a goat instead! Or a cow, or a pig, or . . . the list goes on and on. Compassion International publishes a Christmas Catalogue every year where you can help a child in many different ways from providing a Bible to a child for $10 to providing a goat to provide milk for an entire family for $100. Check out the catalogue by clicking on the highlighted link above to see the different options and watch the video below for more information on this great program.
When you give a gift through Compassion's Gift Catalog... from Compassion International on Vimeo.
Fair Trade Friday

Fair Trade Friday and Mercy House
I remember when Kristen Welch went on a blogging trip to Kenya with Compassion International. It was a life changing trip. I remember reading her post about meeting her Kenyan Compassion child. I remember her heart wrenching posts about the impoverished living environments that these children and their families live in. Then, I remember her recalling that when she came home she wondered how she could live in a big home with all of the stuff when most families in Kenya were living in areas that were about the size of her garage. She longed to do something more and sought the Lord’s guidance. Soon, her family started a non-profit organization and Mercy House was born to help women and girls around the world. Fair Trade Friday is ministry of Mercy House. Here is what Fair Trade Friday’s website says about their ministry. “FTF exists as an avenue for women to empower women.  We are tackling poverty through job opportunity and empowerment rather than enablement. 100% of the proceeds support the artisans, more than 500 women and their children from all over the world. FTF is a ministry of Mercy House Kenya, a non-profit organization.” Check out their great program by clicking on any of the highlighted links above. It is a wonderful opportunity to buy gifts in a very unselfish way.
Bead for Life
Bead for Life
Bead for Life is another inspiring story of how three woman walking through the slums of Uganda met a woman sitting in front of her home and making bead necklaces. That chance encounter, with God’s help, turned into Bead For Life. I learned about this program through, yes, Compassion International and bought some of the jewelry for my wife. She absolutely loves it. Shhh . . . I’m going to buy more as a Christmas gift for her again this year. Check them out by clicking on one of the highlighted links above.
Ways to Share At Home
Missionaries 2
Volunteer at a local food bank, shelter, or soup kitchen
I once shared about Compassion International on Facebook and lost a friend. Before he deleted me from his Facebook account he wrote a scathing note to me about how we need to be taking care of the children and families living in poverty in the United States before we help those abroad.
Perhaps some of you feel the same way. I get it! I really do! You see, my family and I are full time missionaries who direct a ministry to low income folks in the town that we live in. We give out food, serve meals, do Bible Studies, and help the people to help themselves through things such as cooking classes and our annual CanDo Bazaar (I CAN DO all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13) where folks can sell craft items or baked goods to help make a little extra money for the holidays.
So, we do understand the need to help those at home as well. If you happen to live close enough to us, then please come and visit this year’s Cando Bazaar next Friday and Saturday, December 11 and 12, on the square in Livingston, TN in the storefront that is right beside Everything Sports.
If you don’t live close to Livingston, I’m sure there are many opportunities to give in your area. Ask around about local food banks or soup kitchens where you can volunteer. Perhaps a church is serving a meal to low income folks and you can volunteer for it. Some civic organizations such as the Jaycees put on annual toy drives for kids. The Salvation Army is always looking for bell ringers during the holiday season. Here is a website of locations that are currently looking for ringers – There are lots and lots of ways that you and your kids can be involved. Perhaps your local Chamber of Commerce can help you find a place as well.
Day Camp
Send a kid to camp
I remember going to camp as a kid and what a blessing it was to me. In fact, it was such a blessing and I enjoyed it so much that I have spent the last 30+ summers working at camps or directing my own camps. Camps are near and dear to my heart. Unfortunately, there are many families that can’t afford to send their kids to camp. Why not sponsor a kid to go to camp next summer? What a thrill that would be if a child opened up a card that contained an invitation to go to camp for free this next year! If you know of a local camp, why not call them up and find out how to sponsor a child (or two or three). If you don’t know of a local camp, the mission organization that we are with, BCM International, has camps in the United States and all around the world that are looking for people to donate to their camp scholarship programs. Just click here (click on the “designation” box and you’ll see the Camp Scholarship choice) or on the highlighted link above to find out more information.
Well, I pray that I have given you some food for thought and some good choices on how to teach your kids to give and not just get this Christmas. Perhaps none of the suggestions above work for you but your interest has been sparked and you have another way to serve this holiday season. Whatever you do, if you do something, leave me a comment below and tell me what you did and how it went. It would bless my heart to know that this blog post helped some other people. Thank you ahead of time!
Proverbs 19:17 New International Version
Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done.