Awesome New Art Supply ~ Kwik Stix Tempera Paint! And a Giveaway!

This is truly the MOST remarkable art medium ever!  The Pencil Grip, Inc. offered members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew their amazing Kwik Stix 12pk to use in our homes, and then to share those experiences in a review.  All I can say is…!

Kwik Stix banner

The Pencil Grip, Inc. generously sent us the Kwik Stix 12pk as well as one The Pencil Grip-Single Grip (on a pen, even!) and an additional red Kwik Stix sample.

Kwik Stix 4What are Kwik Stix?

Kwik Stix are remarkable little art tools.  Shaped like chunky little markers, each 3 1/2″ Kwik Stix has a removable cap at the top and a twisting mechanism at the bottom.  But, instead of being a marker, each Kwik Stix contains a solid stick of tempera paint!

Kwik Stix are nontoxic.  They can be used on paper, on wood, on poster board, or cardboard.  They have a barely discernable scent; NOTHING like that of regular tempera paint, which (in my opinion) is pretty strong and stinky.  The paint dries in about a minute and a half, when used in artwork (and the sticks themselves can dry out, so your children will want to be diligent to replace the caps after use).  The Pencil Grip, Inc. recommends them for children over the age of three.

We received the Kwik Stix 12pk, with twelve assorted colors, but Kwik Stix are also available in a Neons 6pk and a Metalix 6pk.

Kwik Stix 2How we used them

We used them for a number of projects.  First, we tried them out on stock card (above).  They are WONDERFUL.  The color is bright and vivid, and it glides very smoothly onto the paper.  A little paint does go a long way.  And the Kwik Stix paint really does dry in about 90 seconds.  Since 12 different colors are included in the pack we received (lime green, pink, white, red, purple, blue, black, brown, violet, green, yellow, and orange), the coloring options were endless.

We used them along with a unit study to create artwork that went with the biography we read.  We also used them in our art journals.

Kwik Stix 3aWhat we thought about Kwik Stix

All right.  Before we begin, I do have to admit to you that I am a total art geek.  I love art, I love museums, I love creating art (although I would also say that I’m not a trained artist).  And I LOVE art supplies!  So, I couldn’t have been happier to try these out.

I found the Kwik Stix very soothing to work with.  Because they move so smoothly across paper, it is just a pleasure to use them.  The bright, cheerful colors stand out very distinctly against paper.  Additionally, because they dry so quickly, you can layer colors one on top of the other, which creates its own interesting effect.  They are really fun to use, but  they’re also very effective.  And, I’d think, very easy for any child from the age of 4 and up to work with.

Kwik Stix 5The diameter of the Kwik Stix is 3/4″ wide.  That does cause them to make broad lines or coloring large areas easier than creating fine lines.  But, if you look at the photo above, you’ll see that fine lines are possible!  You just have to work with the Stix for awhile to figure out how.

Now, my son (who’s an eighth grader) also liked them.  But he did feel that they were a little “kiddish” to work with; I think he could envision younger children using them more just because of their shape.  But, he did enjoy using the Kwik Stix and he made some cool art with them as well!  And we both loved that these paint sticks had so little odor.

Here’s a short list of some ideas for art with the Kwik Stix!

  • landscapes
  • modern art
  • art journaling (I’m planning to try them out in the Bible I use for journaling!)
  • mixed media
  • nature journaling

Really, anywhere you could use tempera paint, crayons, markers or any drawing media would be a perfect place for Kwik Stix!

Kwik Stix pencil grip

In conclusion:

We LOVED the Kwik Stix and we highly recommend them.  You can purchase your own Kwik Stix 12pk from The Pencil Grip, Inc., or from Amazon.  However—the lovely people at The Pencil Grip, Inc. have decided to bless one of our readers with his or her very own set of the Kwik Stix 12pk!  Just enter using the Giveaway Tools entry form below.  The giveaway opens on May 4 and closes on May 10.  Best wishes!



Enjoy! –Wren

Kwik Stix The Pencil Grip, Inc. Review
Crew Disclaimer

Garden Party Linky ~ Garden Prep 2016

Welcome back to Garden Party!  Kemi from Homemaking Organized and I are so glad to be getting ready to garden again, and to hear about your gardening experiences as well!  At the end of this post, you’ll have the opportunity to link up your own gardening posts, so keep an eye out.

Garden Party C

Have you started either your garden planning or your garden prep?  As I write this, it is 37 F outside.  And yes, it is the end of April!  Where we live, it’s time to put peas in the ground, but not too much else.  So we’re really in the planning stages of our 2016 garden.  Here’s what will be going on throughout the next month.

Preparing the ground

I’m hoping to pick up a soil testing kit in the next week or so.  While we’ve been adding organic materials to our raised garden beds, I know that the plants have also been taking those nutrients out of the soil.  By testing the dirt in the beds, I’ll be able to determine what kinds of organic fertilizer I need to add.  (Note to self: do this over the next week!)

Plan the garden beds

Next, I need to decide what is going to go where!  We have a 5′ x 5′ raised bed plus two 2′ x 2′ smaller raised beds.  I plan to use The Postage Stamp Vegetable Garden book again this year.  It is a great book for tiny garden areas, where you need to maximize limited space for maximum output.  Last year I didn’t have as much success with some veggies, like cucumbers.  My garden barely produced any!  And I do love them for salads.

Spring 2016 323Anyway, here’s a list of the seeds we have to plant:

  • Zucchini
  • Crookneck (yellow) squash
  • Mini carrots
  • Sweet peas
  • Sugar daddy peas
  • Radishes
  • Cucumber

Last year for the first time in several years, I didn’t start tomatoes from seed.  Instead, my mom and I got potted tomatoes (large and small, of a variety of toms) from a local garden center.  We’re doing the same thing again this year.

My garlic scapes
My garlic scapes

What’s happening now

We have a pretty short growing season here.  So I won’t be able to get most of our seeds/plants in the ground until after May 20 or so.  (Just like Mitford!)  But, I can get the peas at least in the ground.  I still need to pick up a packet of sugar snap peas.  We really, really love sugar snaps!

I also did some fall planting of sprouted garlic cloves.  They’re in the photo above….then this is what I woke up to this morning!

Oops, it snowed!
Oops, it snowed!

But they’re tough.  And, they’ve been snowed on before, all throughout the winter.

They seem nice and healthy.  And talk about easy-peasy!  You just put them in the ground, water them, and forget all about them til spring.  When the scapes turn yellow and begin to wither, I’ll be able to dig up the garlic heads.  (And then they’ll need to dry for awhile…but that’s another post!)

Spring 2016 326To my surprise, when I looked out the back door yesterday I had one row of peonies that were already 3′ tall!  And they are forming buds as well.  Last year we had a terrifically horrible hailstorm that did in half of our peonies (I have them planted in an L-shape along our fences).  I’m hoping they’ll survive the crazy spring weather this year!

What are you planning for your garden?

Kemi from Homemaking Organized and I will be posting this Garden Party Linky each month from now until the early fall, so we can share all our gardening adventures with you.  And, we’d love to hear about your gardening fun!  So link up your posts so we can visit you—anything about gardening!

And be sure to visit Kemi’s opening Garden Party post at Homemaking Organized, Welcome to the First Gardening Link-Up for 2016!

Enjoy!  –Wren



GREEMU ~ A Review of a New Plant-Based “Emu” Oil

Once again, we’ve had the opportunity to try an interesting natural product from the Schoolhouse Review Crew.  Devonian, a company associated with Koru Naturals (whose products we have seriously adored), has created and produced a brand new oil called GREEMU.  We received a 4-ounce bottle to use and review.

Greemu Devonian Review

What is GREEMU Oil?

GREEMU Oil is a plant-based beauty oil.  It’s especially designed for those who’d love the benefits of emu oil but would prefer not to use an animal-derived product.  Scientists from Devonian have developed this oil, whose lipids (fats) mimic the ones found in emu oil (myristic, palmitic, palmitoleic, stearic, oleic, linoleic, and linolenic acids) in type and composition.

The major difference between emu oil and GREEMU Oil is that all the oils that comprise GREEMU are from plants.  It’s actually a quite fascinating list!  In GREEMU,  you’ll find Macadamia Seed Oil, Palm Oil (from organic and sustainable sources), Shea Butter, Sunflower Seed Oil, and Rice Bran Oil.

According to Devonian, GREEMU Oil can be used to condition dry hair and split ends.  It can also be used to “protect and nourish” skin.

How we used GREEMU

I have used and appreciated emu oil.  It has so many wonderful properties and is both a great hair conditioner and skin nourisher.  Because of GREEMU’s ingredients, I was particularly interested in using it.  I’d heard great things about macadamia oil and rice bran oil, especially.

But….I  should have paid a bit more attention to the following Safety Warning located at the Devonian website: “GREEMUTM  is for external use only and is not for people allergic to plant oils.”

Well, of course I did NOT take the oil internally.  But apparently I am one of the people who has an allergy to an ingredient!  I’ve never displayed an allergy to any of the listed ingredients.  But here is what happened.

I thought I’d apply the GREEMU to the back of my left hand to begin with, just to ensure things would go well.  It has a texture and consistency quite like the emu oil; a thick whitish oil.  Just as with emu, you don’t have to apply a lot; a few drops go a long way.  I rubbed it into the skin on my hand, where it felt cool and pleasant.  It actually looked and felt very nourishing on my skin, and the dry, tight feeling I’d had before I applied it disappeared.

But then, I started to notice that I had something on my hand (not like lotion or other oils, which seem to sink in and just leave your skin feeling smoother).  Then my eyes began to water.  Then I became congested.  Then I felt uncomfortable.

And THEN I washed my hands repeatedly and took Benadryl!

My symptoms subsided over the next hour, and I did wash my hands several more times.  But clearly, this safety warning applied to me.

Greemu Devonian Review

In conclusion:

I’d imagine that my experience is not a common one.  I won’t be using the GREEMU Oil again (and actually am passing my bottle on to a friend, whose family’s experiences with GREEMU were marvelous).  However, I do recommend to you that you click on the banner below which will allow you to see others’ reviews and experiences.  That will give you a full picture of GREEMU Oil and its uses and benefits!

You may purchase GREEMU from Devonian.

And be sure to visit Devonian at their social media links!


Enjoy!  –Wren

Greemu Devonian Review
Crew Disclaimer

Southwestern Stuffed Zucchini!

zucchini recipe card

Another fabulous meal from Hello Fresh; super, super easy and delicious in 35 minutes!

zucchini box closed

zucchini box open


  • 3/4 c Basmati Rice
  • 2 Zucchini’s
  • 1 ear Sweet Corn
  • 1 Tomato
  • 1 Yellow Onion
  • 1/4 oz Cilantro (fresh)
  • 1 box or can of Organic Black Beans
  • 1/2 c Monterey Jack Cheese
  • 1 pkt Vegetable Stock Concentrate
  • 1 t Chili Flakes
  • 2 t Olive Oil

First, get your prep work out of the way: Wash and dry all of your produce and preheat your oven to 400 degrees (on a roast setting if you have one).

Dice the onion and set aside.zucchini onion chopped

Core, seed and dice the tomato, set aside.zucchini tomatoes

Rinse and drain the black beans,zucchini beans

Slice the kernels off the cob (I do this over a bowl to prevent kernels running amok).zucchini corn

Chop the Cilantro (i removed the stems). zucchini cilantro

Halve the zucchini’s lengthwise, use a spoon to scoop out the center (easiest to do from top to bottom dragging the spoon).zucchini boats

Roast the zucchini: drizzle inside with olive oil and salt & pepper, place face down on a baking sheet and cook for 20-25 minutes until edges have browned.

zucchini roastedDrizzle olive oil into a large skillet, saute the onions, tossing for 3-4 minutes. Fill a small pot with 1 1/2 cups of water, add the stock concentrate and bring to a boil; add rice and simmer until done (15 minutes). zucchini onions

Add the corn, beans, tomatoes and chili flakes and cook about 4 minutes (tossing until integrated).zucchini stuffing

Then add the rice and half the cilantro and cook another 3 minutes, tossing. zucchini stuffing with rice

Time to assemble! Scoop as much of the rice and vegetable mixture into the boats still on the baking sheet. Sprinkle the cheese over the boats and place under the broiler to melt the cheese. When plating, additional filling underneath to serve as a bed for your roasted zucchini boats and top with more cilantro!zucchini finished

The finished product…was amazing; we sprinkled Frank’s hot sauce to kick the heat up a tad!

If you are interested in trying Hello Fresh click this link with my referral code:


“Corrie ten Boom: Keeper of the Angels’ Den” from YWAM Publishing

We’ve just been blessed to review a wonderful biography and study guide of one of my favorite Christians of history, Corrie Ten Boom!  Through the Schoolhouse Review Crew, Jackson and I received a softcover version of YWAM Publishing‘s  Corrie ten Boom: Keeper of the Angels’ Den from their Christian Heroes: Then And Now series.  We also received a Digital Study Guide to use alongside the book, entitled the Corrie Ten Boom Unit Study Curriculum Guide.

YWAM Corrie banner 2

Previously, we’ve reviewed two other books from YWAM Publishing; Jim Elliot: One Great Purpose and C.S. Lewis: Master Storyteller, both of which we loved.  We’re always on the lookout now for YWAM biographies!


YWAM Corrie book coverThe Book

Are you familiar with Corrie ten Boom’s story?  Residents of Haarlem, Holland, Corrie and the ten Boom family, who were faithful Christians, lived in a house called the Beje.  On the first floor was a watch shop, run by Corrie and her father Casper ten Boom.  Her sister Betsie also lived at the Beje, and their siblings were married with children and lived nearby.  When Holland was invaded by the Nazis, the ten Booms became (to Corrie’s surprise) involved in the Dutch underground as the German invaders began to persecute, round up, and imprison Dutch Jews.  Eventually the ten Booms secretly hosted Jewish “guests,” who had to go into hiding at the Beje.  The underground even built a secret room in Corrie’s bedroom, where the “guests” could gather if there were a raid on the home.

Of course, eventually the Beje was raided and the ten Booms, arrested.  Corrie ten Boom: Keeper of the Angels’ Den, Corrie’s story for younger readers, is capably retold by Janet and Geoff Benge.  It’s recommended for ages 10 and up.  However, while it is a story where God’s hand and deliverance are so clearly seen, it’s also a devastating one.  Corrie and her sister Betsie are sent to Ravensbruck, a concentration camp in Germany where prisoners were actually gassed and their bodies, burned.  Even students who are familiar with WWII will find parts of this book difficult to read.  Parents should gauge their own children’s sensitivities to these topics.

However, as terrible as Corrie’s and Betsie’s (and the rest of their family’s) experiences are, God does do amazing things through them.  And Corrie’s devastating war experiences become a platform for what begins as a ministry to survivors of concentration camps, and ultimately becomes a worldwide ministry where she shares about forgiveness and the love of God; even with the German former guards of Ravensbruck.


YWAM Corrie Study Guide coverThe Study Guide

The Digital Study Guide is a fantastic way to incorporate a unit study about Corrie ten Boom, her life, and history along with the reading of the book.  Here’s a sampling of some of the topics it covers:

  • Bible verses
  • Chapter questions about the book for both younger and older readers
  • Geography (it even includes maps!) and a study of The Netherlands
  • History
  • Art
  • Drama
  • and more!

We chose a number of activities from the unit study to focus our time and attention on.  We began with some geography.  First, of Holland itself, and some of the locations that were important in Corrie’s story: Haarlem, her hometown, and her home the Beje; Scheveningen, where she and Betsie were first imprisoned; and Ravensbruck, the notorious concentration camp in Germany.

We also studied the map of Europe.  We completed a couple of art projects related to Holland and Corrie’s life.  We studied some verses important to Corrie, and learned a bit more about her ministry and the ten Boom family’s work in the Dutch underground.

YWAM Corrie TrioWe always enjoy YWAM’s excellent unit studies.  But I appreciated them even more this time, because with them we were able to add some beauty and relief to a heartbreaking (though inspiring) story.



YWAM Corrie verseOur recommendations

I mentioned earlier that Corrie ten Boom is a much-beloved historical figure of mine.  I read her story The Hiding Place years ago, when I was in grade school.  And, I looked forward to introducing it to my son.  He did appreciate much of it; but he struggled with the overwhelming sadness he perceived about Corrie’s life.  She really did lose so much during the war, and because of the war.

And yet over and over, God’s hand is so visibly seen.  The ten Booms’ courage, valor, and honor; the Jews whom they were able to save (not only the ones hidden in the secret room during the raid, but an estimated 800 overall through the underground); God’s Word, which Betsie and Corrie freely shared with the female prisoners at Ravensbruck; Corrie’s ministry of forgiveness following the war.  It is an astounding story.

We’d recommend that you introduce Corrie and her life to your children when you sense they’re really ready to hear a difficult story.  I do believe that everyone should know the story of the ten Booms.  But it’s a question of when!

You may purchase both Corrie ten Boom: Keeper of the Angels’ Den and its accompanying Digital Study Guide at YWAM Publishing.  You can see more of the fantastic resources offered by YWAM Publishing at their social media sites:

Website: YWAM Publishing
Twitter @YWAMpublishing
The YWAM Publishing Blog

Also, other Crew members reviewed a huge variety of biographies about amazing Americans and faithful Christians.  If you click on the banner below, you can read about some of these other great YWAM biographies!

Enjoy! –Wren

Christian Heroes {YWAM Publishing Review}
Crew Disclaimer

Things We Love: La Croix (It’s Like a Healthy Soda!)

I used to call every carbonated beverage a Coke.  Back when I lived in the Great State of Texas.  As in, “Let’s go get a Coke.”

Even if it was a Dr Pepper, my carbonated bev of choice.  (Now I live in the West.  I do not know when “soda” became a part of my vocabulary.  It’s a Coke, people—even if it’s not a Coke!)

Except when it’s a La Croix.

This is not a Coke.
This is not a Coke.

What is a La Croix, you ask?  (And just so you know–it’s pronounced “la croy,” not “la kwah.”  This is what the company website tells us.)

Well, a La Croix is like a soda—a healthy one.  But they call it “naturally essenced sparkling water.”  It is sparkling water (with the bite of a soda) with flavor.  No sugar though!

But, the La Croix drinks/sodas/sparking essences are FABULOUS.  And DELICIOUS.


This one is our newest flavor:  Cerise Limone, aka Cherry Lime.  Now I ask you.  Who doesn’t love a cherry lime anything?

La Croix also comes in grapefruit (excuse me, pamplemousse), berry, pear peach, lime, lemon, and other awesome flavors.  Again, with no sugar.

Just the delicious guiltless refreshing thing for a hot summer day!

(But it’s not a Coke.)

Enjoy!  –Wren

Step-by-Step Writing from Apologia with Writers In Residence

Do you have a student who struggles with writing….or find it challenging to teach?  Debra Bell’s newest curriculum from Apologia Educational Ministries may be the solution to your problem!  Via the Schoolhouse Review Crew, we’ve been using Writers in Residence for our writing, and I’m happy to share with you our review of the program.

Writers in Residence Banner

We are fans of all things Apologia.  We’ve quite happily used their Exploring Creation Field Trip Journal, the Apologia iWitness books, What On Earth Can I Do?, and Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics.  We loved the quality, the learning experiences, the godly mindset and the creative presentations of each one.  When I heard about the company’s new writing program, I was anxious for us to use it!


Writer in Res 1aWhat is Writers In Residence?

Writers in Residence is Debra Bell’s new writing curriculum designed for students in grades 4 and up. It is centered around the idea that God has gifted children with a voice to speak to the world and ideas He desires them to share, for their (and others’) good and His glory.  This program, used in its entirety, will take them a long way in preparing them with those abilities while honing their language arts skills.  It is a complete language arts program, that teaches grammar, writing, and sentence structure.  But it’s anything but a dry grammar course.  No, students learn all these language arts components while they write fascinating accounts of their own life experiences.

Through four different types of writing assignments (I Remember, I Imagine, I Investigate, and I Think), students engage in a variety of writing types. And these assignments are not only designed to teach various facets of language arts, they also enable children to discover their personal writing voice.  In fact, this rich program teaches so much that is essential for extraordinary communication!  In Writers in Residence, students will learn:

  • The components of writing:  plan, draft, revise, edit, polish
  • How to generate ideas, choose words, organize thoughts, compose sentences
  • To develop their own “voice”
  • Editing, spelling, and grammar
  • Writing tips from real authors

The program can be completed in 32 weeks (and a lesson plan is included), so it’s possible to finish it in one school year.  It has two components, the Writers in Residence Volume 1 Apprentice Student Text and Workbook (for the student’s use–everything in one book!), and the Writers in Residence Volume 1 Apprentice Answer Key (for the mom/teacher).

Writer in Residence 4Here’s how we used it:

First, I previewed the sections we’d be working on.  The Suggested Daily Schedule was incredibly helpful, and most days (about three per week) I made the assignments listed there.  Occasionally we needed a bit more time than was listed for a day’s lesson, but in general they were broken up in appropriate amounts for my son Jackson, who’s in eighth grade.

I’d assign Jackson the reading and exercise portions for the day, and most of the time, he’d do the reading on his own.  Then, he’d do the exercises, which included everything from reading interviews with published authors who were interesting to kids, to brainstorming, to selecting vivid words, and more.  There were also exercises where Jackson could put to work the things he was learning, and creative writing tasks apart from the writing assignment he was developing in the unit.

Because of the way the Writers in Residence student workbook is organized, each lesson and module builds on the ones before it, so writing and language arts skills in general are honed and improved as the student progresses.  The Answer Key provides answers for various exercises in the book, so it can be pulled out by the parent when necessary.  Many of the assignments the students work on are the original writing, but there are various exercises which will just have one right answer.  Voila–the Answer Key!


Look, we get to "meet" Phil Vischer at the end of the year!
Look, we get to “meet” Phil Vischer at the end of the year!

What we thought about Writers In Residence

Above all, I truly value Apologia Educational Ministries‘s worldview.  They absolutely seek to honor God in all their curricula.  The sense I get from Writers in Residence is that while they are teaching skills to the students that they’ll require for effective communication, they’re also preparing them for the use of gifts and the calling God has for their lives.  So in some ways, I view Writers in Residence not only a writing curriculum, but a tool that can be used in the discipleship of my son.

As a teacher, I really appreciate the organization of the lessons and the handy Suggested Daily Schedule included as part of the student’s workbook.  As you can see in the photo above, each module is laid out in a 4-day lesson plan (although we generally worked on a 3-lesson-per-week schedule).  This is fantastic for both the parent, who has a clear assignment list to work from, and for the student, who knows exactly what he’ll be doing each day.  And, for those type-A kiddos who like to check things off their lists, there’s a real satisfaction in being able to check off each lesson as it’s completed!

It’s also a very thorough and complete program.  Lessons on grammar, vocabulary, and the mechanics of writing are gently woven into the modules.  Writers in Residence can very easily serve as a stand-alone language arts curriculum in a given year.

Parents will also love that, at the end of the course, their children will have a beautiful autobiographical record of some of their most important and beloved life experiences.  Really, both the parents and children will greatly treasure this book, as a keepsake for years to come.

We did experience a few challenges as we worked through Writers in Residence.  Perhaps it’s because writing is already something we do very regularly.  I write frequently and Jackson, my eighth grader, also loves to communicate via the written word.  He often sits down at the computer to do creative writing; it’s already a very natural process for him.  I do wonder if the way that Writers in Residence breaks down writing to its very essence and mechanics might have been the challenge.  Jackson is more used to just writing, rather than working step-by-step through brainstorming, rewriting for maximum effect, drafting and redrafting, and then creating the final product.  I do think that the longer we worked on this process, however, the more used to it he would become, and the more proficient in working on each segment of writing.  And really, isn’t this the exact process that high school and college students (not to mention professional writers) must use to create an excellent finished product?


Writers in Residence 2Our conclusions

Writers in Residence is a curriculum which can turn inexperienced writers into polished ones.  Its focus on working through the process of writing, along with grammar and vocabulary, is very effective and just what will benefit students, especially as they head into high school.  Its Christian worldview is the foundation for all assignments, and the grace with which assignments and the students themselves are interacted with.  Once again, Apologia has created an exceptional product.

You can purchase Writers in Residence from Apologia Educational Ministries.  Also, if you click on the banner below, you can see what other Crew members thought of this new writing program!

Enjoy!  –Wren


Apologia Educational Ministries‘ social media sites:

Twitter  @apologiaworld

Apologia: Writers in Residence Review

Crew Disclaimer


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