(RED)-World AIDS Day 2014 Brings New Updates to 10+ Apps

Hi there!
It’s me, Jackson.

The organization (RED) is a special group that fights to stop AIDS in Africa. So now, (RED) has teamed with Apple and many world-famous apps and companies to save lives. And one of the games that recieved a special update was Angry Birds. That’s right, the original Angry Birds, along with many other games like Minion Rush, Clash of Clans and Cut the Rope 2 have received special updates with exclusive (RED) content, and while we’re on the subject of Angry Birds, let’s cover what it went through with the update, shall we?

Angry Birds: What’s New

  • GOLDEN EGG! A special new level has made its way into the already famous game. Press the play button and you should see it near the bottom of the screen. Tap it to unlock the level and go to the Golden Eggs section to play it.
  • NEW POWER-UP! Now, the all-new (RED)’s Mighty Feathers power-up can be purchased for $2.99 for use in any level. Tapping it puts a special slingshot in place of the normal one. The special slingshot can turn any normal Red Bird into the special one that we see in the section “Red’s Mighty Feathers”. Please note that it only puts one special Red Bird into the slingshot. Any other Red Birds that hop into the slingshot will stay normal. Three levels can be played in the shop for free use of it before purchase.

Now, with that said, all of the apps that (RED) has teamed with, including Angry Birds, can be downloaded to save lives. And just like in Angry Birds, some in-app purchases have come to the other apps too (like Minion Rush). In Minion Rush, the Lifeguard minion, Red Token pack and Red Prize Pod have been added.

Please note that these special purchases and app versions are only available until December 7th, 2014, so please download these apps if you want them!

The link to (RED)’s site is here.


Enjoy, and God Bless! -Jackson

Quote of the Day: Thanksgiving

As we look forward to Thanksgiving week, here is a lovely quote from E.P. Powell!

“Thanksgiving Day is a jewel, to set in the hearts of honest men; but be careful that you do not take the day, and leave out the gratitude.”

Give thanks!

Give thanks!

Enjoy!  –Wren


Delicious Crockpot Winter Stew from eMeals

If you’re like me (and even if you’re not!), you love delicious, easy and healthy meals for your family.  Especially in the winter, when it’s so handy to use the crockpot.  We personally have experienced ridiculously cold temps in recent weeks, which makes me love thick, rich stews and soups.  And as a homeschooler, meals that I throw into the crockpot in the morning are so much easier than teaching a full day’s worth of school, caring for my other responsibilities and THEN cooking a meal from scratch.  That’s also a bonanza on the days we have piano lessons or homeschool coop.  Today, eMeals has a wonderful wintery crockpot stew recipe perfect for those cold days, which they’ve allowed me to share with you today!

Ham, Kale and Navy Bean Crockpot Stew from eMeals

Ham, Kale and Navy Bean Crockpot Stew from eMeals

I’ve had an eMeals subscription since January, and I have really enjoyed it.  In fact, our newest favorite vegetarian meal recipe came from last week’s eMeals meal plan!  Today’s Ham, Kale and Navy Bean Crockpot Stew recipes comes, of course, from the eMeals Slow Cooker meal plan.  Its recipes generally feed a family of six for about $120/week, or less.  You can find all the ingredients at your local grocery store and the flavors are great for everyone in your family!

This delicious Ham, Kale and Navy Bean Stew is served over homey Cheese Grits, and appears on this week’s Slow-Cooker Classic Meal Plan. The eMeals team devoured the leftovers for lunch, and it would freeze perfectly. If you’re interested in learning more about the convenience of year-round slow-cooker cooking, check out the meal plan here.



  • 6 carrots, thinly sliced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 lb potato, peeled and cubed
  • 2 (15-oz) cans navy beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (16-oz) package chopped kale (or collard greens)
  • 1 (28-oz) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 (16-oz) package fully cooked cubed ham
  • 1 (32-oz) carton chicken broth


  • 2 cups uncooked quick-cooking grits
  • 1 (8-oz) package shredded sharp white Cheddar cheese
  • 2 tablespoons butter

For Stew: Combine carrots, onion and potato in a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker. Top with beans, kale, tomatoes and ham; pour in broth.

Cover and cook on LOW 8 hours or until vegetables are tender. Stir in salt and pepper to taste.

For Grits: Cook grits according to package directions; stir in cheese and butter until blended and smooth. Serve stew over grits.

Enjoy….I know we will!  –Wren

Holiday International Delight….Just in Time!

My family waits with anticipation each fall as the time draws near, for the release of the International Delight seasonal creamers!  We’re big coffee and tea lovers, and these holiday flavors make our tea and coffee times so much more enjoyable!

BzzAgent kindly offered me a place in their campaign for the International Delight seasonal creamers, and sent me coupons to share with my friends PLUS coupons for two free large bottles of the creamer!  The holiday flavors include Pumpkin Pie Spice, Frosted Sugar Cookie, Gingerbread Latte, Peppermint Chocolate Truffle (I think this was the creamer formerly known as Peppermint Mocha), and White Chocolate Raspberry.  I selected the Peppermint Chocolate Truffle and my son picked the Frosted Sugar Cookie.  Here’s what we thought!

Peppermint Chocolate Truffle

This has been a holiday favorite of mine for years.  Of course, a famous not-to-be-named coffee house makes a peppermint mocha every fall.  But I don’t make it to the coffee house that often; and frankly, unlike Emmet in “The Lego Movie,” I don’t love paying $37.00 for a delicious cup of coffee!  So, we kept an eye out at the grocery store for the creamer for several weeks after we got the coupon, all to no avail.  No International Delight seasonal creamers anywhere.

A delicious cup of coffee with Peppermint Chocolate Truffle creamer (and a little whipped cream!)

A delicious cup of coffee with Peppermint Chocolate Truffle creamer (and a little whipped cream!)

But finally, the seasonal creamers appeared at our local Kroger store!  We used the coupons and, as I mentioned, I snapped up a bottle of the Peppermint Chocolate Truffle creamer.  The freebie coupon was for a large creamer, which is a large bottle holding 32 fluid ounces.  That means a bottle goes a long way, if you only add a tablespoon or so to your cup of coffee.

It’s also sweetened with pure cane sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup.  Which I love!  And a serving (1 TBSP) is only 35 calories.  So you’re not adding much to your daily caloric count, especially if you’re used to using some sort of creamer.

The flavor is a well-balanced combination of chocolate and peppermint; neither is too strong, which means it’s so simple to make an amazing peppermint mocha coffee at home!  Just add a little dollop of the creamer and you’re set!

Frosted Sugar Cookie

The Frosted Sugar Cookie flavor tastes pretty much what it sounds like; as if you’d dunked a sugar cookie into your cup of coffee or tea.  Like the Peppermint Chocolate Truffle version, it’s sweetened with cane sugar and the caloric count is identical.

Delicious green tea with Frosted Sugar Cookie creamer

Delicious green tea with Frosted Sugar Cookie creamer

I have to say that of the two creamers we sampled, this was not my favorite.  It just seemed a tiny bit TOO sweet for my palate.  For my son, however, it was quite the opposite!  We like drinking tea with milk and a bit of sugar, so using this creamer was a simple stretch for him.  And he really, really loves the flavor.  It’s a perfect addition (for him!) to our holiday tea favorite, a peppermint green tea.  So I may not be finishing off that bottle….but he certainly will!

You can find the International Delight seasonal creamers at most grocery and big box stores.  Try some out for the holiday season.  It will add something special to your coffee hour…or your tea time!  It’s priced for $2.98 at Walmart, by the way.



Enjoy!  –Wren

Disclaimer:  From time to time, finchnwren.com may receive a free product or service in exchange for our honest opinions expressed in our blog.  We are not required to write a positive or glowing review, nor are we additionally compensated for these reviews.  We share my own opinions, and our family’s opinion, of these products.  We’re disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.

Electronic Greeting Card Day!!

Tuesday, November 18th is Electronic Greeting Card Day: unbelievable!

e-cards are here to stay, especially if you are like me and forget every occasion until it is upon me.

Get them for free at americangreetings.com, bluemountain.com or my personal favorite (I signed up for $20.00 per year for unlimited use) jibjab.com; where you plug in pictures of people, animals etc. to personalize hysterical cards.



Finchnwren’s Curriculum Academy Awards from the 2014 School Year

Finchnwren Award

Recently, all the members of the TOS Crew voted on all the curriculum, books and DVDs we’d used and reviewed over the 2014 school year, to select the best in many categories.  Later this week, I’ll be posting a link to the winning entries to the Schoolhouse Review Crew Blue Ribbon Awards.  It’s an exciting list!

Jackson and I have come up with a list of our own favorites as well, in Finchnwren’s Curriculum Academy Awards.  And I’d like to share them with you today, in our personal list of curriculum faves for the year.  These are products that challenged us, blessed us, exposed us to amazing things and enriched our lives and our homeschool.  Enjoy!


Best Foreign Language Curriculum:  Mango Homeschool Edition

Mango Languages Review
 Jackson has been using Mango Homeschool Edition to study Biblical Hebrew since early in 2014.  It is a visually-driven, online foreign language-learning curriculum that has over 60 languages to choose from!  Students interact with the computer to learn how to speak the foreign language of their choice, and Mango makes it fun and exciting, and hardly like schoolwork at all!


Best Writing Curriculum:  Fortuigence

Fortuigence Review
 With Fortuigence’s Essay Rock Star course, Jackson completed a course of writing after watching online lessons, completing the work, and submitting it to instructor Lily Iatridis.  She was both a fantastic coach and an encouraging teacher, and Jackson produced great work!


Best Grammar Curriculum:  Tie between Fix It! Grammar and Analytical Grammar

This was a hard choice.  So I included both!

Fix It! Grammar Review
Institute for Excellence in Writing’s Fix It! Grammar teaches grammar gently and easily.  Students read a classic story (in our case, Robin Hood) a line or two a day.  Fix It! Grammar leaves out punctuation, capitalization and gives several options for some words, and the student must correct what’s wrong or missing.  In addition, they then mark the different parts of speech.  It’s a well-rounded, enjoyable grammar course.


Analytical Grammar Review
 Analytical Grammar is a complete, well-written grammar curriculum.  Its teacher’s and student’s manuals contain everything you need for a complete grammar course for middle- or high-school students.  It also has a fantastic teaching DVD where the founders teach each lesson.  Analytical Grammar soundly teaches grammar, and students even learn how to diagram sentences.  It is exceedingly effective, and will prepare students for university work and, I believe, success in standardized testing.


Best Handwriting:  Logic of English’s Rhythm of Handwriting

Logic of English Review
Hands down (no pun intended), LOE’s Rhythm of Handwriting Cursive is the clearest, simplest and least painful handwriting course I’ve ever seen.  It is enjoyable to use and clearly teaches students how to make the motions for each letter.  It has fantastic teaching aids.  We just love it!


Best Science:  Purposeful Design

Purposeful Design Review
 We didn’t review a whole lot of science this year, but we did have some great resources that we loved.  Jackson’s favorite was probably the Purposeful Design book by Jay Schabacker.  It’s a beautiful book that displays the hand of God during Creation Week; what was created first; why; how does that impact humans?  Absolutely beautiful book.


Best Art Curriculum:  ARTistic Pursuits’ Sculpture Technique:  Construct

ARTistic Pursuits Review

We haven’t done a lot of sculpture and construction in our homeschool art times; normally, we paint or draw.  So reviewing ARTistic Pursuits’ Sculpture Technique:  Construct was a wonderful experience that stretched us.  It clearly teaches four different methods and media of sculpture.  Fantastic!


Best Supplementary Teaching DVD:  Tie between New Liberty Videos and Go Science

New Liberty Videos Review
 We received a variety of fantastic teaching DVDs to use and review this year, and while we loved them all, our favorites came down to two very different ones;  New Liberty Video’s Mysteries of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Library and Educational Service’s Go Science

Go Science Review
 One of these taught us about the origins of the Bible, the Hebrew language and the Reformation.  The other showed us tons of astounding scientific experiments, many of which we wouldn’t have either the right lab equipment or the safety settings to do at home.


Best Student Organization Tool:  My Student Logbook

My Student Logbook Review
My Student Logbook introduced Jackson to the concept of keeping a log of his work and hours.  Now he keeps a record (along with my lesson planner) of all the work he does in a given day.  It’s been a fabulous personal growth tool and planner for him.  We love My Student Logbook!


Best Worldview Curriculum:  Tie between Philosophy Adventure and Apologia:  What In The World Can I Do

Philosophy Adventure
Our favorites in the worldview category taught us fantastic worldview lessons from very different eras.  Home School Adventure Co.‘s Philosophy Adventure introduced us to eight influential pre-Socratic philosophers, and showed us how to contrast Biblical truths to their different philosophies.  Apologia’s What In The World Can I Do? introduces children to the concepts of stewardship and calling, and how they can walk those out.  Both are wonderful to equip your children in wisdom and discernment!

Apologia Review


Best Book for Jackson:  Wizzy Gizmo’s Who Created Everything?

Wizzy Gizmo Review

Wizzy Gizmo’s Who Created Everything? was probably Jackson’s absolute favorite read of the year.  In fact, he loved the first book in the series so much that we purchased the second one!


Best Resource for the Homeschool Mom:  Apologia’s Flourish:  Balance for Homeschool Moms


Flourish:  Balance for Homeschool Moms was the most helpful book that I read (for myself), all year.  Mary Jo Tate KNOWS what it’s like to be a homeschooling mother who’s trying to balance many other responsibilities.  It was life-giving, encouraging, and just perfect for me.  And it gave me many new skills for managing my life!


Any and all of these curricula, books and DVDs come recommended with our greatest approval and appreciation.  In one way or another, each one impacted us and made our lives, and our homeschool, even better.  I hope you find this list as helpful to you, as these wonderful resources were to us!

Enjoy!  –Wren


Quote of the day…Snow!

It’s our first snowfall, so I thought this was appropriate!

The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found?




Arla Dofino Cheeses—A BzzAgent Review

Are you a lover of specialty cheeses?  Do you like to avoid hormones in dairy products, and provide delicious foods for your family?  Arla Dofino may be perfect for you, then!  Their cheeses are high in calcium and vitamin A, as well as full of protein.  A healthy snack for every member of the family!

Arla Dofino Cheeses have positioned themselves as a cheese line that’s perfect for families.  They produce a variety of wonderful appetizer- and cooking-type cheeses, from Smoked Gouda or Gouda with Chili-Lime, to Dill Havarti or Havarti with Caraway, to various types of both Edam and Fontina.

BzzAgent gave me a coupon for free Arla Dofino, as well as coupons to share with friends and family.  I had my heart set on one of the goudas; it’s been awhile since I’ve had gouda and the flavors Arla Dofino produces sounded incredible.  Sadly, our Kroger store only had the Arla Dofino cheeses in two styles; Dill Havarti and Creamy Havarti.  And since I cannot STAND dill (unless it’s in a dill pickle), I selected the Creamy Havarti.

I found a scrumptious-sounding recipe to use with it as well; Baked Havarti Chicken from allrecipes.com.  It has lots of my favorite ingredients:  mushrooms, green chilis, butter!  It also requires the Havarti with Dill but I thought I’d substitute the plain.  No dill please!  But then, we had a snowstorm which curtailed our getting out to the grocery store for the extra ingredients.  So, I decided to try it out on hamburgers instead.  We normally use a sharp cheddar on our burgers, but I was up for a change.

Hamburger with havarti (and steak fries!)

Hamburger with havarti (and steak fries!)

The havarti made a nice addition to the burger.  It is very creamy, yet slightly piquant; it was noticeable in a nice way on our delicious ground beef.  Of course, I did think that sauteed mushrooms along with the havarti would have made the perfect burger!  (Again, couldn’t make it out to the store.)

I definitely plan to make the allrecipes.com Baked Havarti Chicken, though; once we can get to the store!

Another great way to enjoy havarti is with some tasty crackers and pears, or apple slices.  (Again, no fruit…..because no trip to the store!)  We normally enjoy rice crackers or Wheat Thins with cheese, but we had Garden Vegetable Ritz on hand.  These actually were the perfect complement for the cheese!  They had a lot of extra flavor with vegetables and spices, which offset the havarti nicely.

Creamy Havarti with Garden Vegetable Ritz Crackers

Creamy Havarti with Garden Vegetable Ritz Crackers

You can find Arla Dofino cheeses at many local supermarkets; check their store listing here to find the cheeses in your area.  I’d personally recommend that, if you’re looking for a particular type of cheese, you call the stores first to find out what they carry.  The Creamy Havarti we bought normally retails for $6.99, but of course with our BzzAgent coupon we got it free.  We’re definitely interested in checking out some of their other flavors, though.

Enjoy!  –Wren

TOS Review: Purposeful Design: Understanding the Creation

How would you like to combine an excellent science tutorial on intelligent design along with beautiful, coffee-table quality illustrations?  Purposeful Design‘s Jay Schabacker has a gorgeous new book that you’ll love sharing with your family.  It’s called Purposeful Design:  Understanding the Creation.

Purposeful Design Review
We were very drawn to this book, when we first saw its beautiful cover.  And it hasn’t disappointed us!  Jay Schabacker outlines the events of the 6 days of Creation Week and shows us the science behind them; what had to happen first and why, and how each day’s events built on those of the days before.  This award-winning book (Foreward’s IndieFab Finalist 2013; Illumination 2013 Bronze Medalist; and 2014 Catholic Press Association Book Award Bronze Winner for the Coffee Table Category) will delight readers from children through adults!

In Purposeful Design: Understanding the Creation, Mr. Schabacker takes readers through a detailed discussion of everything our Purposeful Designer did during each day of creation.  He helps us to understand why each and every part of, and decision in, creation were critical, and how just the slightest differences would have made a world where humans would never have survived!  Here are just a few of the fascinating and delightful facts covered in each of the chapters of this book:

  • Day 1:  The Solar System, the earth and its moon, Einstein and intelligent design

    Our gorgeous solar system, beautifully pictured in "Purposeful Design: Understanding the Creation"

    Our gorgeous solar system, beautifully pictured in “Purposeful Design: Understanding the Creation”

  • Day 2:  The atmosphere, water, and the rain cycle; how they affect and influence each other for the perfect climate humans require
  • Day 3:  The dry land and vegetation.  What difference do plants make to humans?  Can you imagine how many were designed and made by our Creator?  (Hint:  It’s a six-digit number!)
  • Day 4:  The sun, moon and stars.  Did you know that the seasons, climate and the earth’s tilt align exactly to provide variety in weather and precision in sunrise and sunset?  What does the moon accomplish for the earth?  What are some of the many ways the stars have been relied upon over the centuries?

    One of my favorite pictures in this book!

    One of my favorite pictures in this book!

  • Day 5:  The birds and fish.  Why were they created?  What do instincts show us?  What can we learn about ice and the way it freezes?
  • Day 6:  Land creatures and humans.  What are the benefits of the many domestic animals on our planet?  How are humans unique?  How was each part of the human body perfectly designed to work to the best of its ability?  The information about human cells alone is truly mind-boggling and fascinating.

    Humans--fearfully, wonderfully and creatively  made

    Humans–fearfully, wonderfully and creatively made

  • Day 7:  The day of rest.  This is the shortest of the chapters, but it has some beautiful words of Scripture to remind us both of our need for rest and God’s great love for us.

Mr. Schabacker has also authored a fantastic curriculum which families (homeschool or otherwise) can use with their children to further explore both science and Scripture as they read through Purposeful Design:  Understanding the Creation.  Found under the “Free Curriculum” tab at the Purposeful Design website, the Purposeful Design: Young Explorer’s Club can be downloaded and printed at no charge for use at home.  There is a chapter set for each of the seven days of creation, plus a teacher’s answer key.  Depending on the age of their children, parents can either assist their kids with the worksheet questions or allow them to complete them on their own.

Jackson and I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  We read it over a couple of weeks of homeschool, as an addition to our science studies.  We read the book aloud together, then Jackson used the book to fill out the pages of the Young Explorer’s Club curriculum.  I especially loved how the curriculum caused Jackson to have to look a little deeper in the book, and think about his own response to God’s creative work.  It provided time for both science research and devotional thought.  What a great combination!

Jay Schabacker’s aim in this book is not only to show us amazing things about God’s creation and how each beautifully builds upon the day before, but to show each reader how deep and firm God’s love is for His created children, human beings.  The Purposeful Design: Young Explorer’s Club also provides some great questions, science and Scripture study for both parents and students.  If you’d like to read a book with gorgeous photos, fantastic science facts and wonderful Scripture, then Purposeful Design:  Understanding the Creation will be loved by your family!

Purposeful Design:  Understanding the Creation can be purchased at Purposeful Design for $18.95.  (This price is 25% off the retail price of $24.95 and includes the Young Explorer’s Club curriculum.)

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Enjoy! –Wren






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