A New Way of Looking at Bread

Are you a bread lover?  I, personally, am an enormous aficionado of freshly-baked bread.  8 years ago, my family purchased a Nutrimill grain mill (which grinds wheat berries–or other grains–into flour) and a Bosch mixer (which is so powerful it will knead enough dough to make 5 loaves of bread in 5 minutes).  Ever since, we have purchased wheat berries so that we could make our own whole grain bread.  In about an hour, you can make several weeks’ worth of bread that will produce great health benefits.

Peter Reinhart's beautiful "Bread Revolution"

Peter Reinhart’s beautiful “Bread Revolution”

When I first saw Peter Reinhart’s beautiful Bread Revolution cookbook, I knew it was something I needed to check out!  His perspectives on bread are very like my own.  He’s a huge fan of making bread from scratch, using whole grain flours.  But, he has also experimented with sprouting grains and using ancient grains.  I knew that ancient grains include spelt, kamut, millet, oats, and even corn.  But, since I don’t own a dehydrator, I’d never tried sprouting grains for bread.   (I was personally a bit worried that they would gum up my Nutrimill!)

The stretch-and-fold technique

The stretch-and-fold technique

Bread Revolution actually teaches you a simple, easy and effective way to sprout your own grain.  And, after you sprout it, you dry the grain back out so that there’s no moisture to inhibit the milling process.  But, there’s so much more than sprouting in this cookbook that even novice bakers can put into practice.  Bread Revolution is really like attending a semester’s worth of classes on fine and artisan baking.  And, your breads, pizza doughs, ciabattas and rolls will actually be things you can feel good about eating!



Here is a sampling of some of the instructive techniques you can learn from Bread Revolution:

  • A kitchen and bread-baking tutorial
  • Sourdoughs
  • Sprouted Flour Breads
  • Whole Grains and Whole Milling
  • Bread-baking with unusual ingredients

From the tools needed to turn out a great baguette or loaf of bread, to incredible recipes for artisan breads, Reinhart constructs a manual which will enable you to step up to the next level in your baking skills and abilities.  Even though I have had a decent amount of whole grain bread-making experience, this book introduced me to processes and ingredients I never knew existed!



From challah to muffins; from pizza dough to cinnamon rolls; from croissants to ciabatta—and more—artisan bread recipes are carefully explained to the baker.  The recipes and tutorials are accompanied by incredible photographs; this is a cookbook you’ll want to display, not hide away in a cabinet.  Best of all, you’ll be able to create breads for yourself, your family and community that are full of life and health—as well as flavor.

If you’re looking for a cookbook which will further your understanding of cooking healthfully with grains, and which will teach you advanced baking techniques, Bread Revolution is just what you’re looking for.

I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.

Enjoy!  –Wren

Family, Fun & Homeschooling — Featuring Kristy from Jensen Family Circus

Welcome to this week’s Family, Fun & Homeschooling!

F,F & H finchnwren.comThis week, I’m thrilled to introduce you to Kristy from the Jensen Family Circus blog.  Like me, she is the mom of boys…except she has three to my one!  Kristy is a fellow Schoolhouse Review Crew blogger (she has the CUTEST blog design, by the way…you have to visit her and take a look).  You’re going to love hearing about her sweet life.  Here is a bit of her story!

kristi jensen picTell us about your blog. What was the spark of the idea that enabled you to create your blog?

I started my blog a few months after having my second son. I was desperate to connect with others and to see what other mothers did in the same situation. I really just wanted to document our musings each day and get connected with other women. My blog is about raising boys (I now have 3 of them), homemaking, and homeschooling. It has really evolved since I first began in 2011.

Do you have a favorite blogging topic that you return to again and again?

I love to blog about what God has done in my life and how I can encourage others through my journey. I have been through a lot and love to share what worked for me and what didn’t work. I also love blogging about marriage and how God has helped my marriage to flourish over the years.

kristi jensen and kiddosTell us about your family. How did you and your husband meet? And what would you like to share about your children?

My husband and I met when I was 17. It was my first job after graduating from high school and he was my boss. He is 8 years older than me. He asked me out on a date so I got another job (you know, conflict of interest). Best decision of my life. We dated for 3 years and were engaged for 1 year (so a total of 4 years) before getting married. We have three little boys (6, 4, and 1). We also have a son in heaven. My oldest son is a very serious and head strong young man. He is very sensitive and wears his emotions on his sleeve. My middle son is what I call my “lat-te-da” son. He is silly, funny, and not serious at all. He enjoys life to the fullest. My youngest son is almost 2 and so silly. He is a little goofy and looks up to his big brothers. He copies everything they do (whether good or naughty).

What made you decide to homeschool?

I used to think homeschoolers were crazy. My SIL homeschools and has always talked about it and how much she loves it. When my oldest son was 3 I started REALLY praying about it. My husband was not on board at all. I prayed and prayed and asked God to give us clear direction and wisdom in this area. He was so clear with His answer that He sent many people to tell me to homeschool. I attended the HEAV convention and was completely convicted about homeschooling my kids. After many conversations with my husband he agreed to allow me to homeschool for a trial period. When he began to see the results, he was convinced it was the right decision.

kristi jensenfamilyWhat does a day in your homeschool look like?
Since my boys are all still young it is pretty simple at this point. We usually get up and at ‘em by 8am. Breakfast and coffee first thing. Then, the baby gets up and I feed him. School starts about 10am after we clean up from breakfast. The big boys usually take turns doing their school work. While I work with one, the other entertains the baby. Some days I put on a science video or a bible study video and they watch it together while I entertain the baby. School for us is only about an hour and a half. They have free play or nature study (depending on the weather outside) for the rest of the day. They play a lot of Legos and read TONS of books.

kristi jensen and hubbyDo you have a favorite “date night” you love to do?

My husband and I try to go on a date night about once a month or so. We usually go out to eat somewhere that I have a coupon to (I am the coupon Queen). Afterwards, we go to our favorite coffee shop in our historic downtown area. They have open mic night sometimes and the college is nearby. We love the tiramisu and chocolate torte. Sometimes we go for a walk in Colonial Williamsburg after coffee and sometimes we just run errands, kid-free.

What are some of your favorite mama-child activities?

I love taking my kids to the park. Here in my town we have a park called “Kidsburg”. It is so much fun and they even have a baby section. We also like going to the library and shopping in the “friends of the library” section. They love to visit with their Nanny and Poppy who live about 15 minutes away. We also like going on fun day trips like the zoo or nature museum.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I would love to share that my husband and I also encourage one another to have activities outside of the home. For instance, I have a good friend (my BFF) who works full time during the week. We meet once a month for coffee and breakfast. It is my kid-free time to just have a conversation with a woman who cares about me and gives me Godly advice. My husband will go golfing with his dad in the nicer months or bowling in the colder months. Getting away for just a few hours is not a bad thing. It helps me to be refreshed and appreciate my life even more.

Jensen Family Circus

Thank you so much for joining us to meet Kristy in Family, Fun & Homeschooling today!  Be sure to visit her at her blog, Jensen Family Circus for more fun and encouragement.

We’ll be back next week with another episode of Family, Fun & Homeschooling.  I hope you have a lovely weekend.  :)

Enjoy!  –Wren

Quaker Steel Cut Oats–a BzzAgent Review

Our family LOVES steel-cut oats.

But, they take a REALLY long time to cook.  As in, you put the oats in the crockpot, add water (and vanilla and cinnamon), and cook on low.  All night long.

This isn’t really a problem, as long as you plan ahead.

But there are those mornings when you just need to pull something together that is quick, healthy AND tasty.

Quaker to the rescue!

Yes, they’ve actually done it.  Quaker has debuted a brand new steel cut oatmeal, which you can cook in the microwave in about 3 minutes!  You just:

  • Pour the oatmeal packet into a microwave-safe bowl
  • Then, pour 2/3 cup water over oats
  • Stir
  • Cook at 50% power for 3 minutes
  • Remove (carefully!  hot bowl!), stir and set aside for 3 more minutes
  • Stir, and eat!

We’re a family who tries to eat healthily.  We especially work on eating lots of whole grains, veggies and fresh fruit to keep our fiber levels high.  And, we like to avoid artificial sweeteners and products with too many unpronounceable ingredients.

Quaker’s new Steel Cut Quick 3-Minute Oatmeal really delivers on that!  BzzAgent provided us with a free box to try (plus coupons to share with friends and family), and we selected the Blueberries & Cranberries flavor.  (It also comes in Brown Sugar & Cinnamon…but we couldn’t resist the fruit flavor!)

Quaker Steel-Cut Oats

Quaker Steel-Cut Oats

They were very easy to prepare.  We found that we had to cook them slightly longer in the microwave than the directions mentioned.  However, it wasn’t THAT much longer….maybe 45 seconds.

Breakfast!  Yum!

Breakfast! Yum!

And, they were delicious!  They had a pretty hearty texture, and the blueberries and cranberries were a fabulous addition.  My husband and I are both huge fans.

The only downside was that they aren’t produced in an organic form; but we’re definitely willing to overlook that to have something for busy mornings.

If you like oatmeal, steel-cut oats or whole grain breakfasts, you’re going to love Quaker’s new Steel Cut Quick 3-Minute Oatmeal!

Enjoy!  –Wren


Squash Casserole Recipe!

squash 2

Since it’s so cold outside, I thought it was time for some healthy comfort food and judging how quickly it disappeared, it was a great idea!


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 6 medium yellow summer squash, thinly sliced (about 1/8″)
  • 1 large Yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar.
  • 1/2 cup Panko crumbs
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Saute onion in Olive Oil,while slicing squash. Then add squash in Salt & Pepper and cook until translucent. Use small casserole dish. Layer cooked squash and onion mixture into the bottom of the dish, then add layer of  cheddar cheese. Repeat until out of squash and onion miixture. Add layer of cheddar cheese on top and cover with thin layer of panko for crunch.

squash cas

Bake for 20 minutes or until top is golden brown.

Serve and enjoy…add sour cream or hot sauce if desired!


Lord Heritage HomeSchool Office – A TOS Review

HomeSchool Office Review

If you are a homeschooler, what types of lesson planning do you do?  I must personally admit that I truly love lesson planning.  I am always so excited to purchase my newest lesson planner each summer and fill it with our lesson plans for the semester.  And, although I’ve always known that there are online planners available, I’ve (thus far) always used a spiral-bound lesson planner.  But I have now been introduced to a most excellent online planner, that has changed the way I think about lesson planning, and, I believe, has improved and streamlined my process!  My latest review from the Schoolhouse Review Crew, and my first experience with digital lesson planning, has been HomeSchool Office from Lord Heritage.  We were blessed to receive a year’s subscription to HomeSchool Office.

The home page for Homeschool Office

The home page for Homeschool Office

When I was first introduced to Lord Heritage, I was definitely intrigued.  Lord Heritage is not just lesson planning software.  Their HomeSchool Office is comprised of a 5-part planning program, which fits under the acronym POWERPlan; Order; Work; Evaluate; and Report.  The creators of Lord Heritage drew this from God’s orderly plan, seen over and over in Scripture and creation, and it’s also similar to plans used successfully by many individuals, whether in their professional or personal lives.  I love the idea of order drawn from Scripture, and this really attracted me to this planning system.  Let me describe for you what’s contained in each of these POWER categories.

Subjects and times

Subjects and times

  • Plan:  What is the plan for your student’s schoolwork this year?  What are your goals and objectives?  In the Plan portion of HomeSchool Office, you’ll compose a master list of all the subjects you’ll be studying together over the course of the year.  Here, you’ll be able to then set up your daily master schedule for each week.  Our schooldays are M-F, but Sunday and Saturday are also included as options on HomeSchool Office’s scheduling pages.  There is also a yearly calendar page, with school days listed for each month.  A budget page is included for your curriculum and school expenditures.
  • Order:  In the Order segment of the software, you can view all of your schedules, be they for the month, week or day.  You can also add items for daily to-do lists here.

    Today's schedule, highlighted in orange under the Work tab

    Today’s schedule, highlighted in orange under the Work tab

  • Work:  From the Work tab, you can print your daily or weekly schedules or access the lessons planned in each subject.  Your students can also access their daily or weekly work schedules here.
  • Evaluate:  This section enables parents to record grades, evaluate student work, and note attendance each day.  There’s also a place where hours spent per subject can be recorded.
  • Report:  Here, parents can create transcripts for their students based on all the work they’ve done over the year.

Vision-planning documents are another useful inclusion on the Lord Heritage website.  They have a 5-part mission statement as an example for homeschoolers.  They also have excellent pages on homeschool covenants.  Modeled on God’s covenant with us as believers, they describe ways we can set up and organize covenantal relationships and procedures in our homeschools, between us and our children.

A Program Support section provides ways to submit tickets for additional assistance from Lord Heritage for any problems you encounter while using HomeSchool Office.

How we used it:

I have to admit that, although Lord Heritage provides a wonderful tutorial for HomeSchool Office, it was sort of challenging for me to get the hang of, at first.  I think that might have been a problem with me, rather than the software, though.  However, I did get the hang of it, and once I did, I wondered why it had been a hard start!  I think it’s most likely that this was the very first time I’d ever used online lesson planning software.  So it’s kind of like learning a new language.  At first, it might be a bit difficult….but one day, the lights all go on and things are as clear as a bell.

I have only one child, so I entered all of his subjects on the master schedule.  (I was actually sort of surprised at how much work we’re actually accomplishing!)  Then, I arranged his daily and weekly schedules, by inputting them into HomeSchool Office.  It was very simple to add the subjects by day and time.

I was surprised at how well having this schedule helped the flow of our days.  I was already recording our daily lesson plans on the written planner I used earlier.  But somehow, having it entered onscreen and being able to print and access this information made a major difference in our daily work and organization.

Pros:  I really could see how HomeSchool Office made me more organized in my lesson planning.  One of the major advantages to this software is that you can see at a glance (after entering your subjects and lesson plans) exactly what you have to complete, and by when, to finish a subject for the year.  It also really helped me in planning our weekly work.  I’d thought that I was pretty organized in my planning (as I said before, I DO love lesson planning), but this enabled me to really progress in my organization.

I also like the order and scheduling it provides for the students.  Each day, they can pull up their own schedules and see exactly what is on their plates.  This was a huge benefit to my son, who really likes to see what is coming in a given homeschool day; and conversely, what he still has to complete.

I also liked the vision and mission planning portions of Lord Heritage.  I am more of a nuts-and-bolts person than a vision person, so any time I can get some good vision planning help I appreciate it.  And while I’d never really thought of our homeschool as being a covenantal relationship, I really love the overall vision and framework that kind of perspective can provide.

Another enormous benefit of HomeSchool Office is that you can record and print yearly transcripts and records for your student’s work.  How handy and simple is that?

Cons:  Because I reviewed this at about the 1/3 mark of our second semester, I really felt the time pressure as I entered all our lessons and lesson plans.  This made getting started rather challenging for me, as I was also learning the ins and outs of how the HomeSchool Office software worked.  However, if I were starting out at the beginning of the school year or over semester break, when I normally do my planning, I think that this issue would have been sidestepped.  I believe that it was really the lack of time that was my problem.

A year’s subscription to HomeSchool Office can be purchased from Lord Heritage for $79.  On the HomeSchool Office page, you can also sign up for a 30-day free trial.  This way, you can explore and experience everything I’ve shared with you here–absolutely free!


HomeSchool Office Review

Crew Disclaimer
Enjoy! –Wren

Things we love….Veggie Chili Dog!

Craving a hot dog, but want something vegetarian and healthy?

I’ve got just the thing for you.

Things you will need:

  • Wheat hot dog buns
  • Yellow mustard (we love Gulden’s spicy)
  • 1 can Amy’s medium vegetarian chili
  • Yves veggie dogs

Cook hot dogs on grill or nuke in microwave. Heat chili in saucepan. Place bun in oven or microwave to warm. Place hot dog in the bun add mustard (and anything else you want) then layer with chili.

Dog 2

Dig in!


Family, Fun & Homeschooling–featuring Missica from The Open Window Autism Blog

Welcome to this week’s Family, Fun & Homeschooling!

F,F & H finchnwren.comThis week, I am happy to introduce you to Missica from The Open Window-An Autism Blog.  Missica is a fellow Schoolhouse Review Crew member and blogger; and, of course, she’s a homeschooler.  Meet Missica!

Tell us about your blog.  What was the spark of the idea that enabled you to create The Open Window-An Autism Blog?

My son was in Early Intervention (Birth to 3) for autism from the age of 14 months to 3 years old.  He had a speech therapist who always said I needed to blog about our lives.  I would send out monthly emails called “Brady Brigade” that detailed progress, things we did, etc.  I created my own form of therapy for him, and with God’s Grace helped him to go from severely autistic to high functioning.  He is VERY verbal now, and says some of the funniest things I call Braydenisms.  After a large following on Facebook over these Braydenisms (#Braydenism) she again asked me to b log or write in some way.  After graduating with my undergraduate degree I found I needed to do something, thus the blog was born!

Do you have a favorite blogging topic that you return to again and again?

I’ve not been blogging long.  I’m still trying to find my niche, so to speak.  I want to inspire others to do, think, feel…BE!  I want to give hope, and I want others to know that an autism diagnosis isn’t the end of the world, but a beginning to a new world.

Tell us about your family.  How did you and your husband meet?  And what would you like to share about your children?

We both come from a large family.  I had been divorced from my son’s dad for a while, and my mom kept telling me I needed to go out and meet someone.  I was content the way I was, but met Matt online.  As we talked, we discovered that our dads had been very good friends before my dad died!  I had actually talked to his dad several times!  Then we discovered his aunt had been married to very close family friends.  I gave in, we went on a date…5 1/2 years later the rest is history!  He has taken my son in like his own, and most of the time we forget he’s not his own!

What made you decide to homeschool?

My son needed 1-on-1 attention, and he wasn’t going to get that in public school.  I tried a private preschool when he was 5, and he was bullied badly by both students AND teachers.  At IEP meeting for kindergarten, I discovered they were basing all of his services and recommendations based on his older cousin who is also on the spectrum.  They did not want to listen to me about any of HIS issues, and how they differed.  They kept acting and talking as if they knew him more than I did.  I made the decision to homeschool for just a couple of grades.  His biological dad was very much against it, so we compromised with homeschooling until 2nd grade.  It wasn’t long until we discovered he excelled and blossomed even more than anyone could have imagined!

I was also advised that homeschooling was the best option by his pediatrician, who was also a homeschooling parent, and an educational therapist I took him to.

What does a day in your homeschool look like?

I don’t think we have a typical day.  Kids with autism get very rigid with schedules and routines.  Even though schedules and routines are very beneficial for all kids, especially kids with autism, I know that life is not always on schedule.  So I have made it a point not to be routinized and overly scheduled, so he is forced to develop coping mechanisms to always adapt to change.  We tend to wake up and have breakfast first.  We do morning meds, and I usually let him have some free time as I am checking messages, working a little, taking calls, etc.  I try to have a weekly or monthly game plan of what I want to cover, but if he’s really into a specific topic I will toss outmy plans for his interests.  For example, I had every intention to go into an in-depth unit of simple machines, but he’s really into minerals now thanks to The Weather Channel‘s program called “Prospectors.”  So we have done a lot with minerals.  We usually do at least two subjects a day formally, but he’s always doing something educational.  He loves to read informational texts, so he does that a lot.  We also do a lot of science-based activities for fun.  Right now he’s playing a train simulations game where he builds train systems, cities, etc.


I usually get him started, and I give him a goal to complete before I come back to check on him.  If he needs help, I have him save those until the end so that he may discover the answer on his own.  When he gets something wrong, or has significant difficulty with a particular concept, we work on it a lot more.  When something comes very easily, we skip over.

I want him to have fun, but at the same time  I want him to understand that not everything is fun and sometimes, whether we like it or not, we have to do what we have to  do.

Do you have a favorite “date night” you love to do?

I live kind of far away from my family, so date night is quite uncommon.  I have 100% full custody, so there is no visitation with his bio-dad or anything like that either.  We do a lot of family date nights.  We generally pick somewhere to go eat, and either see a movie or go to a family fun center.

We have a great system for picking.  One picks 3 choices; one picks 2; and then the last person makes the final choice.

When Matt and I do get time alone we like to grab a bite to eat, and go see a movie.  Late nights I like to see a movie, go grab some diner food somewhere, and head to Walmart.  There’s nothing quite like our Walmart at 2AM!  HAHA!

What are some of your favorite mama-child activities?

We like going to the park, having lunch out, playing board games, and singing and dancing through the house.  It’s always just been the two of us, so we’re really close!  We have deep discussions on meteorology, we do projects together, and just hang out!  He likes to cuddle and watch games shows too!

Is there anything else you’d like to share? 

Autism shouldn’t carry a stigma.  I’ve met so many who feel the need to hide the fact that their child has autism, and I just don’t understand that.  Autism is a brain disorder, and it is growing in prevalence thanks to  more awareness.  There is no cure, but there are a lot of treatments and ways to manage it.  And early intervention is key!  If you even have a hint of a suspicion that your child may have autism, don’t feel ashamed or afraid!  Just call your state’s early intervention bureau and set up an evaluation.  It won’t hurt a thing, but it could be the one thing that pulls your child through the Open Window of autism before that window closes!

I’m new to this whole crazy world of blogging, but I’m learning!  Right now my blog is growing.  It’s still in its infancy, but I’m always welcome to suggestions.  So please, drop by and visit, and join me as I grow in this new world of blogging!missica button

I hope you’ve loved getting to know Missica and her family–and life–just a bit.  Be sure to visit her over at The Open Window-An Autism Blog!  And join us next week for another episode of Family, Fun & Homeschooling!

Enjoy!  –Wren






“Easter Stories”…just in time for Easter

I’ve had the opportunity to read and review a wonderful book, just in time for Easter.

Easter Stories pic

Easter Stories~Classic Tales for the Holy Season is a nice, thick book (370 pages!).  It’s full of 27 wonderful stories for the Easter season from various authors of the Christian tradition.  In this book, you’ll find authors like C.S. Lewis, Maxim Gorky, Walter Wangerin Jr., Oscar Wilde, the Brothers Grimm, and others you might never have heard of, but whose writings will bless and encourage you and your family.  Here is a sampling of the stories you’ll encounter here:

  • Jane Tyson Clement’s The White Lily tells of a radiant lily, given to a grumpy, dirty father, and how it transforms his household and family
  • Oscar Wilde’s The Selfish Giant; a story that’s familiar to many of us but which merits a beautiful inclusion here
  • The account of a transformational experience in a South African church, recounted by Alan Paton in The Church of the Washing of the Feet
  • in Checkov’s The Student, a young man’s encounters over the course of an evening open epiphany to him
  • My personal favorite, How Donkeys Got the Spirit of Contradiction, by Andre’ de Trocme'; one person’s imaginings of a Samaritan’s donkey who met the Holy Family.
  • And 22 other wonderful tales to stir your spirit and open your heart to see and experience Easter

I personally love fiction for the purposes of revealing truth.  I think that, in prose, an author can express so much more than in nonfiction; perhaps that when our souls have to ponder and seek, we understand more.  All the authors of these excellent Easter tales are able to accomplish just that.   You’ll walk away after reading them thankful!

Easter Stories can be used as personal devotional reading, (in many cases) as a family read-aloud, and would be a wonderful addition to any family’s bookshelf.  I recommend it for your celebration of Easter!

And, you have the chance to win a copy for yourself!  Just enter the Rafflecopter form below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Enjoy–and best wishes for a lovely Easter!  –Wren








Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

 Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Bloody Mary Mixer!


Best ever Bloody Mary mixer on the planet! Serve chilled over ice without alcohol…it’s my go to when I need a veggie infusion..it’s that good!


zing zang 1Found at your local grocery or liquor store…enjoy Finch!

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