Thursday, October 20, 2016

MyFreezeEasy 5-Day Make One Freeze One Challenge

MyFreezeEasy is having a 5-Day Make One Freeze One Challenge!!

Here's How the Challenge Works 
  • Step 1 - Pick Your Meal Plan
  • Step 2 - Go Shopping (MyFreezEasy Gives you the Shopping List!)
  • Step 3 - Make One Meal, Freeze One Meal with MyFreezEasy Next Week
  • Step 4 - Enjoy Your Freezer Full of Food!

Here is a video that explains it in more detail...


DISCLOSURE/DISCLAIMER: I wrote this blog post because I thought you might be interested in knowing this information and taking part of this challenge. My thoughts are mine and my family's own opinion and have not been altered by anyone else. I did not receive any compensation for doing this post. Affiliate links can be found in this post. Thank you for your support of this blog!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Familyman's Christmas Treasury - Audio Collection Review

My family had the privilege of trying the The Familyman's Christmas Treasury - Audio Collection Digital Downloads from The Familyman for this review to use in conjunction with our own homeschool curriculum. This is a Homeschool Review Crew Review. All opinions expressed are my own or those of my family.

The Christmas Treasury Collection is available on 6 CDs or as a digital download. Each story is about 15 to 30 minutes long. These audio stories are great for reinforcing the birth of Christ and the true meaning of Christmas.

The collection includes six Christmas favorites by Todd Wilson and narrated by master storyteller Jim Hodges:
  1. Cootie McKay's Nativity
  2. Captain Chaos and The Manger Blaster
  3. The Stranger
  4. The Bishop's Dream
  5. Harold Grubbs and the Christmas Vest
  6. Gladys Remembers Christmas
We also received two Bonus Tracks: 
  • The Secret of the Snow Village
  • It's Called Christmas

How We Used This and Our Thoughts:

We received  one CD of the set and the digital downloads to everything. These were easily downloaded and played well. I love that I can take these in my car and listen to them while driving too.
We first listened to Cootie McKay's Nativity. It is about a town with a nativity mishap. Cootie McKay is called into action to save the town's Christmas even though he doesn't know anything about what a Nativity is or how it has anything to do with Christmas. This story is heartwarming and has some very funny moments that we enjoyed very much and couldn't help but chuckle at.

Next we listened to Captain Chaos and The Manger Blaster. This story is about a little boy who wishes that the story of the nativity was more exciting and that the manger never happened. He has a larger than life "dream" that actually comes true and discovers that you can't have Christmas without Jesus. This story reminds me of A Christmas Carol or It's A Wonderful Life in that it shows what life would be like differently for the characters.

The Stranger was listened to next. I received this one in both CD and digital format. This is about a small town where a stranger comes to visit. This stranger is shunned by the community even as a cold winter storm blows in. The last house the stranger visits he is finally let into and what proceeds is just what this family needed. This has a great message to it of kindness to others.

The Bishop's Dream was a story about Saint Nicholas. I know the story well of the real man who helped children in unfortunate circumstances learn about Jesus and gave gifts in secret to people who were in need to lift their spirits. In this story though Nicholas is just a Bishop and has a very vivid dream of the future. We liked the ending and know that if this story were a true one Nicholas would have done the same thing in the end.

Harold Grubbs and the Christmas Vest is a great story about how Christ can change a person to become a better one. The vest and the items in its pockets has a lot of symbolism and meaning. We think the vest is neat even though it is worn and old.

Gladys Remembers Christmas is a tear-jerking story about a lady named Gladys that lost her mother when she was 6 years old. She doesn't feel loved, hates Christmas, and hates her name. She goes back to the old house she grew up in to find a box in the attic for her father. Memories come rushing back and she is "visited" by her mother. Remembering these things changes her feelings about the holiday and her name.

These audio stories are perfect for the Christmas holiday and family time! They are fantastically narrated and written. We enjoyed listening to these and are excited to listen to the two bonus tracks as well closer to Christmas time. We recommend these Christmas stories to anyone wishing to feel more of the joyous spirit and warmth this special Christmas season.

You can purchase The Familyman's Christmas Treasury - Audio Collection (6 CDs) for only $25.00 or individually in digital download mp3 format for $3.99 each.

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Thursday, October 13, 2016

Family Gravity Media, A Division of Families For Christ Ministries, Inc. Online Christian Filmmakers Academy Review

My family had the privilege of trying the Online Christian Filmmakers Academy from Family Gravity Media, a division of Families For Christ Ministries, Inc. for this review to use in conjunction with our own homeschool curriculum. This is a Schoolhouse Review Crew Review. All opinions expressed are my own or those of my family.

This course is put together by part of a homeschooling family, father-son team: Ken (father) and Zack (son) Lawrence. Since 2004 Ken & Zack Lawrence have worked together learning the film industry themselves and creating productions including; the feature film In His Steps, the TV series Welcome Home Antelope Valley, DVD releases: The Pastor's House, Father-Child Projects, The Courtship Formula documentary, and many short films.With more than a decade of experience under their belts they have created the Online Christian Filmmakers Academy.

From left to right, top to bottom of Video Lesson Layout: Ken, Zack, Zack teaching lighting accessories, and this video has a download with it.

Online Christian Filmmakers Academy is a online cinematography school that is taught by Ken & Zack Lawrence. This online film academy teaches cinematography which includes: lighting, camera operating, photography skills, directing skills, sound design, and film score composing. Within the training there are videos of Ken and Zack teaching. In the Introduction by Ken we learn that some of the videos might have been updated so as to keep the information up to date and current. In other words you might see a difference in time from one video to the next depending upon if they thought it was necessary to update the videos or not. Even though you do not need to go out and purchase any equipment for this course, it still is great to have some hands-on practice. As Zack tells us, "It is very important to put what you have watched into practice" so that you retain the information better.

Landing Page and Navigation Menus.

This Christian filmmaking course is jam packed with a lot of information! It includes video segments, quizzes and sometimes downloads. The course starts out with three introductions: Navigating the Website, Introduction by Ken, and an Introduction by Zack. There are a total of five modules after that: The Camera, Cinematography, Sound, Pre-Production, and Production. Each module has 5-15 videos which make up a total of 45 fairly short videos (including the introduction ones). Each are 1-22 minutes. They are currently adding quizzes after and sometimes even within a module to see what you have learned in each section (most of these say coming soon). The one after module 1 has 25 questions. When you take the quiz online you will immediately receive the answers upon completion. They will also be adding material to the Bonuses section which currently doesn't have anything. After watching each video lesson it will automatically mark it as completed and each one will receive a check mark beside it in the menu or you can mark it as complete/ yourself. Under each video lesson there is a place to enter comments/questions if you need to. Other students and even the company can then read your comments/questions and respond/answer. This makes it fairly interactive as well. Also the video lessons follow a Christian perspective but are not heavily indoctrinating with Christian theology. You just hear a few Bible verses here and there.

Here is an syllabus of the course modules:
  1. The Camera – how it works and DSLR usage
    • Module 1 Lesson 1 - Introduction to the Camera
    • Module 1 Lesson 2 - DSLRs and Lenses (Part 1)
    • Module 1 Lesson 3 - DSLRs and Lenses (Part 2)
    • Module 1 Lesson 4 - Frame Rate
    • Module 1 Lesson 5 - ISO and Shutter Speed
    • Module 1 Lesson 6 - Tripods and Camera Support
    • Module 1 Quiz
  2. Cinematography and Lighting – working with different types of lighting
    • Module 2 Lesson 1 - Introduction to Cinematography
    • Module 2 Lesson 2 - Color Temp & White Balance
    • Module 2 Lesson 3 - Hard vs. Soft Light
    • Module 2 Lesson 4 - Types of Lights
    • Module 2 Lesson 5 - Lighting Accessories
    • Module 2 Lesson 6 - Using Lights
    • Module 2 Lesson 7 - 3 & 4 Point Lighting
    • Module 2 Lesson 8 - Painting with Light
    • Module 2 Lesson 9 - Framing
    • Module 2 Lesson 10 - Outdoor Lighting
    • Module 2 Lesson 11 - Depth of Field
    • Module 2 Lesson 12 - Jibs and Dollies
    • Module 2 Lesson 13 - Green Screen
    • Module 2 Lesson 14 - Setting Up An Interview
    • Module 2 Lesson 15 - Final Considerations
    • Module 2 Quiz
  3. Sound – capturing the sound in the field and post production
    • Module 3 Lesson 1 - Introduction
    • Module 3 Lesson 2 - Sound Equipment
    • Module 3 Lesson 3 - Microphone
    • Module 3 Lesson 4 - Field Recorders
    • Module 3 Lesson 5 - Location Recording
    • Module 3 Lesson 6 - ADR and Foley
    • Module 3 Quiz (Coming Soon)
  4. Pre-production – preparing to make your film a reality and getting everything you need prepared beforehand
    • Module 4 Lesson 1 - Introduction to Pre-production
    • Module 4 Lesson 2 - The Story
    • Module 4 Lesson 3 - Writing the Screenplay
    • Module 4 Lesson 4 - Pre-production Paperwork
    • Module 4 Lesson 5 - Assemble the Team
    • Module 4 Quiz (Coming Soon)
  5. Production – working onset, with budgets and making your idea a reality
    • Module 5 Lesson 1 - The Crew
    • Module 5 Lesson 2 - Set Hierarchy
    • Module 5 Lesson 3 - Set Etiquette
    • Module 5 Lesson 4 - Directing
    • Module 5 Lesson 5 - The Slate
    • Module 5 Lesson 6 - Filming Step by Step
    • Module 5 Quiz (Coming Soon)

How We Used This and Our Thoughts:
Among a lot of other things, my husband has a background in animation and went to film school when he was younger. He had his own studio called Brian Pictures and he and a friend of his were trying to put together a production called Ohiomation in Ohio where he would be taking students from Ohio schools and putting them through a course to teach them animation and film. This ideally was to create an animated movie about the Wright Brothers first flight and called Kitty Hawk that was to be produced in time to celebrate Ohio's Bicentennial. This didn't ever materialize because of school politics, but he sure did learn a lot on his journey. I know that animation is totally different from learning cinematography and since it was a while ago that he learned about being a director and producing film I thought that maybe he could have a refresher and get caught up with all the new equipment involved.

I love photography and have a small background in theater. I have also always wanted to learn cinematography for myself. I thought that it would become a handy skill to have for vlogging and making fun home movies. I have very little experience in this and so I have instead stayed out of the limelight for the most part. I also thought it would be a wonderful experience to have my boys be taught this wonderful art for their homeschool studies and as an extracurricular curriculum.

Since we have a whole year to finish this whole course we are pacing ourselves. I decided that I would take the course first to get a feel for how involved it was. Since the video lessons are fairly short I was doing about a module every 3 days to a week/week and a half depending how long they were. The second module took me the longest. I expect my husband and boys will go through this quicker.

I don't have any of the equipment that they mentioned in this Christian film course, although like I said above you can take this course without any extra purchases even though you are highly encouraged to get out your own equipment and play with what you are learning as you go.  My camera is an old Canon PowerShot SX110 IS and I have used it for videos before, but I really had no idea what I was doing! They recommend a DSLR or a digital camcorder which my camera is not. I; however, have been wanting a DSLR for Christmas and so this just gives me another reason to get one.

Online Christian Filmmakers Academy is a exceptional course! It is very thorough in teaching you a strong foundation in cinematography. I highly recommend this for anyone that would love to learn all about the art of making motion pictures. I think this online film school is also perfect for the an extracurricular art and is perfect for homeschooling or supplementing education for public school.

You can purchase a full year of the course for $299 at the time of this post. You can get $100 off until November 30th, 2016 by using Coupon Code: FALLCREW16 at checkout. It includes a 30 day no questions asked money-back guarantee. The one year membership is good for your entire family and can be used by multiple students within your household. You can get tips and free video lessons on the Christian Filmmakers Academy Facebook page.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

MyFreezEasy Freezer Meal Plan Membership Review

My family had the privilege of trying the Freezer Meal Plan Membership from MyFreezEasy for this review to use in conjunction with our own homeschool curriculum and family/farm life. This is a Homeschool Review Crew Review. All opinions expressed are my own or those of my family. Affiliate links are in this post. Thanks for supporting this blog.

Erin Chase, $5 Dinner Mom, is the brains behind $5 Dinners, $5 Meal Plan, Grocery Budget Makeover, FreezEasy, and now MyFreezEasy. She puts out a free weekly email newsletter that I subscribe to where she shares recipes, tips and tricks for getting the grocery budget under control. I have loved these valuable emails and delicious recipes throughout the months. I also follow her blog where she posts recipes, coupon matchups and deals, printable coupons, and more to help save you and I money. Her Grocery Budget Makeover I cannot really vouch for myself as I have not taken this 10-week course, but from reviews I have read it sounds like it really works in cutting your grocery spending in half. FreezEasy is her freezer cooking meal plans that will help you prepare 10 delicious meals to load into your freezer in under an hour. MyFreezEasy is new. It is similar to Basic FreezEasy, but gives you even more control to personalize the plan.

The MyFreezEasy Premium Annual Membership gives you access to the online program and website for a whole year. Each month members have access to all eight meal plans to download: Traditional, Gluten-Free, Slow Cooker, Clean Eats, 20 Meals, All Chicken, All Ground Beef, All Pork Chops. The majority of the months meal plans have 5 recipes that have been hand-picked by Erin for that month. With these plans you make two of of each meal to freeze so that you get a total of 10 meals. These premade meal plans are all set for only 4 if you need more or less it is wonderful that MyFreezEasy Premium plan has the opportunity to Build Your Own Meal Plans unlike the Basic FreezEasy that only lets you purchase premade ones.

Along with the freezer cooking plan downloads you get a number of bonuses. First, you can also get a overview of the program by going to the How MyFreezEasy Works Resources and Instructions page which includes a how-to PDF, a Favorite Side Dish Recipes E-Cookbook to download, and a link to the Freezer Cooking Workshop videos to get you started. You can also download printable labels for each meal plan (that she recommends be printed on Avery #6874 sticker paper). Each month, they release highlights & tips videos for all 8 new meal plans, along with 1 assembly instruction video for the Traditional Plan in the Video Library. These assist with the production of making the freezer meals.

From the Build Your Own Meal Plans area you could select the recipe by three different aspects on this page: Type of Protein, Cooking Method, and Dietary Preferences. In each of these search categories they have the recipes further narrowed down. In Type of Protein you could pick from Chicken Recipes, Ground Beef Recipes, Other Beef Recipes, Pork Chop Recipes, Other Pork Recipes, Seafood Recipes, Vegetarian Recipes. In Cooking Method you could pick from Slow Cooker Recipes, Dutch Oven or Saucepan Recipes, Baked Recipes, Skillet Recipes, Grill Recipes, and One Dish Meals. In Dietary Preferences you could pick from My Favorites, Gluten-Free Recipes, Dairy Free Recipes, Gluten Dairy Soy-Free Recipes, Paleo/Whole30 Recipes, and Top 8 Allergy Free Recipes.

MyFreezEasy: 1. Search Categories, 2. Select Your Recipes, 3. Print/Download Your Meal Plan

Once you select one of these categories you can pick from the recipes listed in that certain one. You can click on each recipe title to see a popup of the actual recipe and also choose the serving size (2, 4, 6,or 8) in the drop down menu. You can then either drag and drop 5 recipes you want to prepare in the drop box or add them to it with the + sign from the popup of the recipe. You can go back to the main menu and select a different category as well for more recipes. You can also clear the whole drop box list or drag the recipes you don't want out of the box one by one. After you have selected 5 recipes total for the My FreezEasy Recipes drop box with the correct serving size you can hit the Review and Print button. This will take you to another page to see the 5 that you picked for one final look over before you press Print My Meal Plan and Print Labels (which actually downloads 2 separate printable PDF files onto your computer). You can also select Email which emails you the Complete Shopping List by Recipe with handy check boxes beside each item to take with you to the grocery store.

Each meal plan PDF for 5 recipes is laid out for easy instruction. Each one has the Recipes, Shopping Lists (Complete Shopping List by Recipe, Complete Shopping List by Store Section/Category, Freezer Meal Prep Day Shopping List by Recipe, and Freezer Meal Prep Day Shopping List by Store Section/Category), and Assembly of Meals (Assembly Prep Instructions and Meal Assembly Instructions).

Each recipe is laid out well. At the top of each recipe you have the title, yield, active time, cook time, and a small summary. Then it goes into Ingredients for Single Meal, Cooking Directions for Single Meal, Assembly Prep Directions for 2 Meals. Under that there is Freeze & Thaw Instructions, Special Notes, Dairy-Free Modifications, and Gluten-Free Modifications for each recipe.

How We Used This and Our Thoughts:

We received the MyFreezEasy Premium Annual Membership which gives us access to the online program and website for a whole year! We started the membership back in September and also got access to October's meals this month so far. I made two of each of the 5 meals that I chose for September for the freezer so far. We have access to each month's meal plans as they become available every month. These were easily customized and I really loved that fact.

Freezer Meals -1 that we made for dinner that same night.

Having a family of 6 I couldn't really just go with the premade meal plans because they were all set for only 4 servings. So, I opted to make my own freezer cooking meal plan from the available recipes in the Build Your Own Meal Plans area. For September I made a list of 5 recipes that sounded good to me at the time: Baked Honey Mustard Pork Chops, Ranch Chicken & Baby Potato Bake, Roasted Cod with Pesto, Slow Cooker Shredded Beef Tacos with Mango Avocado Salsa, and Slow Cooker Taco Soup.

I had a few problems with MyFreezEasy...
  1. When I went to change the serving size to 6 I think things got a little jumbled. The canned ingredients didn't really convert well and so when the ingredients lists were read, we had things like: 3/4 x 1 15 oz. can(s) black beans...of which I thought was quite awkward and to me really didn't make sense. Also some of the ingredients in the different sections had different amounts, for example, Slow Cooker Taco Soup for 6 says 1/2 cup(s) beef broth in the Ingredients for Single Meal, but for the Freeze & Thaw Instructions it says 2 cups beef broth. This is inconsistent and quite confusing.
  2. The My Favorites online didn't seem to work for me. I couldn't add any recipes to it by dragging and dropping them into that section and when I hearted them from the popup recipe they didn't seem to go to that section either.
  3. After I baked the Ranch Chicken & Baby Potato Bake I noticed that the potatoes in the dish didn't taste right. From what I am told certain ingredients including raw potatoes need to be blanched before freezing so they maintain their integrity and correct texture. The recipe never mentions blanching and so instead, the potatoes turned out gritty and watery...inedible in my family's opinion. The Ranch Chicken & Baby Potato Bake also took me the longest to prepare for the freezer because of all the chopping of chicken and potatoes (because I couldn't find "baby potatoes"). It also said to get bacon crumbles and I couldn't find these so I made actual bacon and crumbled it myself. This recipe took the longest and was a big disappointment, so I will not be making it again.

Roasted Cod with Pesto (top) and Slow Cooker Taco Soup (bottom)

All in all most the recipes that I prepared and tried were really good. I especially loved the Roasted Cod with Pesto (we made this recipe the same night we put the ingredients for all the recipes together) and the Slow Cooker Taco Soup. These didn't take me long to prepare for the freezer and they were delicious and easy to cook. I am excited to still try the Baked Honey Mustard Pork Chops and the Slow Cooker Shredded Beef Tacos with Mango Avocado Salsa of which were both also very easy to put together for the freezer. I am also excited to try even more meals in the months to come.

The MyFreezEasy Freezer Meal Plan Membership is well worth the investment in my opinion. Even with its quirks it definitely takes the edge off of finding something delicious for dinner and getting a meal thrown into the oven/crock pot/skillet/grill etc. quickly. The freezer meal prep doesn't take too long either and you can get 10 meals prepared in an hour although I do admit that it took me longer. I highly recommend this to busy parents everywhere.

Basic Monthly is $7 a month. Basic Annual is $77 per year with 1 month free. Premium Monthly is $10 a month. Premium Annual is $95 per Year with 2+ Months Free!! Get Started!

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