Monday, March 2, 2015

Koru Naturals: TOS Review

So many of the items that I review are specifically targeted for homeschooling families, but recently I was able to review for Koru Naturals - ideal for any family.

This company is based in New Zealand and we were privileged to review Emu Oil and Koolpurrie Restoring Balm.

Koolpurrie Restoring Balm is a combination of lanolin and emu oil. (I can't even tell you how many jokes have been made in the Toliver house the past several weeks about emu oil!) It is supposed to be highly effective at healing severely dry, damaged skin.

We found the consistency to be very thick, almost wax-like. It's much thicker than a cream or ointment, even thicker than petroleum jelly.

It is made up of all natural ingredients - no chemicals, dyes, or perfumes. I tend to have sensitive skin - as do several of my kids - so this makes a difference to me. We were pleased that we had no trouble with bad skin reactions to any of Koru Naturals' products.

I wanted to try the Koolpurrie Restoring Balm on my heels which tend to be very cracked. (possibly due to the fact that I rarely wear shoes . . . ) And you know what? It worked! I was really surprised because I have tried many different softening and soaking products and they've had very little long-term effect. But this actually did the trick. My sweet husband actually rubbed it into my feet - possibly more information than you could ever want - and it was pretty amazing how even after just a few treatments they really are much, much better.

I do recommend that you take advantage of your husband's offer to apply the Koolpurrie Restoring Balm to your feet; however you probably should be prepared to hear an endless litany of emu jokes . . .

(It also works to put the balm on the slightly skinned knees of five year old hypochondriacs - there's your mothering tip for the day.)

Price for Koolpurrie Restoring Balm: $12.50 for 1.4 oz. I would consider that a very reasonable price and would certainly plan to purchase more.

Pure Emu Oil: This is a natural oil traditionally used by Australian aborigines. Like the Koolpurrie Restoring Balm, it has all natural ingredients and we had no trouble with any skin reactions. The website does mention that some other companies carry a less pure form of emu oil that has been clarified which eliminates some of the best stuff in the oil.

I liked the consistency of the emu oil - it's really a lot like most essential oils that we use although I think it absorbs even more effectively. One of the main uses for it is hair conditioner. Both my daughter and I used it in our hair and did not see a big difference. We both have super thick, coarse hair (I'm a mite jealous of all you fine-haired ladies!) so I would guess it would be more effective in finer hair.

However, the thing that I did like Koru's Emu Oil for was for a facial moisturizer. Again, I mentioned the whole sensitive skin issue and that especially applies to my face. However, when I saw on the bottle that it's supposed to "reduce the depth and length of fine lines and wrinkles", I was willing to take the risk. Forty-two years old with eight kids? Yes, I have wrinkles. While I can't say every single wrinkle disappeared, I was very impressed with how well it moisturized my face. It felt slightly greasy for the first few minutes, but it soaked in quickly, and I was able to apply makeup soon after applying the Emu Oil. My skin tends to be very dry but this was really much more effective than other products I've used that are more expensive.

Again, the emu jokes from the husband and children never end, but I think that the products and the results speak for themselves and I was impressed.

Price: $9.85 for a 2 oz. bottle of Emu Oil.

If you check out Koru Naturals' website, you'll find many more products, including shampoo, conditioner, lip balm, and lanolin cream.

Read more reviews at the Schoolhouse Review Crew.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Heirloom Audio Productions - In Freedom's Cause - TOS Review

Heirloom Audio Productions produces wonderful professional audio dramas that bring history to life for the entire family. We enjoyed productions of theirs in the past - Under Drake's Flag - so we were excited to hear that they continue to make new ones. We were recently sent In Freedom's Cause (single package) for our review.

It's based on the G.A. Henty book - In Freedom's Cause - which gives the historical account of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce as they fought for Scotland's freedom. G. A. Henty was a prolific author in the 1800s who wrote many books in the historical fiction genre. Henty wrote about true historical characters and events - such as Wallace, Bruce, and Scotland's fight to be free from England's rule - and added a fictional young person to the narrative. My oldest son in particular has read many Henty books and Heirloom has made these great books more accessible for the whole family.

We are history lovers around here so reviews like this are exciting for our entire family. Listening to the two-CD set during lunch or in the van was a simple thing for us and it's ideal for giving a richer understanding of history. Wallace and Bruce are notable freedom fighters and the sacrifices they made - particularly Wallace - are well-worth a deep discussion with the entire family. Heirloom's productions are very professionally done - both the acting and the background work - and are a delight to listen to. 

My children all enjoyed it with a couple of little exceptions - my three and five year old girls weren't completely captivated although the five year old understood enough to have some good questions. And my seventeen year old son, who has extensively read Henty's books, is rather a purist and doesn't like hearing the abridged versions. This certainly isn't a criticism, but I think it's worth noting because  I believe that these audio dramas from Heirloom may be best for those who haven't read the unabridged books. 

Henty's books can be overwhelming for some readers and I'm glad for Heirloom's commitment to make his books more accessible while at the same time piquing interest in history. In Freedom's Cause lasts for over 2 hours which makes it a perfect accompaniment to road trips (or just to keep kids busy when you're housebound from a crazy unexpected Texas snowstorm!).

Another thing worth noting about Heirloom is the actors who are involved with their production. Remember Edmund from Chronicles of Narnia? He's one of several very well-known actors who play a part in this audio drama.

While we didn't use the accompanying study guide as much as I would have liked, I do want to use it more in-depth in the future - particularly when we reach this historical era in our history curriculum. There are 37 lessons which cover different sections of the audio CD. Resources within the study guide include the following: maps, details on Scotland's amazing history, comprehension questions and discussion tips for understanding the material better, and vocabulary. Also included is a Bible study guide which explores the Scriptures behind some of the character traits within the story. 

In Freedom's Cause is one we'll listen to again and again and we're excited to see that Heirloom has more productions in the works. Not only are your kids learning to love history, but they're also discovering the strong moral character that drove great men like Wallace and Bruce to do extraordinary things.

Click here to read more reviews at the Schoolhouse Review Crew. With Lee in Virginia is the next one that Heirloom is releasing so make sure you check out their Facebook page to stay updated!

Great Commission Films - IndoctriNation - TOS Review

Great Commission Films recently sent me their IndoctriNation DVD for my review. This is a 102 minute film which challenges viewers to consider the educational system in the United States. Specifically, it approaches the subject of how the public school system has influenced the decline of Christianity.
Colin Gunn is a Scottish father of seven. He's also a Christian filmmaker and homeschooling father. Along with his wife and children, Gunn traveled the United States to interview a number of men - historians, pastors, and teachers - on this topic and to explore the direction our nation is headed.

Quite fittingly, his family travels in a yellow school bus! This film really gives an in-depth look at the history and origins of our education system and how its treatment of Christianity has changed so much over the past 200 years. One teacher that he spoke to had been fired because he took a stand for Christ. His interviews with public school teachers were very enlightening as to what is currently going on within the school system.

Regardless of where you stand with your education views, it is truly worthwhile to consider what the agenda is of those who are teaching your children and those who are controlling what your children are being taught. Gunn obviously falls on the homeschool side of the debate, but the issues are ones that all Christians need to consider in light of our culture.

IndoctriNation approaches vital questions that all parents should consider - such as, is the public school system physically and morally safe for our children?

I also want to make it very clear that while I do agree with much of what Gunn said and conclusions that he reached I do also believe that homeschooling is a personal family-by-family choice. For us, it has been a fantastic choice, but that doesn't mean it's for everyone. Regardless, this film will make you think and evaluate what you truly believe.

One final note - I would caution you against letting your children watch this with you unless you preview it first. We ended up turning it off the first time we watched it because there were a number of serious issues that we felt weren't appropriate for our entire crew. My husband felt too that it would have been more advantageous if we had watched it beforehand. We had heard of so many families that watched IndoctriNation all together, that we took for granted it would be appropriate for ours as well. It would have helped if we had watched it as a couple and then discussed some of the issues with our kids first and then perhaps watched selected portions.

IndoctriNation is also available for download and there is also a companion book available.

DVD: $19.95

Read more reviews at the Schoolhouse Review Crew.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

34 Weeks of Clean: Holiday Decorations!

Hey, y'all! We are suffering in the Arctic temps down here in Texas this week -- 30 seems absolutely frigid when the average in January is 57! (no laughing, Chicago friends!)

We're also fighting our way through colds, but I'm excited to share with you a fun thing to get you through the winter blues - cleaning!

Okay, so we all have different definitions of fun but whether you're a neat freak or a complete slob, there is something positively joyful about getting something cleaned up and organized and spit-spot, as Mary Poppins would say.

My sweet friend, Michele, (yes, we have met in person) is one of those amazing organizers who has started a fun new series: 34 Weeks of Clean. Each week she's assigning a new section of the house or project to focus on and she's giving some of her great tips to keep us on task.

Week 1 was Holiday Decorations and I'm thrilled to say that all of our Christmas decorations came down the day after Christmas this year. I was practically the Texas Grinch this year because we actually celebrated here at Thanksgiving with my whole family --

And the month of December was insanely busy so by the time December 25th rolled around I was ready to be DONE!

Here are the clean-up-those-holiday-decorations tips that work for me:

1. Keep it all in one place! This is an idea Michele recommends too. Although our artificial tree has to go up in the attic (I miss having a basement!), we have an antique trunk in our master bedroom --

That is stuffed to the gills with Christmas stuff. It really helps me to be limited in the size because if it doesn't fit in the trunk, something has to go. It also makes me get rid of older, unused stuff.

2. Clean as you go! This is a great time to get those shelves and knick-knacks dusted off as you put away holiday stuff - particularly in those homes where dusting is fairly low-priority (hypothetically speaking, of course). Even better, if the temps are too cold to send energetic children outside, hand over that dusting rag with a smile.

3. Keep the storage as simple as possible. Michele uses a big covered plastic garbage can to coil her lights and garland! I love that idea. This is also why I like to use our antique trunk - it keeps stuff neatly stored with little fuss.

And rather than spending money on little light storage units my husband just notched a few boards and made it so much easier.

4. Keep a list of what you have. Hmm. Still working on implementing this one. It would certainly be good so you don't buy what you already have. I can imagine this would help for those women married to men who go berserk when they see "Buy 5 Sets of Lights, Get 12 Free" at Wal-Mart's post-Christmas sales. Not that I know any husbands like that.

Personally, I think this 34 Weeks of Clean series would be even more effective if Michele could actually come to my house and organize it for 34 weeks, but, alas, that's not the deal. So until I can convince her that she needs to move from South Dakota to Texas, I'm going to have to apply her cleaning tips from 1000+ miles away!

Head on over to Family, Faith, and Fridays because right now they're in the middle of Week 2: Pantry!

And I would like to issue a personal challenge to Michele as she considers what categories to schedule for future weeks:

SHOES. (and these are just the girls' shoes!)
I know that picture alone is enough to drive a neat freak a little crazy.

Have a great week!

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