Thursday, June 30, 2016

Can Perfect Portion Control and Old-Fashioned Favorites Go Together? {A Review}

(Note:  This  honest review contains affiliate links as per our disclosure.)

When I was asked if I would like a copy of The Perfect Portion Cookbook in exchange for an honest review, my curiosity was piqued.  While I have never been one to count calories, the concept of the cookbook sounded interesting:  150 comfort food recipes redesigned to offer old-fashioned flavor while also offering an easy way to balance meals since every recipe in the cookbook comes with a clear illustration of a 100 (200, 300, 400...) calorie portion. 

Thus, despite the fact that I was unsure of if my family would actually be able to eat many of the recipes included in the cookbook due to our special dietary needs, I agreed to the review.

A Well-Thought and Inviting Design

When my review copy of
The Perfect Portion Cookbook arrived, I was immediately impressed by the many full-color photographs on its cover, end pages, recipe pages, and tip pages.  Upon perusing the cookbook further, I was equally impressed by how true to its mission it is.  Happy Days' TV star and director Anson Williams, along with co-writers Bob Warden (a New York Times best-selling author) and Mona Dolgov (a reputed nutritionist) certainly met their goal in creating a cookbook that is chock-full of recipes for classic comfort foods as well as tips, graphics, and even meal-plans to make it easy for folks to enjoy eating without overeating.

Recipes for apple turnovers, chicken pot pie, chili, crab cakes, flatbread pizza, meatloaf, sweet & sour meatballs, ... even cheesecake... are accompanied by tantalizing full-color illustrations and clear graphics that show how large a 100 calorie portion of what each recipe would look like. 

Mind you, the suggested serving size is often larger than 100 calories.  The idea is that if you know what 100 calories of a recipe looks like, you can choose to eat, say, a 400 calorie breakfast, a 500 calorie lunch, and a 600 calorie dinner, while still leaving room for three 1000 calorie snacks throughout your day.

The Perfect Portion Cookbook also offers:
  • culinary tips
  • nutrition "tricks" for better-for-you ingredients
  • information on calorie goal-planning
  • a seven day suggested meal plan of perfect portions
  • lists of 10o-calorie portions of protein, carbohydrate, raw vegetable, cooked vegetable, fruit, dairy snacks, sauces & condiments, and fats to make snack and sides planning easier
  • ideas for balanced snacks as well as grab & go ones
  • ideas for burning calories and meeting success at tipping the scales

The Perfect Portion Cookbook proves a well-rounded, helpful cookbook which invites you to enjoy perennial favorites while making portion control easy.
How Perfect is the The Perfect Portion Cookbook?

If you eat a pretty traditional American diet, love comfort foods, and seek recipes tweaked to make such foods a bit healthier and easier to apportion, The
The Perfect Portion Cookbook is for you.

If you love cookbooks with glossy pages and beautiful full-color photographs,
The Perfect Portion Cookbook may also be for you.

However, if, like me, you have folks with special dietary needs in your home,
The Perfect Portion Cookbook may prove for better browsing than for actual use.  For, I have to be honest.  In our our home, we have a several who eat gluten- and casein-free, one who is vegetarian, and one who is moving toward a nutritarian diet, so many of the recipes included in the cookbook were simply not ones that would work in our kitchen without major adaptations.   That said, I like the concept of the book for others and plan to happily gift our review copy of The Perfect Portion Cookbook forward to someone who can utilize it more than us.  For I know many who would love it!

I also will add that if the authors of
The Perfect Portion Cookbook ever make a special diets cookbook with a similar format - tantalizing photographs, culinary tips, helpful lists, easy graphics for portion planning, etc. - I would love to see it!  For me, such a cookbook would be ideal.  For you, The Perfect Portion Cookbook may be!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

A Fun Way to Learn Judges to Kings {A Veritas Press Review}

When my 10-year-old saw me checking out an opportunity to review the Self-Paced Bible by Veritas Press, he got excited.
"Mom, we're going to do it, right?"  he bubbled. 

"No, Son.  I wasn't planning to,"  I replied, and preempted his next inevitable word (Why-y-y?) by stating, "We just aren't home a lot lately, and even though I know you loved the last Veritas Press review we did, I am just not confident that we can do this one justice."

Old and New Testament Online Self-Paced Bible Veritas Review

"But, Mom.  I love Veritas.  Can we please do it?  Please.  I will make sure we stay focused on it when we are home."

"Are you sure you want to spend the limited online time we may have at home doing it, Son?"


And so it was that I asked my oldest which of the Self-Paced Bible products he wanted to review:

  • Old Testament 1: Genesis to Joshua
  • Old Testament 2: Judges to Kings
  • New Testament 1: The Gospels

He did not pause long before saying "The Judges to Kings one, Mom.  We've done a lot on Genesis before and on the Gospels.  I do not know much about Judges and Kings."

"I do not either, Son.  Maybe we can learn together."

Not long afterward, we all began learning more using the Self-Paced Bible.

What Is the Self-Paced Bible?


Veritas Press is well-known for providing resources for Classical Christian Education for homeschoolers and the Judges to Kings Self-Paced Bible is part of their Homeschool Bible Curriculum.  Delivered through subscription in a streaming format online, the curriculum covers 32 Biblical events in 128 "class periods" that weave together:

  • humorous talking characters (both actors and cartoon),
  • engaging video footage,
  • and entertaining learning and review games.

In doing so, the curriculum helps students:

  • memorize names, dates, and places from the Bible.
  • learn through interactive, multi-sensory activities.
  • build a foundation for more in-depth study in future years.

Thorough and informative, the curriculum is also fun!

How Did We Use It?

Old and New Testament Online Self-Paced Bible Veritas Review

The first time we used the
Self-Paced Bible, we did so as a family.  Even Daddy was with us!  We had just eaten breakfast and thought we'd give it a go.  It was fun to watch the video clips and to try the quizzes together.

The next time we logged in, Daddy was not with us, but the kids and I enjoyed the program together. 

However, by the third time we used the program, I admit, I ended up walking away.   I did not do so because of any problem with the program.  Rather, I did so because my children had become focused on one of the review games and I had laundry to switch over. So, I hurried on down to our basement to change over the laundry, and, when I returned, I found that my children were so happily immersed that I capitalized on the time to get another task done. 

It was thus that a pattern got set.  Several days a week, I would help the children log into
the Self-Paced Bible and, then, I would pop in and out of the room as I attended to my task list, 100% delighted that they were learning more about the Bible and practicing virtue while they did.  For, yes, virtue practice unfolded.  I witnessed the children take turns, help each other with the mouse, read to one another, extend patience when discussion answers to questions, etc.  (Love it!)  I also heard them singing memory songs, saw them work with maps and more.

Our Take on the Program 

Old and New Testament Online Self-Paced Bible Veritas Review

As I said before, my oldest,  at 10, is the one who wanted to do this review despite the fact that I worried that we would not have enough time to do it justice. He promised to focus on it and has done so.  While he has, I have realized what a boon it is that this program is self-paced, for the "self-paced" words can be taken quite literally in our home, and I want to stress how incredibly easy the Self-Paced Bible is for parents! Truly, there is NO prep work at all beyond turning on a computer and logging in online.  

When you log in, the program simply picks up right where you left off.  No papers to print, no books or workbooks to keep track of.  No tie wasted except when your computer has snafus, as ours did on occasion.)  Plus, if you need something for record keeping, scores are kept in the program so parents can access them.  So,

the Self-Paced Bible proves SIMPLE to use for students and parents alike and ENGAGING for learners.  That makes it a win for me.

As for my ten-year-old, he said:

I think it is a good product.  (I also really liked the last Veritas product we did on Explorers.) 

I think that it's funny how one of the guys is always making inventions that don't really work.  (Well, one works...) I also think that Vasko the frog and the Pallu the rock badger are funny.  They are characters that show up and help tell the story about Judges and Kings.

There are some kind of gross parts.  I thought it was cool that a guy saved Israel by stabbing a fat king in the belly.  It was gross, too, because the king was so fat the knife could not come out.  I also thought it was cool that a woman won a battle for Israel by pounding a tent peg through a guy's head.  Wouldn't that be very painful?

I really liked a few of the games.  For example, the Gideon game.  It is easy and fun.  All the games help you remember the stuff the guys talk about.

I want to keep using this.  IT IS SO AWESOME!  (Well, when our computer works well.  It does not always work well.)  I am learning lots!  I think kids 5 and up, maybe to 12, would like it, too.

Old and New Testament Online Self-Paced Bible Veritas Review

My daughter, nine, who sits alongside her brother when he's studying Judges to Kings, said:

It was awesome!  I loved it!  The games... the story... the funny boy Levi...  I am learning about (singing), "Judges of Israel..." 

I did not know that the enemy king was so fat.  I also did not know that they used horns, pitches, and torches to defeat the enemy.

This program is fun.  It teaches me the history of our faith and is entertaining.  I want to keep using it until it's done. 

I think, out of 10 people, probably 9 would like it.  Maybe one would not because little kids might not be interested.  I think kids 6-12 would like this.  I LOVE IT!

My youngest, who is just shy of six, also sits alongside his siblings when they use the Self-Paced Bible.  He said:

I like the running game where you jump over enemies.  I also like the game with the cook and with the soldiers.  The games are fun and ask you questions.

I also like the the grape picker rake.  It is something that the guy made up.  He makes up lots of things.  He doesn't make up stories of God, though.  He teaches me.

I want to keep using this.

Would We Recommend the Self-Paced Bible?

Old and New Testament Online Self-Paced Bible Veritas Review

Obviously, my children recommend the Self-Paced Bible.  I would, too.  For, even though I already admitted that by our third sitting with the Self-Paced Bible I no longer sat learning alongside my children, I enjoyed the bits and pieces that I caught while moving in and out of the room when my children were using the curriculum and also loved that my children could learn independently while I attended to the many "We're-Actually-at-Home" task list items that beckoned me to pay attention to them instead of joining my children in their fun online learning time.

Yes, in an ideal world, I would sit and learn alongside my children all the time, especially when they are using a program as engaging as those put out by
Veritas Press.  However, in my real world, sometimes I have to forego the fun of learning in order to make time for the mundane tasks of life.  This is so much easier to do when I know that my children are immersed in learning about the Bible with an engaging program from a well-reputed vendor.  So, thank you, Veritas Press for creating such a quality Bible-learning tool, and, go ahead, All, check it out!  The Self-Paced Bible is worth a look.  You can view sample lessons online and also try their programs with a 60-day money-back guarantee.

Learn More

Eighty-five Schoolhouse Review families tried out the Self-Paced Bible or a one-year family subscription to  See what each thought about the programs by clicking though the banner.

Old and New Testament Online Self-Paced Bible Veritas Review

Find Veritas Press on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter.

Old and New Testament Online Self-Paced Bible Veritas Review

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Monday, June 27, 2016

9 Resources for Sharing St. Peter, St. Paul, and the Early Christians with Kids

Ever have one of those weekends when you conclude it more tired than you started it?

That's the kind of weekend I am wrapping up. As I do, I am not complaining. It has been a full and beautiful long weekend for our family with back-to-back celebrations and learning adventures. I am, however, slightly berating myself for not completing the coming week's meal planning and learning time preparations before heading into this past weekend. For, here we are, less than a half an hour until Monday is upon us, and I've yet to accomplish such weekly tasks.

I have, however, gotten one small part of those tasks done! I looked ahead at the week's calendar to see which saint days are coming up and, realized that this week we will remember St. Peter and St. Paul as well as the Early Christian Martyrs. With this in mind, I browsed our book collection and pulled out faith-centered reading for the children and I to enjoy together this week:

{Disclosure:  There are affiliate links to Amazon,
CCC of America, and Holy Heroes below for your convenience should you want to learn more about any of the titles we'll be enjoying this week.  Should you click on any of the links and make purchases, we may receive small compensation.  Thank you for supporting our efforts in Training Happy Hearts and sharing about it here.}


 The Very First Christians is a picture book we typically read together shortly after Easter.  This year, Luke read it on his own, but we never read it together in its entirety as a family.  So, we will be reading it this week.  


The Loyola Kids Book of Heroes (which sells used for as little as 74 cents!) has portions on St. Peter, St. Paul, and the Early Christians.  Score!  We had just begun reading this book together for St. John the Baptist's feast day and now we will skip forward a bit to read about this week's saints.


Luke's beloved Dragon Slayer has a portion on St. peter, so we will be reading that as a family.

Our My First Catholic Bible (which can be scored as a used hardcover for but a penny!) has perfect illustrated scripture about St. Peter and St. Paul, so it will be our Bible study resource this week.

Of course, the trusty Picture Book of Saints (which also sells used for only a penny!) has pages on St. Peter and St. Paul, too, which will come in handy this week.


I checked out old, weather-worn, hand-me-down copy of Jesus Loved Them and there is a beautiful illustration and page about St. Peter, so it's in our pile for the week, too.


We also just happen to be in the midst of a review period for Heirloom Audio  Production's  Beric the Briton, which we have loved listening to twice already - and so we will be listening to it again this week! The audiodrama includes mention of St. Paul and the Early Christian Martyrs.


Plus, if we can find it where we last tucked it away, I will pull out our Holy Heroes St. Cecilia CD, since it also discusses the plight of early Christians.


Further, since we enjoy chilling out with family video time sometimes, I have also pulled out our copy of CCC of America's Ben-Hur film to have on hand for this week.  This is one of my youngest's favorite CCC videos and a perfect one to tie into the early Christian's theme.  The day we watch it (or the day after), I may print out the free Ben-Hur coloring page from CCC of America, too, for the children to enjoy.

I'd love to hear what your favorite faith-based picks for this week are! Are there any books, audios, or videos you'd recommend for engaging children in learning more about St. Peter, St. Paul, and the early Christian martyrs?

Monday, June 20, 2016

Our New Recipes: No-Cook Wild Clover-Chia Seed Pudding and Strawberry-Chia Seed Pudding, Too

What's for dessert?

Wild edibles in self-created recipes if you come picnic with us.

At least that is what was for dessert on our lawn tonight.  (And, yes, the wild clover one tasted much better than it looked!)

Earlier in the day, a friend had posted a link to some wonderfully healthy and delicious-looking white clover pudding.  We did not have the ingredients for that pudding at home, but we did have a desire to explore what we might create with the white and red clover growing in our yard.  So, we decided to make our own recipe.

{Disclosure:  Some links which follow are affiliate ones.  Should you click through the to make any purchase, we may receive income.  We thank you for supporting our efforts at Training Happy Hearts and sharing about here.}

The children gathered clover blooms, which I sorted and "de-petaled"
, pulling petals that had not dried and browned yet and placing them in a measuring cup.

By the time we  had but one-quarter of a cupful of petals, the children tired of picking them, so my daughter and I went inside see what we could make.

We have been on a chia-seed kick lately, so we decided to experiment chia seeds, honey, clover petals, and coconut milk to make our own pudding.

My daughter thought the texture of the pudding might be best if we ground the petals first in our Magic Bullet instead of using them whole, so we did just that.

Oops!  The pretty white and purple with a hint of green petals turned into green pulp.


Not to be chagrined, we added coconut milk and honey to the pulp and blended again.

Then, we added the chia seeds and, noticing our concoction was no longer green, but was still hardly pretty, we added a few petals to the top.  Then - oops, again - we forgot to shake the jar vigorously in order to mix the
chia seeds in properly.  So, we ended up having our pudding set with some quite thick parts and some more fluid ones. 

That did not deter us, though.  We simply stirred it all together before serving.  Then, five out of the six people in our home enjoyed our clover bloom
chia seed pudding despite its strange hue and less-than-perfect texture.

Five out of six people also enjoyed our other creation: strawberry-
chia seed pudding.

Because we had a cup of coconut milk left in a can after making our wild clover pudding, and because we have a fridge bursting with fresh strawberries, we decided to make a strawberry pudding, too.

To make it, we washed and sliced a cup of strawberries.

Then, we added coconut milk and honey,before we blended it all together.

We poured the mixture into a jar and topped it off
chia seeds.

We, then, capped the lid, shook it vigorously, and popped it in the fridge for a a few hours.

By dinner time, it was a delightful pudding that all of us (but our one odd-child-out who does not like strawberries) enjoyed it!

I would definitely recommend trying either our wild clover
chia seed pudding and out strawberry-chia seed one before clover and strawberry season has passed.  Not every concoction we experiment with turns out to be a recipe worth sharing, but we think today's wild edible exploration is worth passing on.

Both clover and strawberries have many health benefits, as do wild honey and
chia seeds.  So, the puddings are ones you can enjoy without guilt.  

For your ease, the ingredients and directions we used to make each pudding are listed below.

Wild Clover Chia Seed Pudding

  • 1/4 cup white and/or purple clover bloom petals  (simply pull/snip petals from the flower head, discarding brown or dry ones)
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 3 tablespoons raw, local honey
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds (We prefer white ones for aesthetic purposes, but black taste just as good.)

Mix clover petals, coconut milk, and honey together.  Place in a jar, and add
chia seeds.  Cover jar and shake vigorously.  Refrigerate several hours to thicken.

Enjoy as is or with whipped coconut cream and fruit toppings.

Strawberry-Chia Seed Pudding

  • 1cup strawberries
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 3 tablespoons raw, local honey
  • 1/2 cup chia seeds (We prefer white ones for aesthetic purposes, but black taste just as good.)

Wash, slice, and blend strawberries.  Add one cup of coconut milk and three tablespoons of honey. Blend again.  Then pour into a jar.  Add 1/2 cup
chia seeds, cover, and shake vigorously.  Refrigerate several hours to thicken.

Enjoy as is or with whipped coconut cream and fruit toppings.

We've love to hear how you like (and adapt!) our pudding recipes.  We'd also welcome your wild (and spring!) edible recipes.  We are novices with wild edibles, but enjoying learning and experimenting with them.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Get a FREE St. Anthony of Padua Nature Scavenger Hunt Printable!

What do you do when a feast day, a desire for some exercise, and warm, beautiful weather coincide?  Why, you go for a saint-inspired nature walk,of course!

Or, so that is what our family did for Saint Anthony of Padua's feast day.  Modeling after an idea from Shower of Roses, I created a St. Anthony's Nature Scavenger Hunt to be used at a local conservation area.  Then, as soon as my husband got home from work, our family headed out for a simple picnic dinner and nature walk.

We started out our saint celebration with prayer, reading about St. Anthony, and chatting.

Then, we took cameras, pencils, and scavenger hunt sheets in hand and set off to find "lost" nature items, creating quick sketches of each item we found.

I know it is late to share our simple St. Anthony's Nature Scavenger Hunt sheet for this year.  However, in case you'd like to download it and use in in years to come, I am sharing it anyway.

Get your copy here!

Enjoy our a free printable copy of it!

Plan Ahead for St. John the Baptist's feast day on June 24thThis week, I was hoping to make the St. John the Baptist outdoor feast day celebration we had with friends last year an annual event, but schedules just are not working out to do so.  Still, I may resurrect some of the food and fun we enjoyed last year on a smaller scale for just my family.  If you'd like to borrow ideas, too, be sure to check out all the details at
John the Baptist's Life in Food and Water Balloon Games? You Bet!

Which upcoming saint days will you be celebrating outdoors?


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