I wanted to share with all of you what my husband did today. While outside cutting up some big logs, he was inspired to create this. . . .
We will be married for 18 years on 2/5, and I just thought this was really sweet. He is the one that God chose for me, and I am so thankful : ^)

"I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine"
Song of Solomon 6:3
Winter. When I was a kid, I loved winter. I think I loved every season here in Central New York. We are one of the blessed areas in the US that truly gets 4 significantly different seasons. As a child, it seems the seasons were a little more differentiated than they are now, but I was also a kid and looked at the world with totally obscured vision, lol. But a few things that haven't changed are that Winter is cold & has a lot of snow; Spring is rainy with great thunderstorms and beautiful flowers; Summer is warm & sunny; & Autumn has breathtaking views of fall foliage, warm days, & cold nights. Even as a child, I could appreciate that all the beauty that surrounded me was created by God and was a gift to all of us.

Going back to the beginning of my post, when I was a kid, I loved winter. We went sledding, snowmobiling, had snow days from school, and could play for hours creating great works of art in the snow :^) But now that I am an adult, I don't quite have the same love for this season as I once did. Now that I have to drive in it (and can't do donuts in the school parking lot), shovel it, be cold in it, and don't get snow days off, it's not as much fun. Though the beauty of the new fallen snow cannot be described and making a snow angel or snowman is still fun, I just don't have as much fun as I did many years ago (yes, I did say many). It's cold, I can't get where I want to go as fast as I want to, and snow equipment and clothes are too expensive! I can't imagine my parents spending that much money on snowmobile suits, boots, sleds - anything like that - when I was younger. I don't think it costs as much as it does today. I get so annoyed and frustrated when I go to the store and look at the price tag. Grrr.

But I digress (really? not me! lol). Back to my point. . . . This year, winter in CNY has actually been pretty good (to me). We've had probably less than 35" of snow this year, so far, which makes it one of the least snowiest years ever. We have had some pretty cold temps, but even they have not been consistent. Yes it dropped to -16*f, but it only lasted 1 or 2 days that cold. It's been above freezing for many days this winter. So even I was thinking we needed SOME snow. Over the past 2 weeks, we have finally gotten a little. It started out so pretty, with the snow flakes just glistening in the sunlight, la la la. Then it started coming down hard. . . . and sticking! Blah! But it was so pretty, even if I didn't want to drive in it. I love taking pictures just after it snows. Everything is so white & crisp. The snow that sits on the tree branches; just the fact that the branches can withstand the weight, is amazing. God's creation truly is amazing! The glory of God is really around us if we just open our eyes.

Below are a few "before & after" pics from a recent snow fall. I hope they give you a sense of winter in CNY, if you've never experienced it. Of course, this is not that much snow, really, considering we usually could easily see 30" of snow in one weekend of snow. CNY is definitely the place to live if you love winter :^)
We are a family that loves listening to music, especially classical music. Since I was a child, it has been my preferred choice of music. It can be soothing, exciting, dramatic, sad, and even comical - depending on your mood while listening. I have been blessed that my children enjoy music as http://pioneeradventuretours.com/ much as I do. 

I was so pleased when we were given the opportunity to review Maestro Classics for the TOS Crew.  I had heard of them before, but had not yet purchased their products.

Maestro Classics was started in 2004 as Magic Maestro Music, by Stephen & Bonnie Simon. They were the conductor and executive director of the Kennedy Center in Washington DC and had a desire to reach a "wider audience" beyond their sold-out concerts to children and their families. Their mission: "To cultivate a love of music through education and joyful performances." (Maestro Classics Mission Statement)

Mr. & Mrs. Simon each have an extensive career history that you can read here, but their love for their own children as well as children and families that they do not even know, inspired them to create these wonderful masterpieces called Maestro Classics Stories In Music. I enjoy this statement that is on their site, it says so much:

"Experience had convinced them that if you educated as you entertained,
were sophisticated enough to interest the parents as well as children,
& offered only the finest musical performances,
all children could appreciate symphonic music."
(Maestro Classics History
Now that I've given you a little insight into Maestro Classics, I want to tell you about The Story of Swan Lake. This incredible CD offers 54:02 minutes of music, stories, and fun. You and your children will hear the London Philharmonic Orchestra play Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake as directed by Stephen Simon. You will also hear the narrator (Yadu, or formally Dr. Konrad Cyznski) tell the story of Swan Lake. His narration is not only pleasant to listen, it complements the music, too. How many of you have heard the music of Swan Lake but never really knew the story behind it? Listening to this CD, you will gain a whole new understanding of the music. You will also listen to Bonnie Ward Simon as she tells you of Tchaikovsky's life. It's quite interesting! There is a great arrangement performed by world-famous Joe Stump on the guitar called "Speed Metal Swan". This is an awesome piece, and not like the "speed metal" that was around when I was a teen :) At the end of the CD, there are 3 tracks that are geared for the younger listeners. They will learn a special song to remember the theme of the story that they can sing to.

You can purchase Maestro Classics The Story of Swan Lake as a CD for $16.98 or a downloadable MP3 for $9.98. For the month of, if you order either the CD or the MP3 of Swan Lake, you will also receive a free MP3 of Swan Lake orchestral version. The CD's are geared for children 6-12 but were enjoyed by our whole family (adults, 16 & 11)
Award-Winning Maestro Classics CD Collection
Maestro Classics has 1o wonderful "Stories & Music" CD's that you can purchase individually or in grouped collections. They each offer the same quality music, narration, and creativity as The Story of Swan Lake. I encourage you to go to Maestro Classics and listen to the available previews, just click on the CD you're interested in. Each of the CD's includes the 24-page program booklet that includes activities, biographies, and interesting facts. Each CD also includes the ending tracks where children can "play-along, sing-along, or dance-along...because participating in the music making is always fun."

You can also click over to the TOS Crew and read more reviews of Maestro Classics.
For More Reviews From The TOS Crew
And remember: I received this product free as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew with the sole purpose of providing an honest review after using the product. For more information on this, please see my disclaimer.
Do you and your family enjoy watching movies? Would you like to be able to incorporate a few of these movies into your curriculum? There is a terrific way to do this; & it's cost effective, too.

Zeezok Publishing offers Z-Guides for a variety of movies that span across specific time periods in history. These guides are downloadable files that are movie specific and each offers 10 educational activities that enhance the understanding of the movie.

Zeezok was started as The Book Peddler in 1993, and served the home school community by offering various materials at home school conventions and other venues. In 2003, Zeezok Publishing was created in anticipation of developing their own material and not having to travel all around the USA. This has been a great success and now Zeezok is able to offer the Z-Guide to the Movies as well as ebooks, audio books, and more. 

The Z-Guide that we received covers The Ten Commandments movie. I was excited to receive this guide as we are studying Ancient Egypt this year; and I have always liked The Ten Commandments :) My kids had actually never seen it so this was a great opportunity for our family to watch it (again for my husband & I). 

Before watching the movie, the guide suggests to review the questions, which we did. And as we watched the movie, we kept the Z-Guide handy so we could follow along.
Watching the movie as a child and even as a young adult, is so different than watching with my children. The reasons: I was saved when I was 25 and have since learned so much more about the Bible and God's word, and having the Z-Guide helped "guide" me to specific differences between the Bible and the movie. Though the movie is great and is one of those movies that will be around forever, in my  opinion, it is definitely Hollywood doctored. There is a lot of "filler" that was added in the movie that is not in the Bible. It's like "this is a fictional account of a factual event" (we heard this at a theater production of the Christmas story and it stuck, lol).

The Z-Guide gives an opportunity for readers to complete questions and activities to help point out the differences, as well as learn more of the story. This is a wonderful attribute of the Guide.

We were pleased to use this Z-Guide and do believe it is a great way to add this movie to our curriculum. Not only could we watch the movie and learn more about Ancient Egypt, we could test our own knowledge of the Biblical account of Moses. The latter is always appreciated. There are always areas that we may believe we know the whole story, only to realize that we may not know the minute details. Having this guide encouraged us to read, and re-read, Exodus, to get the accurate story.

The Ten Commandment Z-Guide would be a very affordable supplement to your curriculum at just $12.99 each. It is designed for the High School student, but our whole family, including my 6th grader, was able to use it. The movies are easily accessible, too. Zeezok states that most of the movies that correlate to their Z-Guides can be found on Netflix. The library is always a good place to look for movies to rent, too.

You can view a free sample of a Z-Guide here. Click the link below to read more reviews about Zeezok and their Z-Guides.

For More Reviews From The TOS Crew
And remember: I received this product free as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew with the sole purpose of providing an honest review after using the product. For more information on this, please see my disclaimer.