The Kremlin Conspiracy by Joel C. Rosenberg: A Book Review

Given our current political climate, I thought The Kremlin Conspiracy by Joel C. Rosenberg sounded like a very interesting read, and it was!

The story follows two men–an American, Marcus Ryker, and a Russian, Oleg Kraskin.  While their stories run parallel for most of the book, in the end, their story lines intertwine in the most interesting way.

Marcus Ryker comes from a troubled home, yet despite that, he is a loyal boyfriend to Elena.  However, her father asks Elena to end their young relationship shortly before 9/11, which she reluctantly does.  After 9/11, Marcus joins the military and sees combat duty.  Because of his act of bravery when escorting a U.S. congressman, Elena’s father once again allows her to see Marcus, and soon the two are married.  Marcus eventually joins the Secret Service, which provides him all the excitement that he craves.

Meanwhile Oleg Kraskin is a Russian lawyer who just so happens to be in love with the president’s daughter.  The president, Luganov, welcomes Oleg into the family with open arms and a job.  Soon, Oleg is closer to Luganov than any other member of the Russian government, and Oleg is deeply disturbed by what he sees.  Oleg keeps his concerns to himself, but when Luganov makes a rash decision to invade three Baltic nations and threatens nuclear war, Oleg knows he can’t remain silent any longer.

At this moment, Marcus is traveling with the congressman whose life he saved long ago.  They’re touring Baltic countries and also decide to stop by to have a chat with Luganov.  Oleg, who has met Marcus once before at a similar meeting, takes this opportunity to reach out to Marcus and ask him to help Oleg stop his father-in-law, Luganov.

I loved this political thriller and raced through the last 150 pages.  I was actually happy when I finished the book and realized that the author left a wide opening for another book to pick up where this story left off.  I’ll definitely be reading more books by this author.

I give this book 5 out of 5 stars on the Mom’s Plans’ scale.

I received this book for free from the Tyndale Blog Network in exchange for my honest review.  No compensation was given.

 

Grocery Report, April 1 – 10, 2018

I did A LOT of grocery shopping over the first 10 days of April, and, well, April is a busy month for us.  I did write down all of my receipts in YNAB (affiliate link) to make sure I kept our budget so I know how much I spent overall, but I may have been a bit derelict in keeping track of it for the blog.  So, you’ll get some pictures, and the grand total of our grocery spending, which was a lot.  (That tends to happen immediately after months where I try really hard not to spend much.)

Just a Few Facts About Us

Our family of 5 chooses to eat mostly organic produce and grass-fed and pasture-raised meats.  I’m Paleo, my daughter is semi-Paleo, and the rest of us are gluten free.  Everyone except my husband is dairy free.  Our goal for 2018 is to spend on average $750 per month (or less) on groceries.

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Here’s what we bought last week:

Fry’s – $24.00

I went to Fry’s on a Saturday morning and found many organic produce discounts.  We did end up throwing one of the sweet potato spirals away because it was just too slimy.  Yuck!  All the rest we used.

Costco – $117.56

I had many of these items on my grocery list for all of March, but I kept putting off buying them to try to stay in budget.  I bought them at the beginning of this month, so hopefully it won’t throw off the monthly budget.

Sprouts, & Costco – $134.93

Not pictured–2 dozen eggs.

In this trip, I spent $41.79 stocking the pantry.  (That includes rice milk, strawberry jam on sale 35% off, 2 packages of grass-fed beef, and 3 boxes of Nut Thins.

Sprouts – $21.00

Half of this trip (the $10 of steaks) was stocking up.  We used the roast and lemons during the week.

Sprouts & Trader Joe’s – $54.00

More Nut Thins and jam, so $12 in pantry stocking.

Additional spending not photographed or tracked by store – $115.98

TOTAL for the first 10 days of April$467.47

TOTAL for March: $747.03

TOTAL for February: $706.87

TOTAL for January: $812.92

Average monthly 2018 TOTAL: $755.60

 

Homeschool Crew Review: Princess Cut Movie

The kids and I settled down to a movie on Easter day.  Our choice?  Princess Cut, which I had received from Watchman Pictures for review.  We enjoyed this family-friendly film, and I especially enjoyed that I didn’t have to worry about inappropriate language or scenes.

Princess Cut The Movie

About Princess Cut

Princess Cut follows the story of Grace, a young woman in her twenties who lives at home with her family.  Her dad makes his living as farmer.  Grace longs to be married, and she hopes that her boyfriend, Stewart, who is home from college and has something important to tell her, may pick this night to propose.  Instead, he announces that he’s engaged to someone else.

This event sends Grace on an adventure.  Who is the right one?  How will she know?

Grace has vowed to keep herself pure before marriage, so when her next boyfriend, Jared, pushes her for more physical interaction than she is comfortable with, Grace feels confused and anxious.

In the end, she decides that Jared isn’t the right one for her because he doesn’t respect her, her family, or her values.  Luckily, Grace does find someone who treats her the way she likes, but Jared is not quite ready to give up on Grace, leading to an interesting climax in the movie.

What We Thought about Princess Cut

There were some parts of the film that I would have liked to have seen explained further.  For instance, Grace is blindsided when her boyfriend comes home from college and announces his engagement to another woman.  How is that possible?  I found myself wondering how closely she was in contact with him while he was away.  How did she not know something like this?

Also, Grace’s best friend is the complete opposite of Grace, which also surprised me.  I wondered what they based their friendship on since they were so very different.

However, overall, we all liked this film.  I liked that I could watch it with all my kids (ages 7 to 13) without feeling uncomfortable or worrying about inappropriate scenes.  The topics also gave us good fodder for discussions about relationships and how men should treat women when they’re in a relationship.

Our kids, who watch Hallmark shows, felt that this had the feel of a Hallmark movie, which was a bonus for them.  The film is about one hour and forty minutes long, so we could easily watch it in one sitting.

I also appreciated that Grace’s family wasn’t portrayed as perfect.  Her father has financial stress when it comes to the family farm, Grace loses her temper with her little brother, and Grace doesn’t always open up with her parents about what is happening in her life.

If you’re looking for a family-friendly movie, I highly recommend this one.

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Princess Cut {Watchman Pictures Reviews}
 

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Homeschool Crew Review: Memoria Press Music Appreciation 1

PB & J Girl loves music and singing.  She sings in the church choir, but she knows little in the way of reading music, understanding music language, etc.  We’ve started to change that, though, thanks to the opportunity to review Music Appreciation 1 by Memoria Press.

Music Appreciation I Set

About Music Appreciation 1

The Music Appreciation 1 set contains one book (used by the teacher and the student) as well as the Audio Companion CD consisting of two CDs containing excerpts of the music being studied.

The program was created by Patrick Fata, a pianist, composer, writer and educator and is intended for students in 3rd – 5th grade.  Honestly, though, I think this material is challenging enough that it could also be used in 6th or 7th grade.  It contains 26 chapters and seven review tests.  Each chapter takes roughly a week or so to complete and contains 7 different sections:

I.  Listen
II. A Little History
III. Musical Concept
IV. About the Piece
V. Music History
VI.  Facts to Remember
VII. Listen Again

The review tests are eight to 13 questions long and ask students to match terms with their definition, listen to a small portion of music and identify which song it is from (four choices are given), and answer short essay questions and fill in the blank questions.

How We Used Music Appreciation 1

Unlike many Memoria Press materials, this one did not have a workbook for the student, so my daughter and I sat at the table, and I read the material to her and we listened to the music.  I opted not to have her take the review tests (these are given after every four chapters) because the material was so new to her and she had trouble remembering all of the music terminology.

What We Liked about Music Appreciation 1

My favorite part of the program was “A Little History.”  I loved reading about the musician’s life and the events that occurred historically during his life.

PB & J Girl’s favorite part was actually listening to the music.  She liked the excerpts provided on the CD, but she also loved listening to the entire piece.  Memoria Press made this easy to do by having a complete playlist that you could listen to on YouTube or Spotify.  With the explanations that were given of each piece, we really learned to more deeply understand the piece, which was wonderful.

I also appreciated the “Facts to Remember” section as that provides an excellent recap of the what was learned in the chapter and is helpful to prepare for the review test.

Challenges We Had with Music Appreciation 1

While I can highly recommend the Music Apprciation 1 Set, for us, it presented a few challenges.

First, I’m not musically inclined–AT ALL (unfortunately!).  For someone like me, I would have liked more assistance from the program to help me teach my child about music.  In Chapter 3, for instance, I myself had trouble understanding the difference between theme, rhythm, and harmony, which made it difficult to teach my child.  (Again, not because the explanation in the book was incomplete but because I just have no experience with this.)  I would have loved, loved, loved if there was a video to go with the program with an instructor who explained concepts much like there is for Prima Latina.

Second, PB & J is a very kinesthetic learner.  She simply needs something to do when studying.  We would have appreciated a workbook to go along with this book, first because PB & J Girl likes workbooks, and second, because she was learning so many new terms like absolute music, program, concerto, movements and ritornello, just to name a few, that I believe a workbook could have helped her better remember the words and their meanings.  This could also help a student prepare for the review tests.

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Spelling, Music Appreciation & Latin {Memoria Press Reviews}
 

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Weekend Bulk Cooking, April 8, 2018

I’ve designated Sunday as a bulk cooking day/weekday meal prep day.  I tried bulk cooking two weeks ago and last weekend, and it worked great.

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This week, grass-fed beef was on sale, so I bought three large packages.  I ended up making Taco Soup (from My FreezEasy), Italian Meatballs (with gluten free bread crumbs), and Ground Beef Goulash.

But here’s the thing.  I can’t not freezer cook!  🙂  Most of the people I’ve seen who do weekend bulk cooking or meal prep, make just enough to get them through the week food wise, but that just doesn’t make sense to me.  If I’m going to the trouble of making Taco Soup for a meal this week, why not just double the recipe and freeze one for later?  If I’m making Ground Beef Goulash, which I know my family loves, why not make three meals and put two in the freezer for later?

I also made 45 large meatballs and 45 small meatballs.  (I’m planning on using the smaller ones for spaghetti.)

I do like the routine of spending an hour or two in the kitchen on Sunday making a few meals for the week and for the future that I can put in the freezer.  I think working this way will save me from freezer cooking burn out, and it wall also help our grocery budget since I’m spreading the expense over several weeks.

If you do a cooking session on the weekend, do you just make enough food to make it through the week, or do you also make extra to put in the freezer?