Other Media Reviews

Apps –
Chinese Flash Cards
Chinese Vocabulary for Beginners and Kids. Bravolol is the developer for this app, which we got through the Kindle app store. I was looking for a simple way to start learning Mandarin for Yak and me. We tried several apps and this seemed to fit our needs the best. It is free for the first 4 or 5 sections and can be used offline. The free sections include about 200 or so words, but with our learning curve, going from European languages to Asian languages, I think it will keep us busy for quite awhile. In 20 minutes a day, working on about 100 words, it has taken a month for us to master 4 words – yes, no, thanks and hello. We are also working on learning to read and write them.
One side of the card has the word in English. Tap the card and the other side shows the Pinyin (English character spelling) of the word and also the Chinese character spelling of the word. Tap the speaker symbol and you will hear someone say the word in Chinese.
This is just what we need for where we’re at. No phrases yet, we need to accustom our ears to the new sounds, our eyes and hands to the new characters and we need to build a bit of vocabulary.
Amazon offers this free in Appstore for Android and Kindle. The paid version unlocks several more sections in the app.
We are liking the Overdrive app for checking out ebooks and audiobooks from our local library. All you need is your library card and the app or website. You don’t need to make an Overdrive account to check out books. Just “find a library” and sign in to your local library with your library card and pin. You can then make wish lists of books you want to check out, put items on hold, check items out and even have them hold print books for you to come in person to check out. Ebooks can be read in several versions, depending on availability and audio books can be downloaded to your device.
I find epubs and kindle books work best for my kindle. Reading online depends on having wifi and is also less convenient. On my Kindle, epubs load in the app and kindle books load on my device. Wifi is not necessary after download. Lending times can be changed from one week to three weeks. Most items offer at least one renewal and return and renewal are automated if you click that option. The downside is that often a renewed item has to be deleted and reloaded to your device.
I usually carry the ebooks on my kindle and the audiobooks on my iphone. Yak has a ZTE Android phone now and the app is working great. We had problems with it on his Windows phone. He has a kindle app that works for the downloaded Kindle versions. Overdrive also claims to offer movie streaming, but I have not had any luck with that. Usually we’ll stream movies from you tube or netflix. In spite of its limitations, I would not want to be without Overdrive. I can find plenty of books to read for enjoyment and business and keep Yak in reading materials, as well. Even without the audiobook and movie options this is a great little app for us.
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We are liking this app for homeschool. It syncs over all our devices – 2 laptops, kindle, iphone and nokia lumia phone. I have also used it to carry a document on my iphone and print it out on a wifi printer.
For homeschooling, my son does his math, language arts or other assignment in Word, saves it to Dropbox and shares it with me. I pull it up, correct it in Word, save it to Dropbox and share it back with him so that he can redo the problems or assignment corrections. If I feel we need a printed copy, we can take the iphone over to the wifi printer and get one.
One little quirk we had to learn is to keep our shared files in the same location that we shared them from – such as the home page – because that is where the shared link will go. I cannot move my son’s work to another file until we are done with that particular file. When the corrected edition comes in, I move the previous edition to an archive file and keep the corrected edition on the home page until we are done with that one. Dropbox automatically adds a copy number to the end of the file name (usually) to avoid confusion.
I have had a problem printing at print shops using Dropbox. In one case, we were not able to pull up my Dropbox, in another, the flyer had website stuff on the top and bottom that we could not figure out how to eliminate. So for backup on work-related documents, I carry copies on a flash drive or sdcard.
I do not store my photos on Dropbox, because it takes too much time and uses too many megabytes uploading. I store those on an external drive and sdcard backup.
We also have Google Drive and ICloud, but they don’t get much use. We have found Dropbox to be the most user-friendly for our purposes and the storage capacity is adequate for us. You can check it out for yourself in your device’s app store, or here: https://www.dropbox.com/
Wunderlist is a handy little list-making app that works on my computer, tablet, iphone and the boy’s computer. I have to-do lists, maintenance checklists and Yak’s daily schoolwork and chore lists on it. Sometimes the sync is a bit slow, but then so is the sync on google calendar.
It is great for repetitive tasks, because you can set and change due dates and reminders. You can also set a task to repeat in a number of days. I didn’t like it so much for my grocery list, as it stores all completed tasks and I just wanted to get rid of the finished list. Maybe I’ll try that one again, later, but for now, the iphone has a reminder app that I like for groceries, errands and menu planning.
To coordinate a project with others, just add their email to the list you want to share with them, have them set up a Wunderlist account, and your shared list will sync whenever one of you updates. I do this with Yak for schoolwork and chores and it works well so far. He checks things off as he does them, I go into completed items and double check; assignments and projects come back up daily or weekly as we have them set up.
Subtasks and notes can also be added, which is nice, especially when there is follow-up involved. I can note the Dr.’s phone number if I need to call about something for my dad. I can note action taken if a task is not yet complete.
There are several other features that I have not yet had need of, or experimented with. I like that there is a print feature, but I haven’t yet tried it.
For more info, or to try this app, go to your device’s app store, or to the website: https://www.wunderlist.com/home.
Websites –
Canning Granny
Canning Granny
There’s still time to can those fall veggies and fruits for winter delights. Right now pumpkins are everywhere and at pretty good prices. This week, pears were 48 cents a pound and delicious apples were 88 cents a pound at Sprouts. I am going to pick up 10 pounds of each before the sale ends and can a bunch!
When I was double checking tips for canning pumpkin (Ball Blue Book discourages it, but I have canned it before), I found Canning Granny. Pamela Staples blogs extensively about canning, sharing recipes from readers and Amish friends (so be aware that they may not be FDA approved). I have subscribed to a couple of Amish publications just to get the recipes, so this site was a SCORE for me!
This site has lots of great recipes and tons of practical advice, like: don’t can pasta because it will get mushy (yup, been there!), add it when you’re heating up the soup. Also add your dairy to things like cream soups and such when you’re heating it up to eat. Having canned milk for years, I can tell you that this is definitely good advice. I have to skim as much cream/fat as possible off the milk I can or it does go rancid. Also, the canned skimmed milk is better used within 6-9 months. I have canned cream soups with the milk in and they have not looked good when I went to use them, so I threw them out. Not a good feeling throwing out all that love and hard work.
Though I would highly recommend this site to more experienced canners, Pamela also has a page dedicated to Water Bath Canning for Beginners, which is fantastic. Also, the reader comments have been very helpful to me, gleaning others’ experiences with canning various foods. Subscribe for updates when Granny posts new recipes.
Cindy Woodsmall’s Plain Talk Blog
I recently listened to an audiobook by Cindy Woodsmall, “The Scent of Cherry Blossoms”, which I reviewed here: http://catholictraveller.blogspot.com/2012/05/scent-of-cherry-blossoms-review.html. In the course of writing my review, I visited Cindy’s website and looked over her blog. I really enjoyed it, and am now subscribed! Plain Talk is a delightful resource about Amish life, cooking and culture. It is also a great place to get a head’s up on new release books. Cindy’s lifelong friendships with Amish and Mennonites give her a special insight into their ways, and a unique perspective on their place in our modern world. If you enjoy learning about people who more simply, this is an enjoyable place to start.
Living on a dime –
e-book series and website by mother-daughter team Jill Cooper and Tawra Kellam. Jill and Tawra address issues such as getting out of debt on a low income, frugal living, cooking from scratch, and family budgeting. The website is an up-to-the minute information clearinghouse of tips and suggestions. Ebooks include my personal favorite, “Dining on a Dime Cookbook”, with recipes for everything from breakfast to gift baskets and mixes. Jill also suffers from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and has alot of good advice for anyone dealing with illness, to keep on with living frugally. www.livingonadime.com
The Homeschool Lounge – a great place to network with other homeschool moms and grandmas. Lots of homeschool related groups, but also groups for single moms homeschooling, specific issues like boys, french, adhd, etc. Also groups like Etsy moms, the tea cozy, blogging basics, and work from home moms. No men allowed. www.thehomeschoollounge.com.
The Simple Homeschool – This is an awesome homeschooling site. Along with tons of tips, J Ann Huss offers a FREE newsletter, which includes monthly FREE unit studies. Also available are 99cent unit studies, and many choices in more complex unit studies. Unit studies are a fantastic way to delve deeply into science and history, while enhancing the language arts and math skills. These print and plop lessons take the tedium out of doing all the research and writing yourself. Ms. Huss holds a master’s degree in biological sciences and is well qualified to present these studies, besides testing them out in her own home classroom first! www.the-simple-homeschool.com.
The Good Life Center at Forest Farm, Harborside Maine is also worth a gander. This is the website for the perpetuation of Nearings’ philosophy of simple, frugal, purposeful living. The real life location of the center is at the last home of the Nearings at their farm in Maine. The site contains info on current happenings at the farm, a bookstore where many of Scott and Helen’s books can be purchased, and other resources and inspiration for simpler living. http://www.goodlife.org.
Grit Magazine – Celebrating rural America since 1882. What began as a Saturday edition of a daily newspaper, has evolved and morphed into one of the most popular rural living periodicals currently available. Picking up where another celebrated back-to-the-land publication left off when it started touting expensive, complicated devices to “simplify” the back-to-the-land experience, Grit delivers lots of doable, realistic projects and real-life experiences from “them that’s doin'”.
The March/April issue includes informative articles on Angora Goats, electric fencing and windmills. The online edition offers a wealth of information, including blogs by Grit staffers who tell about their personal gardening and farming adventures. Reader Blogs feature everything from backyard vegetable gardening to fishing to raising livestock all over the US and Canada. They are homesteaders, city dwellers dreaming of moving out to the country and doing the best they can with what they’ve got in town, beekeepers, young couples taking over the family farm, and outdoorsmen and women. Mrs. D is proud to add that she is one of Grit’s Reader Bloggers. http://www.grit.com
http://www.frugalabundance.com – Miss Maggie, originator of the Hillbilly Housewife site, has passed on ownership of that website to her daughter, maintaining its original purpose and great recipes and menus. This new site continues to promote and support the frugal lifestyle, while reflecting the changes Miss Maggie and her family have incorporated into their lives. While the old site is growing and becoming more complicated by leaps and bound, Mrs. D finds Maggie’s simple, uncluttered style refreshing. Too much info and ads on a page, while possibly good for business, make Mrs. D’s head spin.
Back to the point, Maggie and her family have gone to a more gluten-free, casien-free diet due to health issues. For others who need to cut out those items, Mrs. D highly recommends Maggie’s menus and recipes. They are simple, inexpensive and tasty! Click on the “Food Storage” link and you can find her recipes for Homemade Blender Margarine (imagine – all the benefits without the hydrogenates), Sprout Salad Bar, and an even heartier, yummier (if that’s possible) version of her Lentil Chili recipe from the old site. The Frugal Weight Loss section is under construction, offering more excellent low-cal recipes and common sense weight loss tips.
An Old Fashioned Education is now available on this new site. This is Maggie’s homeschooling page with links to tons of public domain (free!) texts and books. Maggie shares her lesson plans and philosophy of homeschooling. Lots of advice for homeschooling on a tight budget – Mrs. D wishes she had had this resource with her older children! This page can also be accessed at http://www.oldfashionededucation.com
Catholic Traveller – Missions, shrines and other holy places. Sharing our pilgrimage experiences in hopes of encouraging you to make your own. http://www.catholictraveller.com
Think the life of a cloistered nun is uneventful? Check out this website and get the real story of the Phoenix Phive – five of Mother Angelica’s Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration who flew from the nest in Huntsville, Alabama to establish a monastery “out west” in Black Canyon City, Arizona. Follow their adventures from snake bites to house repairs and now a move to their generously donated land in Tonapah, Arizona at http://www.desertnuns.com
Kurt and Julie Carrick have a wonderful pro-life, pro-marriage and pro-family ministry and they are award winning Catholic recording artists as well. To hear clips of their latest projects, and read about their work, go to http://www.juliecarrick.com.
The Hillbilly Housewife
Primarily a site dedicated to low-cost home cooking from scratch, also has a link to super free home schooling curriculums and lots of other goodies. http://www.hillbillyhousewife.com
http://www.flylady.net – this website helps babystep us into company-ready, clutter-free homes. Simple routines, lots of encouragement and free daily reminders. Lots of free tools, and numerous helpful items for sale. The best ostrich feather dusters ever.
One of Mrs. D’s favorite newsletters is Money-Wise Newsletter, chock full of tips for saving and managing your money. It’s FREE, so check it out:
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Videos –
Homestead Blessings – The Art of Bread Making
Watch the West Ladies teach you how to make bread in their cozy homestead kitchen. With their modest dress, beautiful long hair and colorful aprons, Jasmine, CeCe, Vicki and Hannah make you feel right at home while they explain how to make a number of different hearty, whole grain breads. I’ve been making my own breads for many years, but I found their cornbread recipe (be sure to watch the video for some special tricks not included in the PDF recipes) to be out of this world. I will never go back to my old ways of making cornbread! I also plan to try their hamburger bun/cinnamon roll recipe, now that I’ve seen them do it a few times.
Though I didn’t think I necessarily needed the how-to’s in this video, I really enjoyed the presentation and I was reminded that you can almost always learn something from another’s experience. Guitar-picking in the background sets the mood for good ole’ country cooking. The West kitchen set is a homesteader’s dream of honey-colored wood paneling and pantry shelves lined with dozens of canning jars with colorful contents. I kept looking for the old-fashioned cook stove, but the bread was baked in a state-of-the-art electric range-oven.
The Homestead Blessings Series is a collection of 11 DVD presentations by the West ladies and Franklin Springs Media. Homestead Blessings – The Art of Bread Making, copyright 2009, is delightful, instructional and entertaining; printable recipes are included. Vicki and the girls are inspiring to watch. Canning, gardening, quilting and crafting are just a few more titles for homesteaders or city folk who want to try their hand at these basic survival skills.
All Creatures Great And Small, The Complete Series, BBC Video, (c)1978
This British television series was based on the books by country veterinarian James Herriot. Set in the rustic Yorkshire Dales in England just before, during and after WWII, the young Scottish vet and his partners face not only feral cats, raging bulls and high-strung horses, but also their sometimes wildly eccentric owners. The stories take a lighthearted look at the many humorous situations that arise in daily life, and in particular, the daily duties of a vet.
I have been watching this series with my Dad when I am out visiting, borrowing some of the DVD’s to continue watching at home. I remember watching a few episodes when the series first came out and enjoying them. I am alternately offended by Siegfried’s arrogance, then charmed by his kindness to a child with a sick puppy. I admire James’ patience and Helen’s faithfulness, and am appalled at Tristan’s antics. I get a good laugh out of every episode. I love the supporting cast of regulars – Mrs. Pomphrey and Tricky Woo, Mrs. Hall and all the various farmers and estate holders.
I think what I like best about this series is the parallels to my own country life, and the depiction of rural life “back then”, before there were telephones and electric lights in every home, and when “running” water, in many cases, actually had two legs. Available from www.bbcamerica.com and on Netflix.

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