Excellent Literature List by Grade

Excellent Literature by Grade Level

Reading good, quality literature is one sure way to help your child become a better student by boosting their exposure to well-written, masterfully-crafted sentences by classic authors.  These books can also help reinforce exceptional character traits.  Talk about what the characters in the story do to be kind, or how a certain character might have acted in a better way.  Discussion, not just reading, builds better comprehension and allows for excellent analysis of behavior skills.


Here’s just one of many lists out there, broken down by grade level:  Charlotte Mason book list.


Inexpensive Date Ideas

Get real!

10 {realistic} Date Nights @ theEXCELLENTwife.com

My husband and I love dates.  Now that our children are teenagers we are able to spend time alone a little more often.  Alone!  That’s a word we didn’t hear for years. Fresh ideas are always welcome. Here are a few that are not overly gooey, romantic or unrealistic – just some plain ol’ fun thoughts.  


1. Play a board game or video game together (a round of Wii tennis?  Boxing?).  My  husband usually enjoys beating me in Scrabble. Follow up with an appetizer-like dinner then popcorn and an at-home movie.

2. Go on a photo date where you find beautiful landscapes or interesting objects to photograph. You can frame a nice shot of the two of you as a memory of your date, or even create a photo book.  No need for fancy equipment – just bring your phone.

3. Coffee shop!  Ice cream shop works, too (especially for me!).  Grab a little something and enjoy the atmosphere chatting or reading a newspaper.  If you have one nearby, why not walk or bike?

4. Go to a park and take turns pushing each other in the swings.  Walk the fitness trail if they have one.  Feed the ducks. Play Frisbee. Play fetch with your dog.  Play fetch with someone else’s dog.

5. Bring good books and enjoy a sunset somewhere.  

6. Spend time at your local library and pick out a book (or two or three!) for each other.

7. Massage.  Need I say more?  Even soaking each other’s feet in a warm basin and rubbing on lotion works!

8. Go to a book store (so many of my ideal dates involve books!).  Grab a dessert while you’re there if it’s a fancy bookstore. (Wait!  So many of my ideal dates involve dessert!)

9. Write a song or poem together – even a goofy one.  If you’re musical, add a tune.

10. Reminisce over old photo albums or your wedding album. Have your children act as waiter and waitress and serve a nice dinner you prepared in advance, then tell them the story of how you fell in love.  Or send the kids off to a friend’s or grandparent’s, or wait for them to go to bed, and serve yourselves!


 Have any fun ideas to add?  I’d love to hear them!  What makes a date realistic for you?  


Chocolate Mug Cake with Caramel Center

Ooey, gooey chocolatey`caramely goodness.

After seeing dozens of these mug cakes on Pinterest, the children and I finally got around to making some.  The recipe was so easy for the kids to manage that they were thrilled with their chocolately creations.   My daughter cut the sugar in her mug by 1/2 and we couldn’t taste a difference.

Here’s the recipe:

In a small bowl, combine 4T flour, 4T sugar, 3T unsweetened cocoa powder, 1/4t baking powder, and a pinch of salt.  Combine.  Now add 1 egg, 3T oil, 3T milk, and 1/4 t vanilla.  Mix well and pour into a regular sized mug that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.  Push two unwrapped caramel candies just under the surface of the batter.  Microwave for about 1 minute 30 seconds.  You might have to adjust a bit less or more depending on what results you like.  We like gooey, so 1 minute 20 seconds sufficed.



Thanksgiving with Children at the Table

Time consuming, but adorable {and delicious}!

Healthy lunch the Wednesday before:

Fun “kid table” ideas. Draw on the craft paper table cloth.

Source: fiskars.com via Alisha on Pinterest

Fringe craft paper tablecloth for Native American look:

Use for napkin holders, place cards, or just fill with candy:


Turkey stuffed with popcorn as a healthy snack:

And, finally, a little something to keep the conversation going:

Seasonal Shopping

Here’s a helpful article on seasonal shopping that I read in the Dollar Stretcher newsletter I receive via e-mail.  I save lots of money each year buying our necessities off season ~ especially clothing.  Oh, and chocolate.  Read below to see what I mean!

Do you have any seasonal shopping tips to add?

Sale Sale

A Blackbelt in Smart Seasonal Shopping

by Alayna Frankenberry
How to save by shopping seasonally

Your neighbor who bought a snow blower in April isn’t crazy.
Neither is your friend who buys all her bikinis in September,
or your aunt who purchases a metric ton of chocolate every
year right after Christmas. This behavior might bewilder the
rest of us, but as it turns out, there is a method to the
madness. It’s all about scheduling your shopping trips so you
pay the least and get the most. If you can figure out the best
time to buy these popular products and others like them,
you’ll see mad savings, and that’s just what this guide’s

1. Food – Stocking up on food is tricky. After all, you can’t
exactly buy 20 pounds of lunchmeat in June with the intent to
eat it in August. The best times to buy will vary from food to
food. Bottled water is cheapest in August after the weather
begins to cool. Baking supplies like spices, flour and sugar
go on sale in November and December. The best time to buy
chocolate (aside from every day, obviously) is right after
holidays like Halloween, Easter, and Valentine’s Day. Big on
microwaved dinners? March is national frozen food month, and those foods are
likely to be on sale at that time.

2. Clothes – Thursday is the best day of the week for clothes
shopping. It’s when retailers gear up for weekend sales and
try to get rid of older items to make room for new shipments.
If you’re shopping for a specific item, do it just as the
appropriate season for that garment is ending. For example,
look for cheap bathing suits in August and good deals on wool
coats in February. When you notice stores like Target and Old
Navy switching displays and getting ready for next season’s
styles, it’s time to pounce on marked-down pieces and stock up
for next year.

3. Electronics – After the holiday rush, electronics giants
like Best Buy have leftover inventory that they’re eager to
sell. Since most shoppers will have blown through their
electronics budgets earlier in the month, retailers know they
have to reduce prices if they want to keep moving TVs, cameras
and gaming systems. Don’t forget that you can sometimes save
on merchandise that has been opened and returned. To boost
your savings even more, keep an eye out for new devices or
models, because when companies update products they
slash prices on previous versions. If you don’t mind having a
slightly older phone or laptop, you’ll be able to save big.

4. Toys – There’s good news! You don’t have to risk life and
limb battling the Black Friday masses to get the best deals on must-have holiday
toys. For the lowest prices, buy as close to Christmas as you
can. Prices drop dramatically during the third week of
December, so this is one area in life where it really pays to
procrastinate. As with electronics, discounts are even bigger
after the holiday, so if you have a really, really good hiding
place, consider buying next season’s toys in January.

5. Wedding Supplies – Shop between Thanksgiving and Christmas
and you could score your dream dress for a fraction of the
regular price. When it comes to other event supplies, from
table settings to custom wine labels, skip the bridal megastores and
shop online at sites like Bottle Your Brand instead. When you
put promo codes from sites like SoNotRetail and iBotDis to use this winter,
you’ll double your savings. Keep in mind, though, that if you
live in a hot Southern climate, your best in-store savings
happen during the hottest months. That’s because most brides
schedule their ceremonies for cooler weather.

Create your own smart shopping schedule to make the most out
of your budget – but don’t let yourself get carried away. Two
winter coats for the price of one is great, but getting 100
winter coats for the price of 50 might be taking things a
little too far. Unless of course you’re into conspiracies and
you suspect that “bath salt attacks” is just government spin
for “civilization-ending zombie invasion.” In that case, you
can never have too many cans of peaches in your underground

Take the Next Step:
– For more on seasonal shopping, please visit
– For more great shopping strategies, please visit
– Do you know the 7 secrets that retailers don’t want you to
know? If you don’t, you should. Find them at

Facebook Cited in Divorces

 Can Facebook be responsible for divorce?

These headlines top Google search results about Facebook & divorce:

A survey conducted by a UK divorce website shows Facebook figured prominently in one-third of divorce petitions in UK for the year 2011.

Facebook is cited in 1 in 5 divorces in the United States.

Do you have any Facebook restrictions in your house?  Do you even use the site?  Do you believe you & your spouse should have full access to each other’s social media accounts?  Do you act the same way on Facebook that you would in real life?

 Watch this 2 1/2 minute message by Pastor Bob Coy of Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale