Friday, December 30, 2011

Review - R.E.A.L. Homeschool Spanish

Age:  Geared for the whole family - elementary and up
Cost: $49.95 Download, $89.95 Hard Copy

R.E.A.L. Homeschool Spanish has been an excellent addition to my son’s study of Spanish this term.  He’s been using a conversation based curriculum.  Homeschool Spanish is a vocabulary based curriculum.  I think they complement each other quite well.

Homeschool Spanish comes with an instructional book, an activity book, audio files for both texts, an answer book and a curriculum guide.  The program is setup so that the entire family can learn together.  Numerous suggestions are provided for helping the student learn the words and phrases for the Unit.  This is not a curriculum a younger student would tackle independantly, but it is geared to have guidance and/or participation with the parent.  The format would be excellent in a co-op situation as well.
As a homeschooling parent, we don’t always approach a curriculum from a traditional perspective.  The curriculum guide and added instruction provided allows a parent to establish a pace that is appropriate for her student(s).  The guide provides for forty weeks of content, but alternative suggestions are incorporated.

The text book gives the student the basic vocabulary and basic conversation for each genre covered.  The organization for the course units is the following:
Unit 1 - Greetings
Unit 2 - Colors/Numbers
Unit 3 - Food
Unit 4 - Family
Unit 5 - Anatomy
Unit 6 - Clothing/Weather/Seasons/Months
Unit 7 - Places/Transportation/Days of the Week/Verbs & Minor Grammar
Unit 8 - Animals/Nature
Unit 9 - Sports/Minor Grammar
Unit 10 - Verbs/House
Each unit begins with the words that should be learned/memorized along with phrases.  You can see an example here.  I appreciate that the content includes audio files that the student can listen to to understand correct pronunciation.

Next, the student uses the activity book.  Puzzles and games and used to reinforce the vocabulary.  Additonaly, audio exercises are incorporated to help the student understand pronunication, practice proper idenfication of terms or phrases, and learn how to incorporate those into conversation.  You can see an example of the activities here.

It is challenging to learn a new language, but oh so important.  America is one of the few countries where most of its inhabitants are not bilingual.  Speaking another language not only broadens a student's sense of language, but of culture, critical thinking, memorization, and interpretation. 

I feel this program has been a strong addition to our homeschool year.

To see additional reviews by the TOS Homeschool Crew - click here.

*** I received this product free of charge in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
   (Luke, NIV)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Waiting for Santa

I believe in Santa Claus - it’s a song by Kenny and Dolly that I love listening to each and every year much to my family’s chagrin.

I’ve always had the heart of a child when it comes to Santa.  The idea of a man whose sole purpose in life is to give gifts to children warms my heart.  Think about it!  He braves the North Pole weather, employs the help of tiny craftsman, builds a workshop solely for the purpose of making things to give away (not for profit), travels the world making sure each and every child has the opportunity to share their Christmas wishes, and then spends a day out of his life each year making them all come true. 

I know there are debates on whether Santa is a good thing for children.  Some argue we shouldn’t lie to our kids about someone who doesn’t exist.  However, I would argue, he does exist.  Not in person, but in the spirit of love and charity and giving. 
I get excited each Christmas Eve because Santa Claus is coming to town.  It’s evident on Christmas morning when children’s eyes sparkle, their hearts fill with joy, laughter fills the air, and youngsters bask in the glow of receiving wishes come true that Santa has been there.

Yes, Christmas is about Jesus.  He is the greatest gift ever given.  His message is of love and giving.  Santa is just a personification of that message for the young and the young at heart.

Ho Ho Ho – Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Test Driving Tyson Chicken Mini Sandwiches for Breakfast - #tysongoodness #CBias

As a busy, homeschooling family, I am always looking for quick and easy ways to feed my brood.  Breakfast is one of those times when we tend to default to a quick snack, or cereal, or, in my case, just a Diet Coke.

We all know breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but, not being a morning person, preparing something wonderful each morning just isn’t going to happen.  That doesn’t mean the desire isn’t there – it’s just the brain doesn’t engage until my second or third caffeine.
My boys are really good about grabbing breakfast before we start our studies.  Right now we are on break, so they’ve been more lax about trying to eat something good before kickstarting the day.

I was given the opportunity to try out the new Tyson Mini Chicken Sandwiches.  Chicken, bread, cheddar cheese – that sounds like a winner.  Plus, they are microwaveable – my kids can all run a microwave with the best of them.
We gave them a shot. Today is two days before Christmas.  Besides wrapping up loose ends before the official holiday, we wanted some family time.  Breakfast wasn’t really in that equation – so I gave the men a box of the mini’s and let the dice roll.

The verdict – they really liked them.  My hubby was especially impressed.  He needs something quick to grab on his way to work, so I’ll add these to our freezer supply.  The boys liked them too!  This is a win.  I have to be gone next week, so having something the men can make quickly and is good for them is great!  I’m glad I got the chance to try them.  If you’d like to see our shopping experience, click here.

Right now, Tyson is offering a rebate.  If you buy two packages from Walmart and use this form, you can get a $5 giftcard for Walmart.  That amounts to a free box.  Free being my favorite number, of course.  Be sure to check out the store locator - they aren't available in all Walmart stores just yet.

If you’re looking for something a little different for a snack or quick breakfast for the family, give these a try.  They are a nice, warm change from cereal.

*** This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias. #CBias

Champions for Kids - A Stocking for a Special Young Man #CBias #DisneyCFK

The thing I love most about the Christmas season is the opportunity to give to others.  There is nothing more warming than giving unexpected gifts to those you love, admire, respect.  Gift giving comes from the heart and demonstrates to others the value they hold.

Champions for Kids is a non-profit organization focused on children.  Their mission is to:

"... work to mobilize MILLIONS of people to improve the lives of children in their communities.
Champions for Kids began with a core commitment: to improve the lives of children through the leverage of people. We are motivated by one purpose—to support people and organizations working to make our communities a better place for children."

Disney has partnered with Champions for Kids this Christmas season to create a Stocking Stuffer Celebration - offering people in the community a chance to give back this season by gifting stockings to children.

My family was blessed to participate in this effort.  When we realized we had the chance to give a stocking, it was important to pick just the right young recipient.  That wasn't hard.  There is a young family that participates at the Taekwondo dojo we go to.  Their two year old son is absolutely precious.  I knew he was the one we wanted to give our stocking to.

I was a young parent.  I had my first two children while in college starting at 19.  This was a tough road to take, but one that ultimately blessed me with a wonderful family.  I learned, though, that it takes a village to really raise children.  It shouldn't be done in isolation.  I want this family to know - they have a village supporting them. 

Shopping for the stocking stuffers was such fun.  The boys and I went throughout Walmart looking for just the right items we knew our little guy would love.  His parents helped us out by telling us he enjoys movies, books, stuffed animals, and I got permission to add candy to that list.  :-)  My boys were very proud of their careful selections!  You can see our entire shopping trip here.

Stockings fill up quickly - it took a little finesse to get everything in, but the boys were able to do it! 

Then, we were off to deliver our gift.  Our young man went straight for the Simba stuffed animal sticking out of the top.  He didn't even realize there was more inside.

Once he did, however, he was digging in.  The cell phone was a big hit!  We all got to spend time taking a call from the Lion King. 

He made sure his puppy knew these toys were for him and not to be touched.  He would point at the toy and then at the puppy - "No, no, no, no, no!"  with his little finger dramatically pointed.  The puppy did end up with the stocking as his very own Santa hat, though.

While the intention was to bring cheer to a family this holiday, the real gift came from them: the opportunity to spend time with their son seeing childlike joy at receiving a small gesture.  I'd do it one hundred times over if I could.  My boys learned too how much fun it is to give to others and see the excitement it brings.

Champions for Kids will host other simple service projects.  If you're interested in participating, you can find them on the web at, on Facebook here, and on Twitter here

*** This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My Grandfather will be Spending Christmas with the Lord

My Grandfather, Harold Benjamin Hill, went to be with the Lord this morning.  He was such an amazing man.  His strength, his humble spirit, and his love for his family will not be forgotten.  He loved my grandmother without bound - she, above all else, will miss him dearly.  They have been married for 77 years. 

Thank you Lord for giving me a grandfather like him!  Grandpa, we'll miss you!  Make a wonderful place for Grandma - I know she'll be looking forward to seeing you on the other side.

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Citrus Christmas Treat - Easy Lemon Chex

My kids love Muddy Buddies - if you haven't made them, here's the recipe.  It's essentially Chex, chocolate, peanut butter and powdered sugar.  They are always a big hit and very easy to do with the kids.  If you make a full batch, there's plenty to give away to friends as well.

This year, my oldest son is living on his own.  He missed a lot of our baking being away from the house, so I wanted to make him a special treat.  He LOVES lemon.  Lemon pie, lemon bars, you name it. 

I saw on the Chex box that you can make lemon buddies - they are essentially the lemon version of muddy buddies.  Perfect!

The hubby was headed to the grocery, so I asked him to pickup some vanilla chips and more Chex so I could make them.  When he returned, they didn't have vanilla, so he bought white chocolate.  Well, it worked.

First, the ingredients (we made half a batch):

9 cups Rice Chex cereal
1 1/4 cups white vanilla baking chips (we used white chocolate)
1/4 cup butter or margarine
4 tsp grated lemon peel
2 tbl fresh lemon juice
2 cups powdered sugar

Put all the ingredients minus the Chex and powdered suger in the bowl and microwave.  I didn't know how the lemon would affect the melting.  It did a bit.  Let me recommend a whisk for mixing them all together.

Pour over the Chex and mix.  This isn't as smooth as the muddy buddies - again, I think it's the acidity of the lemon throwing off the smoothness you would expect, but with a little effort, the Chex will coat.

Then, into the powdered sugar.  Shake.

Yum!  I would recommend doubling the amount of lemon juice added - it could have been more lemony flavored.  Of course, Oldest says you can never have too much lemon flavor.

This is a nice twist on all the chocolate of the holidays!  Enjoy! 

The Chex mix website has all kinds of cool recipes - check them out here

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Slim Down Sunday - Taking a Break

Heartfelt Homeschooling

Slim Down Sunday is taking a break until the New Year!

Thanks to all who participated!  Start making those New Year's resolutions.  I know mine will include watching what I eat AND exercising not one or the other.  :-)

Blessings and a Very Merry Christmas!


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Chocolate-Butterscotch Peanut Clusters - Super Easy

Yep, still making holiday goodies.  My kids love chocolate-butterscotch peanut clusters.  They are a family favorite that gets made several times during the holiday season.  One reason is they are delicious.  The other is that they are really, really easy to make.  This is a fun one to do with the kiddos.

Here's what you need:

One package of semi-sweet morsels
One package of butterscotch chips
One jar of dry roasted, salted peanuts

  Yep, that's it!

Melt the chips in the microwave - I do one minute, stir, and then thirty second intervals until they are melted and smooth when stired.

Add the jar of peanuts and stir.

Drop spoonfulls onto a cookie sheet and place in the refrigerator.

When they set, place them on a plate and store in the fridge.


Friday, December 16, 2011

Giving Back During the Holiday Season - Champions for Kids #DisneyCFK #CBias

One of the things I really love about the holiday season are the overt opportunities to give back.  Unlike during other times of the year, occasions to give back are everywhere.  We see the Salvation Army bell ringers at the store, the Toys for Tots boxes are everywhere, the groceries have food boxes setup for donation.  While giving should be a year-round habit, this time of year makes it easy even for those who might not otherwise find the time.

As a parent, I think it’s very important that my children grasp opportunities to share their blessings with others.  My husband and I want to be good stewards of what we have been given and provide ways to help our family understand the importance of thinking of others.
Some of the ways we’ve found to do this are through our church.  Each year, churches fill shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child, adopt families in need to provide them with a Merry Christmas, collect food or provide a food bank, go to homeless shelters and retirement/nursing homes to carol – all activities we look forward to each year. 

This year, we have the opportunity to fill a stocking for one special child as part of the campaign for Champions for Kids partnered with Disney.  Picking the child was easy.  My boys and I participate in taekwondo at an amazing dojo near our home.  A young family also goes there.  The father and mother participate in TKD, and they have a young boy age two. I remember when I was just starting out – being young and raising a child.  It really does take a village.  Feeling very isolated and alone raising my two oldest kids was difficult - I would have loved the support of a community of parents.  We want them to know – they are part of a village.
The mission of Champions for Kids is to improve the lives of children through the leverage of people.  What better way to leverage people than to take adults like myself who have been raising kids for a long time now and offer our love and support to a young family?

We’ll be giving this young man his stocking next week.  The boys and I had a great time shopping for things we thought he’d love! 
If you'd like to learn more about Champions for Kids, click here.  You can also follow them on Facebook here, or Twitter here.

What ways do you enjoy giving back over the holiday season?  How do you keep the spirit of giving going even when the holidays are over?  Is there a special child or young family in your area you could help out this holiday?

*** This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias. #CBias

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Handcrafted Guitar

My husband loves to play the guitar.  He'll tell you he isn't any good, but I'm inclined to disagree.  He and his father decided to make their own guitar body (they purchased the electronics) and here's how it turned out. 

This was a couple years ago.  Hubby has decided he wants the guitar body to look different, so here are the modifications they've started. 

It's a little bottom heavy in my opinion, but when it's painted, I bet it looks great!

I think musical talent is amazing.  Since I don't have any, I admire it all the more people who do. 

What is your musical talent?

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Best Snowball Cookie Recipe EVER!

It just isn't the holidays until I make snowball cookies. I make a batch for my husband's work, a batch for friends and one (or two, or three) for us.

I made three batches last night so hubby had some for work. Of course, any that broke, I was forced to consume! They are calling to me this morning. I made the mistake of eating one - and now, for some reason, every time I need to go somewhere in the house, it requires a pass by the kitchen for a cookie. Yikes!

Here's a pic of the cookies - note the conspicuous corner that is depleted - yep, guilty!

My mother used to make these cookies. She got the recipe from her family friend - Mrs. Berdine. Now I have it. They are by far the best snowball cookies I have ever tasted, and, being a big fan, I've tasted many!

My gift to you - the recipe!

Mrs. Berdine's Amazing Snowball Cookies

3/4 butter softened
1/4 cup evaporated milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 cup flour
6 tbs confectioners (powdered) sugar
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans


Cream butter until very light and fluffy
Beat in the milk a little at a time until it is all taken up
Add vanilla
Slowly add confectioners sugar then flour
Add nuts

Roll very small bits of dough between palms of hands to form small balls
Place on greased baking sheet and bake at 375 until lightly brown - about 12 - 15 minutes
Roll cookies in confectioners sugar while still warm


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Slim Down Sunday Meme - Week 21

Heartfelt HomeschoolingWhether you want to lose lose weight, get fit, eat healthier or all of the above – it always helps to have support from those around you.

Goal – (Revised) Run in a 5K to earn a black belt in TKD

How it Went This Week:

The hubby and I went to the Y to get on the treadmills on Monday.  I was worried since we'd missed the last couple of weeks that I'd be back at square one.  Well, it turns out, the hubby and I both did OK.  I "ran" 2.25 miles.  Of course, the Y has TV's on each treadmill, so I was watching Househunters while jogging, which helped pass the time.  I'm slow.  I know this.  So, once I get to three miles, then I'll pick up the pace.

What’s my Plan for next Week:

Keep up the jogging and TKD.  It's baking week at the house.  Hubby took the week before Christmas off (we are too!  Yay!), so I need to bake cookies for his office.  I doubt my activity will offset all the calories, but...  :-)

Also, a friend found a very interesting recipe for one of my favorite weaknesses/indulgences - Chai Tea with milk and sugar.  The mix I like is around 130 calories a cup - Yikes! 

Here's the recipe - I hope to make a batch of this this week as well:

Spiced Chai Tea Mix

3 cups non fat dry milk powder
1 to 1-1/2 cups sugar "I use splenda"
1 cup unsweetened instant tea "I use decaf"
3/4 cup vanilla flavored powder non-dairy creamer
1 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
Process all ingredients in a
food processor or blender
If using a blender, process in small batches.
Store in a tight container for up to 6 months.
To prepare one serving: Desolve 3 heaping teaspoons of mix
in 8 ounces of hot water. Stir well.
You can find it here:

What is your favorite lite recipe for the holidays?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Do you Wrap? Do you Bow? Do you Bag?

I just finished wrapping my gifts for Christmas – take two!  One more round and it should all be done!  Hurray!  Only a few more deliveries to arrive and one more session and I’m done.

I LOVE the gifting at Christmas time; however, I LOATHE the wrapping.  I know, seems harsh, but I just do.  There is no joy for me in the cutting, trimming, taping, labeling that is wrapping presents.  You know – the visual measuring of wrapping for each present, the taping (and sometimes supplementing if you mis-measured), and then what to do with little leftover slice of paper not quite big enough to wrap a present but too big to just throw away.  Argh!  Once it’s over, I’m thrilled!
I’ve simplified over the years.  My mother was big into bows.  She loved putting them on and made sure we meticulously saved each and every one each year.  Initially, I was in the buy and toss category.  I mean, seriously, a bag of twenty bows is like $2.  But, really, I can’t believe bows add that much to all the gifts under the tree.  They get popped off, and they get squished.  So, finally, no bows.

I could always really simplify and go to gifting bags.  We use them for birthdays or for friend gifts, but aesthetically, logistically and emotionally – I just can’t do it.  Aesthetically, they aren’t really as attractive as a wrapped gift – I mean that tissue sticking out looks ok, but, well, it’s really just paper stuffed in bag.  Logistically, they don’t work under the tree.  You can’t stack them.  Emotionally, they make gifting go too fast.  One swish of the tissue and the gift is revealed.  There’s something satisfying about tearing the wrapping off a gift that is a part of Christmas morn.

So, tell me – do you wrap?  Do you bow?  Do you bag?  Can I hire you to be my wrapping fairy next year?  lol
They do look so pretty under the tree.  To me they symbolize anticipation.  Anticipation of the joy in my family’s hearts as they receive their gifts.  An extension of love to someone through fulfilling even their smallest wishes.

Merry Christmas!

STP TLC for our Poor Cars! Guest Posts by Oldest and Hubby! #CBias #engineluv

As many of you know, especially if you follow me on FB, we have had quite a year when it comes to cars.  My husband's poor car has been hit on three separate occassions.  (No injuries - thank goodness!) First, at work, where someone hit it and left leaving over $4000 worth of damage.  Yay for insurance!  Second, when he hit a deer - I'll show you the homespun repair he and my father-in-law affected since this happened two days after it was in the shop for the first accident.  And third, quite recently, when a friend accidentally backed into it.  Add to that the two accidents my teenagers have been in in the last month (both were with friends, so not our cars), and it's been quite a car year!

I was excited to work on this STP Shoppertunity for three reasons.  First, I do feel like our cars need a little TLC.  Second, because I've often used STP products and believe them to be excellent.  Third, because it allowed me to work with my oldest son who is studying automotive technology and working as a mechanic.  It was fun working with him and seeing some of his expertise.

Oldest and I went out shopping for STP Multipurpose Motor Treatment.  It's new to shelves.

In fact, it was so new, the Walmart we went to buy it at didn't have it in stock yet.  Given our tight timeframe, Oldest and I bought the next best STP product, Complete Fuel System Cleaner.  Here's his assessment of the product and the process.  Enjoy a guest post by my Oldest son:

When my mother told me about this Shoppertunity, I was more than willing to participate. As an automotive student, I was happy to go and purchase STP Multipurpose Motor Treatment. We started our errands at a Bed, Bath and Beyond for some gifts for the holidays. We then went to Verizon in order to get my phone fixed.

Then, we decided that the best place to go for the STP treatment would be Wal-Mart. We headed there and began shopping for various items. We were quickly able to find the automotive section of the store because of the obvious signs that had been placed. When we got to the automotive section, I was surprised at the how many different types of STP products Walmart had to choose from. However, I was disappointed that they didn’t have the one we were looking for – the new Multipurpose Motor Treatment.  Among those available were the Complete Fuel System Cleaner, Fuel System Cleaner for Ethanol, Super Octane Booster, and Gas Treatment.  I grabbed the STP Complete Fuel System Cleaner as I felt it was most comparable and proceeded to pick up other automotive items such as an oil filter wrench and automotive hand cleaner.

After making our selections, we headed to the checkout line. The cashier was more than helpful and very friendly.  I would more than happily return to this store and make several more purchases. I have used many of the STP selections in my own personal car. I have a 2001 Mitsubishi Eclipse with over 100,000 miles on it.  At this point, the car needs consistent maintenance to keep it running well.

The New Multipurpose Motor Treatment would be great for your engine based on the information on the web site, and I will look to use it in the future.  Fuels additives are one of the best things you can do quickly for your engine. They are used to clean out your engine deposits, clean out your fuel injectors and intake valves, protect against harmful viscosity build up, and help to keep sludge from building up inside your engine. All of these things are simple steps of preventative maintenance that should be done on a regular basis to keep your engine running strong and lasting longer.   I think that STP works great and is one of the most reasonably priced motor treatments you can buy."

Not bad for his first blog post!

I was still on a mission, however.  I wanted the Multipurpose Motor Treatment.  Two more stops (AutoZone and another Walmart), and I found it! 

I really like that it can be used in multiple engines - I plan to get another bottle (I wish I'd seen the coupon and bought it then!) to use in our weed eater and mower when spring gets here.

Here's my hubby getting ready to use it in his car, a 2005 Nissan Altima, the one that needs the TLC.

Here's the homestyle deer crash repair pic I promised you.  My father-in-law can repair anything.  I think it makes the car have a Frankensteinien (my word) look to it!

Hubby's thoughts on the process were as follows!  Yep - two guest posters!

I am not a good caretaker of my car.  My dad was an amazing mechanic that kept the cars humming when I was young, and my wife actually does more for the family vehicles even today than I do.

Because of that, I count on little things like a tank of engine treatment or some premium gas or some fuel injector cleaner once in a while.  It makes me feel like I am at least trying. 

Recently, my car has been through the ringer.  It was rear ended by a thoughtless co-worker who didn’t even leave a note.  Two days after getting that repaired, I hit a deer on the way home and dented the front fender.  Then last week, another friend accidently backed into my parked car and dented the hood.  Just a bad month for the old Altima. 

I consoled it with a tankful of STP Motor treatment. 

I’ve known the name STP for decades, going back to the times when Richard Petty was a big spokesperson.  If it’s good enough for the king, I know it’s good for my car.  It always feels to me like STP products give the car a nice massage.  The car just runs a little smoother and seems to be in better health.  It’s the least I can do, and with my mechanic skills, it’s the most I can do.  So thanks STP.

Thank you, Hubby, for a great contribution!

If you'd like to see the whole shopping experience, check it out on my google+ page, here.

You can follow STP on Facebook here.  When you like them, you are taken to a page for a coupon.  I'm using the coupon for my next purchase.

STP is also on Twitter - you can follow them here.

***  This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias. #CBias

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Soda Stream Review - Way Cool Christmas Gift! #sodastream

Soda Stream
Fountain Jet - $79.99

I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to review the Soda Stream.  See…  My family are sodaholics.  I’m not proud of it, but it’s a fact.  I know, I know.  Bad mom.  I shouldn’t let them drink soda for so many reasons, but I’d be lying if I said we didn’t.
Me, personally, I have to have my caffeine fix about hourly to subsist.  So, short of buying stock in the major soda manufacturers, I’m sure we fully contribute to their success.
Soda Stream is a home soda maker.  You use cold tap water, the carbonation canister in the Soda Stream, and any of the over 25 flavors to make your own liter of soda.  I didn’t believe it – how can this be?  However, when it arrived, I was amazed, and the kids loved it!
Soda Stream sent me their Fountain Jet ($79.99 retail), ten bottles of soda flavors, a selection of three MyWater flavor essence, and their starter kit that includes single serving flavors for us to test drive.  What a generous selection!

The first thing we did was get busy making Cola.  This was the key – if it was good, then we were hooked.  It was really good!  They sent us the “Naturals” variety made with cane sugar.  We all enjoyed it!

The Soda Stream bottle that comes with the machine is very durable; however, it is NOT machine washable. You can buy carbonating bottles that are. You can also buy bottles that are only half a liter for single servings.  We went out and got a two pack so that we'd have travel size for in the car!

Of course, you can make a liter of sparkling water and not add flavoring directly to it. By doing this, each person can add the flavoring of their choice. Pretty slick, huh?
To show how easy it is to use, Youngest allowed me to film him making his first liter of soda.  Attaching the soda bottle to the device is a bit of a challenge, but once you get used to it, it’s simple.

Of the flavors sent to us, the cola, root beer, and the fruit varieties were a hit.  I’m a diet fiend, and, I must say, the diet cola was not a favorite of mine.  It tastes a bit like store brand diet soda.  I can drink it, but not a favorite.  The diet fruit and tea flavors, however, are good.  What is impressive is that Soda Stream sodas are already lower in calorie than popular brands, so, if you're looking to save calories but prefer sugared sodas, this is the way to go!  You get lower calories, carbs, sugar, sodium and caffeine.

If you're looking for caffeine, Energy drinks are available with 80mg of caffeine.  I've never had an energy drink, but we made it and my oldest son says it tastes very similar to Red Bull.  I didn't like it, but he said it was great! 
As for the flavor essences, we’ll have to let you be the judge.  I like the idea of adding fruit flavor to sparkling water, but we are a sweet-toothed family so we don't like water additives without sweetener.

I would note that the “Naturals” are more expensive.  When I first received a combination of small and large bottles, I assumed it meant the large bottles made more, but that isn’t the case.  Large bottles are the Naturals – they cost $9.99  and make 25 servings or 6 liters.  The smaller bottles cost $4.99 and make 50 servings or 12 liters.  That means one small bottle costs half as much and makes twice as much.  I know some people really want the cane sugar instead, so I appreciate the choice.  However, I’m frugal, so I’m sticking with the smaller bottles.

That being said - in the long run, Soda Stream is cheaper than buying soda off the shelf.  This is especially true since soda prices went up.  Without a sale, 12-packs can be $4 - $5 or more!  Ridiculous!  $5 for 33 cans is a bargain in my book.  Of course, you have to consider the cost of the carbonation, but even with that - the sodas end up being about $0.25 per serving with no cans to mess with!

Another aspect of Soda Stream that I really appreciate is accessibility.  You can find Soda Stream and its supplies at common retailers like Target, Best Buy, Staples, etc.  Just click here to find out where you can find them in your area.  Accessibility is important for refilling your carbonation canister - they do it on exchange and it normally runs around $14.99.  Of course, as noted above, you get 60 liters or 30 two liters (for perspective) before having to do a refill.

I wish I would have gotten this sooner - this would be a great gift for my sister.  Now I have to wait for a birthday since I've already sent her my Christmas Gift (yay! Black Friday!).

If you like ordering online, Soda Stream does offer a buy 10 soda mixes get one free deal.  My favorite number is Free - but, you know that! 

*** I received a Soda Stream and soda mixes free from Soda Stream #sodastream in exchange for my honest review.