Friday, January 6, 2012

Maestro Classics - Swan Lake - Review


Classical music for kids!  Maestro Classics can help you introduce your family to classical music.  Their mission is to cultivate a love of music through education and joyful performances.  Their selection of CD's are geared towards ages 5-12 and their parents.  The three major benefits that Maestro Classics claims to offer are to:

  • expand listening horizons
  • develop listening skills and accumulate musical memories and
  • encourage children and adults to listen to music together

Maestro Classics has 9 CD's in their collection. 

Titles include:  Peter and the Wolf, The Soldier's Tale, The Story of Swan Lake, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, My Name is Handel:  The Story of Water Music, The Tortoise and the Hare, Casey at the Bat, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, and  Juanita the Spanish Lobster.  You can purchase each CD separately for $16.98 or an MP3 download for $9.98.  You can also save some money and purchase the complete 9 CD selection for $128.00.  There are other set options to select from.  Click HERE to see everything.

I was given the opportunity to use The Story of Swan Lake in exchange for this honest review.  Let me start by telling you what was on the CD and what came with it.  As you can see in the center of the picture above, the case is beautifully illustrated and colorful.  A 24-page activity book included with the CD contains a biography of Tchaikovsky, information on acoustic and electric guitars, sheet music and words for a sing-along song, explanation of major and minor keys, puzzles and more.  Children can also join the Kids Club for more learning and fun.  Check it out HERE.  The total play time of the CD is almost a full hour.  It includes a narrated version of the classic tale, additional tracks about Tchaikovsky's life, a heavy metal version of the main theme, and the "Tchaikovsky Wrote a Great Ballet" sing a long.  I found it to be a comprehensive classical music lesson!


So, what did we think about it?  The clarity of the recording was wonderful and the narration was clear.  The music was beautiful...after all, it is Tchaikovsky!  My son is 12 and was not at all interested in the sing along.  He was also bored with the narration.  I found that it would be best suited for a female, probably one who was interested in ballet or similar story lines to Swan Lake.  If I were to be able to pick a CD on my own, I would not have selected Swan Lake for my 12 year old son.  Maestro Classics does offer other choices more geared towards a boy.  But, I wasn't given the choice, so Swan Lake it is!

I do feel that this product is very fairly priced.  It would make a wonderful gift for a child who loves ballet or classical music or the classic stories.  It would be great to listen to in the car, or as a bed time activity.  Please visit HERE to be able listen to a sample from each CD and decide which would best suit your family!

 Any products reviewed by me as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew have been given to me free of charge in order for me to provide you with an honest review of the product and/or how we used the product within our family.  I do not receive any other form of compensation for the reviews posted on this blog.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Z-Guide to the Movies - Review

 The Gadow Homeschool loves using educational movies and documentaries to enhance our lessons.  Imagine my excitement to learn about Zeezok Publishing!  They offer a wide assortment of companions to many movies.  They are called Z-Guide to the movies!  When the opportunity came up for the TOS Crew to review these guides there as no question about it....I wanted in!  The only dilemma I was faced with was....hmmmm, which one do I choose?  There were so many!  I finally settled on the Z-Guide to the Movies for the movie, Johnny Tremain.
This 36 page e-book download (or get it on CD) is chuck full of activities and study guides to accompany the movie.  It begins with a synopsis of the movie and a little history and a little history of the events (Boston Tea Party).  Following the introduction, you'll find an assortment of activities from fill in the blank, short answers, crossword puzzles, mazes, etc.  I particularly loved the 25 questions that were to be completed WHILE watching the movie!  This really made sure that my son was paying attention.  I gave him the remote so he could pause the movie as needed.  I was very please to see that he got 23 of the 25 questions correct...and very happy to have the answer key at the end of the e-book...thank you Zeezok!

Z-Guide to the Movies offers a variety of guides for elementary through high school.  I checked many of the titles offered and all of the ones I did check were available either through my public library or Netflix, so that made it even easier!  You can purchase either an e-book or CD and the price is $12.99 and up.  Here are some of the titles offered and from what point or interest in history.  This should tempt your tummy!

One Night with the King

The Ten Commandments

Jason and the Argonauts

Ben Hur

Knights of the Round Table
Adventures of Robin Hood

A Man for All Seasons


A Tale of Two Cities 
Amazing Grace

American Revolution
Johnny Tremain

Scarlet Pimpernel 
The Count of Monte Cristo

Les Miserables

Red Badge of Courage 
The Horse Soldiers

U.S. Westward Expansion
The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin
Grapes of Wrath

Sergeant York

Inherit the Wind

Now, the question is...which will you choose?
Any products reviewed by me as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew have been given to me free of charge in order for me to provide you with an honest review of the product and/or how we used the product within our family.  I do not receive any other form of compensation for the reviews posted on this blog.


Monday, January 2, 2012

Chocolate Babka.......A Labor of Love Recipe

If you are looking to show your love for someone, then this is the recipe for you.  It will take about 3 hours from start to finish and a fair amount of arm muscle so get your big girl apron on and start baking!

My dear friend Andrea's husband, Phil, has a bit of an infatuation with Babka.  He talks about it like it is his first love.  His pupils even dilate at the sound of someone saying Babka.  So, for Christmas I thought it would be nice to make him some.  After all, I do steal his wifey poo from him regularly so I have to keep him happy!

After searching the internet for recipes, I finally decided upon one at  Although it was one of the most complicated recipes, it seemed the most authentic.  You can find the recipe here or just follow along with me.

Bread Dough


Egg Wash

Streusel Topping


     Making the Bread Dough

  1. Bread Dough: Proof yeast in milk with a pinch of sugar for 5-10 minutes until foamy; whisk sugar, eggs and egg yolks together; add to yeast and whisk.
  2. Combine flour and salt and stir in egg mixture, mixing thoroughly; cut butter into 1" pieces and beat into flour mixture until dough is smooth and sticky and butter is completely incorporated.
  3. Scrape dough onto floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes; place in buttered bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to double, about 1 hour.

    Look at those arm muscles hard at work kneading that dough!

    Making the Filling

  4. Filling: Stir chocolate, sugar and cinnamon together; cut butter in; set aside.
  5. Egg Wash: Whisk egg and cream together and set aside.
    The chocolaty goodness is being created in my new big stainless steel bowl.  I can smell the milk chocolate and it is yummy!

    Making the Streusel Topping
  6. Streusel Topping: Stir sugar and flour together; cut butter in until clumps range in size from crumbs to 1"; set aside.

    The buttery sweet streusel topping will be the perfect sweet crunch on the top of this bread dessert!

    Let's put this Babka together!!

  7. Butter three 9"x5"x2 3/4" loaf pans and line with parchment paper; punch dough down and let rest 5 minutes; cut into 3 equal pieces; keep 2 pieces covered with plastic wrap while working on the third.
  8. On a floured surface, roll the dough out 16" square by 1/8" thick; brush edges with egg wash; crumble 1/3 of the Filling (reserving 2 T) evenly over the dough, leaving a 1/4" border.
  9. Refresh egg wash if needed; roll dough up tightly, jelly roll fashion; pinch ends together to seal; twist dough evenly throughout the length of the roll a full five or 6 turns; brush top of roll with egg wash.
  10. Sprinkle the reserved 2 T Filling over the egg-washed top and press in gently so that it doesn't slide off; fold right half of the roll over onto the coated left half; fold ends under and pinch to seal; twist roll two turns and fit into prepared pan; (Loaves may be frozen at this point for up to a month).
  11. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling; preheat oven to 350°; brush the top of each loaf with egg wash and crumble 1/3 of the Streusel Topping over each; loosely cover with plastc wrap and rest loaves 30 minutes.
  12. Bake loaves 30 minutes; rotate and bake another 25 minutes until golden; lower heat to 325° and bake another 15-20 minutes or until deep golden; cool in pans on wire rack; remove from pans and serve.
  13. Baked loaves may be frozen up to one month; if frozen unbaked, let stand at room temperature 5 hours and bake.
    I even got a big hug from Phil when I gave him his very own Babka to take home with him.  Of course, I had another one for us all to enjoy on Christmas.  Here is a picture of Phil digging into the yumminess BEFORE he even ate dinner.  I think this face speaks for itself....