The Familyman's Christmas Treasury - Audio Collection {a review}

The Familyman's Christmas Treasury - Audio Collection {The Familyman} Reviews
Our family loves to listen to audio stories anytime we are driving.  Even our youngest, at age four, will ask for a "talking story" (meaning he wants a story as opposed to a song).  It is hard to find good quality audio stories where the reader is pleasant to listen to and even harder to find a good Christian audio story.
Todd Wilson over at The Familyman has written a wonderful set of Christmas Stories and has partnered with professional storyteller, Jim Hodges, to bring us a very entertaining collection, The Familyman's Christmas Treasury - Audio Collection.  This set is also available as Digital Downloads to satisfy families like us that like to be entertained via story while on the go.
The Familyman's Christmas Treasury - Audio Collection {The Familyman} Reviews
The Christmas Treasury Collection, which is available on 6 CDs or as digital downloads, provides us with a way to enjoy wholesome family entertainment throughout the holiday season.  The six audio books in the collection are:
  • Cootie McKay's Nativity (Book One)
  • Captain Chaos and The Manger Blaster (Book Two)
  • The Stranger (Book Three)
  • The Bishop's Dream, (Book Four)
  • Harold Grubbs and the Christmas Vest (Book Five)
  • Gladys Remembers Christmas (Book Six)
There are 2 additional stories in the collection. 
  • The Secret of the Snow Village (Book 7)
  • It's Called Christmas (Book 8)
We received all 8 audio books as digital downloads.  After saving them to my computer I put them on my iPhone so we could listen to them in our van using the Bluetooth. 
The stories range in length from about 15 to 30 minutes, which was a perfect length for even our youngest listener, at age 4, and also was the perfect length to get in one story while running errands or driving to a function.  (Living in a city with significant construction makes for lengthy trips across town). 
The first book, Cootie McKay's Nativity, takes place in 1956.  This 30 minute story, told in the first person, is an delightful tale of a town's best Christmas and also the year they almost didn't have Christmas.  The narrator tells of how a talented Cootie McKay saves the day by thinking "outside the box".  I won't spoil the story, but this one really appealed to my 9 year old.     When the story was over he immediately said "Mom!!  Can we hear another!" - which is music to any momma's ears.
Book Two, Captain Chaos and The Manger Blaster, is fun 19 minute story about a 10 year old, "Jason", and his sister, "Martha Ann".  This story was so relatable to my two oldest kids - big brother and younger sister, constantly bickering.  Jason has a big imagination, just like my little guy.  We hear of Jason being sent to his room for trying to change the manger story and here we hear of his unexpected visit with "Captain Chaos". 
The Stranger, Book Three, is an 18 minute captivating story of Christmas Eve, where a town is feeling disrupted in it's cherished holiday routine as a stranger appeared in town during a big snow storm.  As the town gathers for service they realize that the stranger has visited them all - all except for the family of 9 year old Sam Tucker.  Why hasn't the stranger visited the Tuckers?  If he does visit what will they do and what will they learn?
Book Four, The Bishop's Dream, is a 20 minute story set in Ancient Myra and a simple man named Nicholas.   Nicholas was a Bishop who loved God and cared for the poor.
Each story is truly entertaining and a delight to listen to.  We loved listening to these stories as we drove around town completing errands.  My kids loved all 8 of the stories and they still ask to listen to them again whenever we are in the van. 
To read additional reviews of  The Familyman's Christmas Treasury - Audio Collection, click the banner below:
The Familyman's Christmas Treasury - Audio Collection {The Familyman} Reviews
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MyFreezEasy {a review} Freezer Meal Plan Membership {MyFreezEasy}
One area I struggle with is to consistently have a healthy, well balanced, meal ready.  This is especially so for the busy nights we need to be out the door close to dinner time, or are out until dinner time has arrived. 
My poor husband was left to do more than his fair share of cooking, especially on the nights I had to run the kids around to programs that let out at 5:30 p.m.  We were eating far to much of store bought freezer meals.  The Freezer Meal Plan Membership from MyFreezEasy has helped me be consistent with putting a home cooked meal on the table each night, even on those busy nights. 
 photo 10 Meals in 1 hour with My FreezEasy_zpsybaixa9s.jpg
When creating meals, not all would be suitable for a freezer and not all would be quick to do.  Erin Chase, from $5 Dinners, has done all the busy work for us and created for us a meal plan that will have us  make up 10 meals suitable for our freezer that are quick and budget friendly!  
You can either join as a basic member, paying monthly or annually, with access to eight new meal plans a month; or, you can join as a premium member and enjoy the flexibility of adjusting serving sizing and customizing your own menus, in addition to having access to the 8 meal plans.
How this works is you log in to the website and come to the member are.  From here you have 6 choices 
  • build your own meal plans from scratch or by exchanging recipes from within a set plan
  • download an entire plan from the 8 choices
  • view videos of Erin talking about the different plans and how to assemble them
  • access to resources and instructions
  • help on how to create your own meal plans
  • customer care center:  change your password and update your payment info
There are 8 plans each month and 8 printable labels for each meal within each plan.  Each plan has instructions to create 10 meals for your freezer.
  • Traditional Meal Plan
  • Gluten-Free Meal Plan
  • Slow Cooker Meal Plan
  • Clean Eats Meal Plan - great for the Paleo Diet or "whole 30", or those that just want to eat whole foods
  • 20 meals Meal Plan - great to really get that freezer stocked
  • All Chicken - great to use when you find chicken on sale
  • All Ground Beef - great for when ground meat is on sale
  • All Pork Chops - great for when you find deals on pork chops
Each plan is a downloadable PDF that you can save to your computer and print off.  The printables each consist of
  • Table of Contents - listing the 5 recipes (you make 2 of each for a total of 10)
  • Recipes - one per page; each has instruction for serving 1 now, or for making 2 for the freezer
  • Shopping List by Recipe
  • Shopping List by section, or category
  • Prep Day Shopping List (excludes sides)
  • Prep Day Shopping List by section, or category
  • Assembly Instructions - pre-cooking and chopping instructions
  • Instructions for Assembly by Recipe - preferable for those that want to do 1 recipe at a time
What we did with this:
We shop weekly at a farmers market, and substitute in with Costco's bulk food purchases.  As such, I chose to mostly use the Clean Eats Meal Plan, because we'd need to use up all those fresh vegetables as opposed to canned goods from a grocery.  Plus, with a palm oil allergy there is often no choice but to act "whole 30".  The Clean Eats Plan is the first I downloaded, then I decided I'd rather substitute in a few recipes to be sure to use what we had on hand already and to add in a fish dish. 
Making your own plan can be down 1 of 2 ways.  From the Members HQ you can simply click "Build Your Own Menu Plans" which you then will be able to adjust serving size and chose your own 5 recipes (remembering that each recipe makes 2 meals).  Additionally, from "This Month's Meal Plan" there is an option to "Swap Recipes on This Month's Meal Plan".   Simply dragging and dropping the recipes gets the job done.  (I also love that you can email the shopping list to yourself and have an on-the-go paper free list using a smart phone).  The meal plan swap is all further explained beautifully in the video library
I ended up building my own picking and choosing from the Vegetarian Recipes, the Paleo/Whole30 Recipes, and the Seafood Recipes.  I chose:
  • Black Bean & Corn Enchiladas
  • Lemon Dijon Salmon
  • Paleo Minestrone Soup
  • Slow Cooker Curried Chickpeas & Vegetables
  • Dutch Oven Italian Chicken & Potatoes
I printed off my shopping list and set off to Costco to get anything I didn't have on hand.

I chose to mostly make the recipes one at a time, usually making one for "tonight" and one for the freezer, because I have such a small kitchen (like 2 feet of counter space) and no dishwasher - plus I'm just so far gone in being organized with meals.  This way I wouldn't overwhelm my tiny space, and I'd feed us all home cooked meals while stocking up the freezer for those busy evenings.
Upon starting to prep and assemble my chosen dishes, I realized most of them were SO easy to do that I did up 6 recipes in one night.  In my tiny kitchen!  Like seriously, the Dutch Oven Italian Chicken & Potatoes was basically a dump and freeze - there is no chopping because it uses small potatoes and baby carrots.  As an important side note, I'd like to add that I am SO glad I watched the prep videos because it was here I learned why we use the small potatoes and not cut potatoes.
The Salmon dish was another that was so easy to assemble with no pre-cook, as well as the Minestrone Soup.  With the soup I just chopped veggies one kind at a time, added them to my bag and placed it in the freezer!
I don't like fish but I was instructed by a cardiologist that I need to eat more fish, mainly salmon.  So I braced myself and made this dish.  I loved it.  And I loved that the sides were suggested to make it all the more easy of a meal.
The Slow Cooker Curried Chickpeas & Vegetables was awesome to put in the crock pot after church one Sunday and made enough to serve us plus some unexpected dinner guest (as a bonus our friend's baby was able to partake in this whole food meal!)
While on the topic of serving sizes, my husband made the comment that our chose 4 servings made "Texas sized portions".  I laughed and said Erin is actually from Texas.  (this is all a good thing and I love having leftovers)
I loved the experience (and the stocked freezer for the days I had to be away at dinner time) so much that we went on and created another menu with ground beef since we had purchased the Costco ground turkey.  From there we made Bolognese Sauce (a Clean Eats meal in the October Plan) and Frito Pie.  These each involve cooking up the meat, cooling and then placing in the freezer bag for later.  This worked so well even in my small kitchen as I made one meal to eat "tonight" and then used the same pan to make up one more, after dinner, to put in the freezer. 
I am so pleased with the experience and happy that we are saving money buy eating "fast" at home instead of fast food on our kid activity nights. 

To see additional reviews of Erin Chase's FreezEasy Plans, click the banner below: Freezer Meal Plan Membership {MyFreezEasy}
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