Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Homeschool Review Crew: Everyday Homemaking - Everyday Cooking

Everyday Homemaking

I can't tell you how excited we were when our physical copy of Everyday Cooking from Everyday Homemaking arrived in the mail for us to review. I also received the digital downloadable file while I waited for the book's arrival. I immediately started baking and cooking after downloading a few recipes in PDF format.
Everyday Cooking

About the Author
Everyday Cooking was written by Vicki Bentley who is a homeschool mother to eight daughters. Mrs. Bentley also fostered over 50 children. She is the author of My Homeschool Planner, The Everyday Family Chore System, Home Education 101: A Mentoring Program for New Homeschoolers, and several other helpful homeschool and homemaking resources. Everyday Cooking is an expansion from the cooking chapter in the Home Education 101 book.

Cookbook Description
The newly revised and expanded Everyday Cooking cookbook edition contains a whopping 198-pages. I couldn't wait to dig into this resource! As a busy single homeschool mother, I was also looking for recipes that fit my budget and schedule. I also wanted Alyssa to learn basic kitchen and cooking skills. We are both cookbook junkies addicted to cooking and baking. My goal is for my creative aspiring chef to be self-sufficient when she is older and has her own place. I also wanted us to eat more family meals at the dinner table rather than quick, convenient, unhealthy foods.

The paperback cookbook is coiled-bound which makes it convenient to use allowing it to be opened flat. It has a laminated glossy full-color cover with very few black and white recipe photos throughout the text. It contains a collection of tried and true family-friendly recipes including Instant Pot recipes. The author states that the book contains more tips, hints, and recipes than the previous version.

Recipe Categories
The recipes are organized into typical grouped categories.
  • Breakfast Ideas 
  • Appetizers, Dressings, and Drinks (Including buffet tips)
  • Breads and Grains
  • Main Dishes, Soups, and Sides
  • Desserts and Snacks
  • Instant Pot or Pressure Cooker Favorites (at the end of the book) 
The cookbook begins with a Dear Friend letter and a Table of Contents. Blooper stories are scattered throughout the book and indicated with a broken egg image. I could relate to several of the stories mentioned. Time-saving budget-friendly tips are found in the gray boxes. Blank "Note" pages follow each recipe category for you to jot down your thoughts about the recipe section. Some ingredients are italicized indicating that there is a recipe matching the ingredient in the book. For example, under the Stuffed Shells recipe the Spaghetti Sauce recipe is italicized.  

There is an emphasis on cooking with whole foods and for healthy living yet the author isn't a strict purist she still included many delicious desserts. Sugar and white flour substitutes were sprinkled throughout the book. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of chocolate recipes in this book. She must have several chocoholics like me in her family. The Dessert section contains helpful Cocoa and Baking Equivalents which were useful to me, because it makes it easy to switch out different types of chocolate ingredients.

I really like that the recipes are easy-to-prepare with a common ingredient list and simple step-by-step directions. The recipe titles are in bold print and a decent amount of space exists between the recipes. The cookbook layout is straightforward and user-friendly.

A Homemade Vanilla Extract recipe comes after the Dessert and Snacks section. The recipe contains alcohol so it was placed separately from the rest of the collection so that you can remove it if desired.

Low-Carb and Gluten Free Pantry Helpers are towards the middle of the book. The author offers a book recommendation at the top of the page. In this section, she reveals sugar substitutes and provides the reader with a Baking Blend and Chocolate Syrup/Sauce recipe. She also discusses Egg White Substitutes or Equivalents.

Basic Measurements and Helps can also be found in the middle of the cookbook. The author further discusses her use of specific types of sweeteners, oil, and flour in addition to offering other baking and cooking tips.

Furthermore, Vicki Bentley includes a section about Meal Planning with Shopping Hints. She describes three main factors for food selection as part of our diets. She explains the importance of shopping with a grocery list and shopping within a tracked estimated budget. She discusses what the Bible says regarding healthy food choices. The author also provides the cook with two sample monthly menu plans in grid and chart format in addition to two blank templates to fill in with your own meal choices. The second meal plan has a special note section for prep ahead suggestions.
Monthly Menu Sample

A helpful two-page Checklist of Basic Cooking Skills that could be utilized as part of a basic home economics course is also included. Students can choose recipes from each category to make from scratch. I plan on having Alyssa do this beginning in the fall. I want her to be armed with meals she can cook independently as she gets older. A one-page section of the author's Food and Nutrition Mini-Unit is included in the book. It is a one to two-week unit with a numbered list of activities to complete. It is suitable for students in junior high and high school, but it can be easily adapted for younger children with adult supervision. The unit allows the student to earn a full home economics credit at their own individualized pace.

The checklist and mini-unit are followed by a one-page list of Basic Kitchen Accessories and 7-pages of Kitchen Equipment descriptions and black and white photos including tools such as the grain mill, mixer, cookware, and non-stick skillets. She offers great shopping advice.

Furthermore, there is a two-page Tortoise and the Hare comparison of slow cookers versus modernized pressure cookers. The author contrasts the similarities and differences of the two pieces of kitchen equipment. The cookbook also contains an Instant Pot and slow cooker recipe for Chill-Chasing Brunswick Stew showing you how they differ. Many other applicable pressure cooker tips exist in the book.

A list of Instant Pot parts are mentioned followed by a glossary description of each Instant Pot function. One tip that I appreciated was that time is the same whether you cook a little or a lot in the pressure cooker, but that food still cooks in approximately 1/3 of the time it would in a conventional oven. This is a good rule of thumb to consider when cooking. The book also indicates the common times and functions necessary for a list of specific predetermined foods. Website links and 6 qt DUO Instant Pot recipes are provided. Chicken and Bow-Ties in Sauce and Yogurt are first on my list of recipes to try in the Instant Pot! Making homemade yogurt from scratch sounds like fun. I am just not sure what to do with the whey.

A useful Index of Alphabetized Recipes and Time-Saving Tips is found at the end of the book making it easy to find recipes or tips you are interested in reading. 

Our Experiences with Everyday Cooking
The Everyday Cooking cookbook was utilized with Alyssa (Age 9) as a homeschool home economics class that teaches basic kitchen skills over the summer. Utilizing the cookbook over the summer made life easier, because our schedule wasn't as hectic and busy with school. My daughter loves cooking and baking. She's always been a great helper and constantly asks for more time in the kitchen. She has some experience cooking in the kitchen with me. My hope is that I will gradually release control and after modeling cooking methods I will allow her the opportunity to take control with supervision. I also used the book while she was gone to add more variety to my meals. I read through the contents of the book and glanced at the recipes first. I marked pages of recipes I wanted to try from a variety of recipe categories with Post-It Notes based on the ingredient lists and my taste buds. When my daughter came home, she used a different color Post-It Note to pick and choose the recipes she was interested in making. We shopped together for the ingredients needed on our meal plan as part of the learning process.

The cookbook was propped up in a book stand while we made the recipes. We planned out a few economical meals together. Most of the meals were made together to increase bonding time and for modeling purposes. Family time is of great importance to me and we enjoyed working together. We utilized several of the cooking, prepping, and storage tips offered throughout the book. In the end, Alyssa and I found many new family favorites that we plan on putting in her recipe binder for the future.   

A Few Recipes We Tried
We attempted to try a recipe from each category, but we leaned more towards the Desserts, Main Dishes, Soups, and Breads. The first recipe I made was the Stuffed Shells with homemade Spaghetti Sauce. I also made the Cheese-Garlic Biscuits. Stuffing each shell took a lot of time, but it was worth it in the long run. The meal was absolutely delicious! I added some extra spices to the sauce and ricotta mixture to suit my family's taste buds. I also added a little more fresh spinach and Parmesan cheese (by accident) to the ricotta. I forgot to divide the amount of Parmesan cheese, but it still tasted great. We might be making homemade spaghetti sauce more often which will save money. It gave the meal a more authentic taste. I ended up putting the canned tomatoes in the food processor and then later adding a half of a 15 oz can of petite diced tomatoes. I baked it in a 13x9 aluminum foil cake pan. I didn't use all of the shells, because they wouldn't fit in my container. Crushed red pepper was added to individual dishes for adults wanting to make it a little spicier. The only thing needed to make this meal perfect was a green vegetable so I added a spinach salad with Tuscan Balsamic Dressing. My friend also thought the meal was really good. Remember when making the Cheese-Garlic Biscuits the herb butter goes on AFTER they cook not before. I accidentally put it on before and they turned out fine. Next time I will use less parsley and more garlic. These biscuits were soft and moist. They tasted a little like Red Lobster Biscuits. The recipe made 11 biscuits.  

The next recipe I tried while my daughter was gone thanks to my lovely little sweet tooth were the Chocolate Chip Treasure Cookies. The ingredient lists caught my attention . . . coconut, nuts, chocolate chips, graham cracker crumbs . . . oh my. I had to try this recipe! The ingredients immediately reminded me of the Magic Cookie Bars on the back of the Keebler Graham Cracker crumb box. The ingredients and amounts are very similar. I made a batch and shared the cookies with friends. They were very popular especially individuals with sweet cravings. The cookie batter was extremely thick and required no eggs. If you are using this recipe with younger children, then they may need help stirring it. I might add a little peanut butter, peanut butter chips, or PB2 peanut butter powder to the mixture next time. I feel like it might need a little more butter too. The recipe made 40 cookies.

I made the Farmer's Frittata for dinner one night. The layering process was simple. The frittata was layered with veggies, potatoes, meat, and sprinkled with cheese. I added an extra egg (x-large), more meat (turkey sausage and bacon), and additional spices for more flavor. I was surprised by how fast it cooked in the broiler. It tasted pretty good. I was just hoping it would have all mixed together.   

I knew when I saw the Apple Crisp recipe that we had to make it. The flavor was on target, but it seemed a little too dry for my taste buds. It might be helpful to add more fresh apples, less oatmeal, or less dark brown sugar in hopes to decrease dryness.   

Hamburger Stroganoff
The recipe was made with ground beef as indicated in the ingredient list. Onions were eliminated and we chose to use fresh chopped mushrooms. This added so much flavor to the meal. We didn't make the CreamO Chicken Soup recipe from her book. Canned Cream of Chicken Condensed Soup was added as a replacement. The cookbook offered two pasta suggestions. We chose brown rice over hot noodles. This was another successful meal made in a short amount of time.   

Russian Teacakes
This was our first time making Russian Teacakes. I always thought it would be too complicated, but it was a simple process. They were super sweet and delicious. We plan on making them again around Christmas time. We used smaller Pecan Cookie Pieces instead of finely chopped nuts. This recipe only called for a few ingredients. I'm surprised that it took us this long to actually make them. My daughter frequently requests these cookies. 
Making Russian Teacakes

Chicken and Dumplings
This is a wonderful chicken and dumpling recipe! I didn't have any canned chicken broth so I made it using bouillon cubes and water. The recipe was made using celery and baby carrots as the vegetables. I will let you know that we always add more seasonings to most of the meals we make, because we crave more flavor and spice than most people. The recipe will definitely go in Alyssa's recipe binder. One thing I appreciated about this recipe was that my daughter was able to make the Dumplings from scratch instead of using processed or canned biscuits. 

Baked Oatmeal
We made this recipe twice. The first time we made it with apples, but I was distracted and completely forgot to add the milk. That was a big mistake! Don't make the same mistake I made. The recipe ended up being more like a damp granola. My daughter ate it with milk. I was so upset with myself for forgetting it that I didn't eat it after sampling a bite. The second time I made the recipe I remembered the milk, but when I cut the apples they were moldy around the core. Thankfully, instead of apples I added extra raisins and added cranberries as a dried fruit replacement. My daughter said that it tasted great and ate leftovers for several mornings. We both prefer the apples and will make the recipe with apples and milk in the future. We ended up adding 3 teaspoons of cinnamon instead of 1 teaspoon to the oatmeal. I also soaked the raisins in warm orange juice. The author's tip was to soak the raisins in warm water to prevent the raisins from clumping or sinking to the bottom. Pecans were chosen as our preferred nut. I might try walnuts next time. We couldn't find Sucanat so we used dark brown sugar and granulated sugar. We did substitute unsweetened applesauce for the olive oil. I learned that tip years ago even though Vicki mentioned it in her book. I tend to like the recipe more when I use the applesauce. I also always use extra large eggs in all of my recipes regardless of the ingredient list or recipe directions.  
First Baked Oatmeal Attempt
Second Attempt

Chicken Schnitzel
We cooked the Chicken Schnitzel two different ways. We pan-fried the chicken as indicated in the cookbook. Unfortunately, my daughter was placed on a strict diet because the ENT doctor believes that she has acid reflux instead of asthma and allergies. This occurred shortly after we received this cookbook. The diet stated that she couldn't have fried foods so we decided to bake several pieces for her to try. I allowed her to try a small bite of mine and she preferred the baked version. It was served with roasted asparagus and seasoned buttered egg noodles. This recipe was a hit! Alyssa asked me when I could make it again and if it would be sooner than later.  
First Photo: Baked Chicken Schnitzel
Second Photo: Pan-Fried Chicken Schnitzel

Zuppa Toscana
I made this recipe on top of the stove instead of in my Instant Pot. I haven't yet learned how to use it and didn't want to chance it with a new recipe even though Vicki offers useful tips. We used kale and ground Italian sausage. I also eliminated the onions since we aren't fans of them. This was an excellent soup recipe and is a keeper for our recipe collection!

No-Knead Crusty Bread
This is the one recipe that just didn't work out for us. We followed the exact directions, but the bread after rising for more than 12 hours would not even, with extra flour, form a ball in order to bake. It was like slime. I am not sure if it had to do with humidity or the temperature in my home. We ended up  giving up and tossing the batch out.  

Overall Opinion
The Everyday Cooking cookbook is a valuable resource choked full of practical time-saving tips for busy families. For example, we learned tips for making your own self-rising flour and buttermilk. Did you know that to make self-rising flour you only need all-purpose flour, salt, and baking powder? Not to mention, the handy step-by-step instructions and black and white photos showing the process and dough consistency of baking bread were awesome.

Everyday Cooking simplifies cooking for all ages with common easy-to-find ingredients. The nutritious budget-friendly recipes will help you plan out your weekly or monthly meal plans. My daughter ate all of the recipes without complaining. The family-friendly meal suggestions were outstanding and could easily be modified for your family preferences.  

Our favorite recipes were the Cheese-Garlic Biscuits, Chicken Schnitzel, Russian Teacakes, and Zuppa Toscana. Our least favorite recipes were the No-Knead Crusty Bread for obvious reasons and I wasn't a huge fan of the Apple Crisp. It was a bit too dry for my taste buds. On the other hand, my daughter said it was perfect just the way it was and no changes were needed. It's your choice so give it a try when you buy the book and let me know what you think.

We will definitely make more recipes from this cookbook this year. In fact, we already have several Post-It Notes in the margins for recipes we want to try. I hope to give Alyssa the checklist and to schedule more cooking lessons as part of her schooling. She's very eager to cook independently.

I HIGHLY recommend Everyday Cooking to new, budding chefs, and experienced cooks. This would be an excellent gift for a new bride, preteens, or for your teenagers. I recommend this book for homeschool families as a basic cooking course. It can be used with both girl and boys. Kids of any age are bound to find recipes that appeal to them. They will most likely find recipes that they want to try making on their own. Some basic cooking experience may be beneficial. If your child has no experience with cooking, then they would need a parent is modeling, supervising, and involved in the process. This cookbook has encouraged my daughter to cook and bake more often.

Vendor Suggestions
  • I wish the author would add more color photos to the recipes to draw in the reader's attention. There are no colorful photos included in the actual cookbook. There are a couple of black and white images in the cookbook of kitchen equipment and the process of baking bread. Photos are NOT included for ALL recipes. 
  • A Whey recipe section or additional tips could be added giving more specific suggestions on how to use it after making the homemade yogurt. 
  • Several recipes are missing relevant information such as measurement amounts or sizes. For example, what kind of apple and what size is needed for the dessert? I know this allows for personalization, but information helps first timers. This was especially true for the Baked Oatmeal add-ins and other apple-based recipes. 
Vicki's books including Everyday Cooking are available through their Everyday Homemaking online store.

Print Version $19.99
Digital E-book Format $15.99 (pdf format)

The cookbook is offered in 2 colored cover options: Red or Blue.

You can use the coupon code TOS10books at checkout to receive a 10% discount through Labor Day.
Everyday CookingEveryday Cooking

Social Media  
Facebook Tag: @everydayhomemaking

Visit the Homeschool Review Crew blog to read other Everyday Cooking and The Everyday Family Chore System reviews. You can also find reviews for The Everyday Family Chore System written by crew members on the team.
The Everyday FAMILY Chore System
Everyday Cooking and Chores Systems for your Family {Everyday Homemaking Reviews}
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Saturday, August 19, 2017

Shoe Taxonomy Exercise

Alyssa and I are gearing up for the new school year. We recently received the Exploring Creation with Botany Lapbook from A Journey Through Learning to review. My review for the lapbook will post at the end of this month so visit us again soon so you can read about our experiences.

I already owned the Exploring Creation with Botany textbook so I decided to purchase the Notebooking Journal to use in conjunction with the two other resources. Alyssa is having a blast learning about botany. 

She recently completed a Shoe Taxonomy exercise. She pretended to be a taxonomist. First, she gathered one shoe from several different pairs and placed them in a pile on the floor. She thought about the taxonomy system. Then, she organized the shoes into four broad kingdoms giving each group a name. After doing that she divided the group into two phyla for each kingdom, two classes for each phyla, and so forth. There was a notebooking sheet found in her journal to organize her thoughts. 

The book challenged her to indicate a genus and species for one shoe using binomial nomenclature This activity encouraged deep analytical and critical thinking skills. She would also look at the shoes and compare and contrast the similarities and differences.

Overall, it was a fun activity. I am glad that I bought the notebooking journal too. It provides the child with notebooking sheets for the corresponding activities mentioned in the textbook.   
What a mess!
Kingdoms Divided
Sneaker Kingdom
Phylums: Laced and Velcro
I will link this post up at Sometimes Wordless Wednesday hosted at Tots and Me. Thank you for visiting!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Delicious Russian Teacakes

Last night my daughter and I wanted something sweet and buttery so she made us a batch of Russian Teacakes from our Everyday Cooking cookbook. These cookies are also known as Mexican Wedding cookies. Our friends used to give us a container of these cookies every Christmas and we LOVED them. But, we've never made them before so we wanted to give it a whirl. These would be excellent cookies for a Christmas cookie swap or elf surprise!

A link for Russian Teacakes is provided below in case you want to make them. You can eliminate the salt if desired.   

Crazy for Crust - This website also contains other fun Russian Teacake recipes using Rolos, Reese's, chocolate chips, and Funfetti sprinkles. We can't wait to try the Rolo Stuffed and Reese's Russian Teacakes.

Checkout the Everyday Cooking cookbook and Vicki Bentley's Everyday Homemaking blog for more information about this awesome cookbook. My review for this book will post around August 22nd-24th so keep an eye out for it so you can read about our experiences. We've been making lots of the meals and desserts.   

I will link this post up at Sometimes Wordless Wednesday at Tots and Me. 

Friday, August 4, 2017

Five Minute Friday: Try Prompt

The prompt for today's Five Minute Friday post is: Try.

Several things pop in my head when I hear the word TRY. I've always been told you have to try new things before you know if you will like it or not.

First, was when I was much younger and people were encouraging me to try new foods at the table. I was also told that it is polite to try new foods if you are a guest in someone's house. I remember sitting at the dining room table refusing to eat and refusing to try new foods. When I became a mom, I asked my daughter to do the same thing: Try. Give everything a try at least once or twice before you make a final decision about it. Who knows you may decide you like it! Today we try new foods by experimenting with new recipes.

Later in life . . .  the word TRY resonated more - it was about trying new jobs and hobbies to figure out what I am most interested in and who I really am. That's how I realized that teaching was the field for me. I was working at a place called New Life assisting the teacher throughout the day with student behavioral issues and then it hit me hard. At that point, I went back to college to get my Masters degree so I could teach. I taught at a public school for 3 years but after giving birth to Alyssa I tried different homeschool methods and curricula. Homeschooling became our reality. But, I remind myself to keep trying new things so that school can be fun.

I TRY to be the best teacher and home educator I can be. But . . . most importantly I try being a mom who is present in my daughter's life. I try comforting her when needed. I try to listening when she speaks. I try to help when needed. I try to juggle our schedule. There are so many things we do as moms. The list is never ending. But the key is to never give up. Keep trucking along and do the best that you can! Keep trying. Oh no . . . I ran out of time and haven't finished but the time is up!

Hmmm . . . I know you are thinking what an odd response to this journal prompt. But, that's what I jot down in 5 minutes without editing my response. It sounds a bit like I am rambling about several different topics. I swear they all have something to do with TRYING. :) Your turn.

I will link this post up at the Five Minute Friday Link-Up. Come join the fun and share your thoughts!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Sometimes Wordless Wednesday: Chocolate Chip Treasure Cookies from Everyday Cooking

I made the Chocolate Chip Treasure Cookies from my new Everyday Cooking cookbook written by Vicki Bentley. These treats will definitely curb your sweet tooth. If you've ever eaten the Magic Cookie Bars from the back of the Keebler Graham Cracker Crumbs Box, then you'll enjoy these cookies. They have very similar ingredients.  
You know you want to try one!

I think I'll make the Apple Crisp tomorrow. This expanded and revised cookbook contains so many recipes from several different common categories. It even has Instant Pot recipe ideas. I've been planning my whole foods meals and desserts this week from the cookbook.  

Be sure to check out Vicki's blog and the Everyday Homemaking Facebook page because she shares several recipes online. 

I will link this post up at the Sometimes Wordless Wednesday Blog Linky at Tots and Me: Growing Up Together. Come join the fun! 


Thursday, July 20, 2017

Five Minute Friday: COMFORT

This is my first time participating in the Five Minute Friday Link-Up.

Prompt: Comfort
What comes to mind when you think of the word COMFORT?

Set Timer . . . Ready . . . Set . . . Here Goes . . .

Life's circumstances weigh heavy on my heart. During discouraging times, I look to the Bible and God for encouragement, hope, and COMFORT. He is the ultimate Comforter. He will shower me with his unconditional love and release me from worry if I open my heart and soul to Him and listen.

The verse Psalm 147:3 comes to mind "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds."
I know that God is always there for me no matter what. I seek comfort in Him so I can live a joyful life. He'll give me peace when I am anxious. He'll give me rest if I come to Him exhausted. He'll heal the deep pain I feel and just can't let go. He'll give me strength when I am weak. I have COMFORT knowing He is and always will be there for me just as He is there for you. I'll never be alone no matter what obstacles are thrown at me in life. He'll never leave me.

Comfort can be found in many place. Some people find COMFORT in delicious foods, family time, friendships, home, pets, hobbies, quietness, nature . . . but I seek God and the truth of the Word. When I read Scripture and pray to God . . . I feel Him comforting me. My mood is calmer and I breath slower. I am more relaxed.

I pray that you will find your comfort in our Heavenly Father today. Let Him know what is on your heart.  

I will link this post up at the Five Minute Friday Link-Up.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Homeschool Review Crew: Trust Fund - Know Who to Trust Movie from Mapelle Films

Mapelle Films
My daughter and I recently enjoyed watching our newest review product, Trust Fund, which is compelling drama available through Mapelle Films. The movie's story line was well-written and directed by Sandra Martin. At the beginning of January 2013 she began writing the script which was influenced by Timothy Keller's book Prodigal God. She shot the movie in 2014. It is also a retelling of the Prodigal Son but with a modern contemporary twist with the main characters being daughters. You can read Luke 15 in the Bible to gain a better and more insightful look into this parable. Then, discover the similarities or differences between the parable and movie as you view it.

We received a physical copy of the high-quality film in widescreen DVD format. The movie lasted 1 hour and 40 minutes. The movie received the Dove seal movie rating. It had a limited release AMC theaters in January 2016 and was a success in Kansas City. The movie will now be released in the home entertainment market. This movie is intended for girls ages 12 and up. However, younger children can watch this movie with family members talking about any issues that may need further discussion. The movie is rated PG for mild thematic scenes and smoking. We didn't notice any other inappropriate scenes or swearing. You may want to preview the movie before showing it to your children since we all have different opinions and perspectives about appropriateness.  

Isaac Alongi is the cinematographer and one of the producers. Click on the link and scroll down to the bottom to read more about him and his accomplishments. One interesting tidbit about him is that he was a homeschool graduate. His parents homeschooled him from grades 1-12. He is Sandra's husband whose creative talents shine in this movie. His cinematography and setting locations were a brilliant fit.
Trust Fund Movie

Trust Fund: Know Who to Trust is about the main character Reese (Jessica Rothe), who is an aspiring author with a complex personality. She is on a personal journey towards self-discovery and hopes to find a purpose for her life. She is the anxious, free-spirited sister living in the shadows of her older sister. She's set for life but isn't content with life's blessings. Reese desires to have more in life and wants to fill an empty void that's pressing her to do and be more. Her sister Audrey (Louise Dylan) is always diligently working, being responsible, moral, respectable, and aims to impress others in the community. Yet deep inside Audrey is judgmental and has no compassion for her sister's state of being. She constantly belittles and humiliates Reese while making accusations about her life choices. The poor relationship between the two sisters is evident throughout the movie. It is clear that the two sisters have different personalities and perspectives about life. Her father, Grayson Donahue (Kevin Kilner), is a wealthy owner of a publishing company who gives both of his daughters jobs at his company. This generous man appears to be hiding the truth about their inheritance. He is a helpful, forgiving man who cares deeply for and loves them both. I honestly don't believe that their father intentionally and maliciously kept the inheritance to himself. I think he was just waiting for them to get established and reach a mature age before giving them the news. He was waiting for the right moment to share the special gift from their deceased mother.

While Reese snoops around in her father's office she uncovers a hurtful secret. She finds out something he's been hiding for years. She decides to take things in her own hands and lacks trust in her father's decision. She gives into temptation and makes the mistake of betraying her father, family, and the company. Reese steals 5 million dollars from the company which is half of the inheritance she's expecting to receive. She's a dreamer and heads for Italy hoping to meet up and rekindle a romance with a man named Milo. She met him during a recent trip to Italy. Audrey immediately tried hiring a private investigator to track the money her sister stole, but the detective ended up being her father's college roommate and contacted him. Her father was disappointed in her for going behind his back and didn't want to track Reese as if she were a criminal. Audrey is always quick to point out Reese's irresponsible character flaws. For example, during the conversation about hiring a detective Audrey says, "You want to see her as an innocent child, but she's not." She emphasizes and focuses on her mistakes.

Reese eventually ends up returning home empty-handed regretting and doubting her actions and behavior. What happened in Italy that might have changed her heart and life? Did she find her love in Italy? What do you think her father's response was when she called and said, "Daddy can I come home?" What lessons do you think she learned from this experience? Will she be forgiven by everyone involved? Will she return the stolen money? To find out answers to these questions you'll have to watch the movie.

This movie reminds us all to trust our loving God and his righteous plan. He knows the timing for everything in our life and we must patiently wait for it to unfold.

Our Experiences
I watched this movie with my nine-year-old daughter, Alyssa. We watched it as a family together so that I could discuss the big themes of the movie at a deeper level. Themes such as family, unconditional love, friendship, loyalty, trust, morality, honesty, betrayal, jealousy, pride, contentment, and forgiveness were addressed.

The movie was well-casted. Reese brings the story to life with her superb acting skills. One thing I liked about the movie was that I could feel what she was feeling as she struggled with her identity and life's obstacles. I could also relate to her feeling that something is missing in life and the desire to have a purpose. I was also surprised to see familiar faces in the movie. Ana Ortiz played Meredith who is the publisher of Reese's book and new romantic interest of Grayson. She adds a little more love and romance to the plot. Willie Garson who played Jerry in the movie disguised himself as a private detective in order to watch over Reese in Italy. His character and disguises add a touch of humor to the movie. The movie is packed with romance, humor, drama, and action.

We were never bored while watching the movie. It didn't drag on in any way. The action had a natural pace or flow. The story's plot captivated our attention even though we couldn't relate to the social class and status of the affluent family. However, we could still relate to the story because we've asked for forgiveness for our wrongdoings or sins. The relevant message is another reason why I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. We all need to think about our actions and the consequences we face for sinful behaviors. We all have a brokenness and no one is perfect. The movie also addresses trust which is an important topic in our own lives.

After watching the movie, you may decide that you liked the music. The music appealed to us. Nathan Matthew David created the original motion picture soundtrack for the movie Trust Fund. The music was well-thought out and fitting for the story. I believe he did an excellent job selecting the music. The soundtrack can also be found on the website for sale.

Alyssa's Thoughts
The movie was so good! I wanted to watch it again the next day. I loved the ending. I think children 8 years old up would enjoy and could watch this movie with their parents. My favorite part was when she comes home. Her dad was welcoming and loving. My least favorite part is what the guy did with Reese's money.   

The website also provides the viewer with a FREE study guide analyzing four relevant movie scenes under the Tools tab. This downloadable study guide and video components are meant to be used and discussed in a small groups setting or for individual purposes if desired. It will enable the users to further analyze the themes of the movie at a more in-depth level. First, the guide provides a short scene summary and a quote or question. Then, it references a Biblical verse and contains a "Right to the Point" section which compares the movie to the parable. The "Deep Thoughts" section allows the viewer to dig deeper and relate the truth or conflicts to their own life. The last section titled, What Do You Think" offers thought-provoking questions for you to ponder. I didn't use the study guide with my daughter, but I believe it would be a neat resource to use with a teen girl Bible study group.

Several of the other crew members reviewed the YA (Young Adult) book, Love Was Near, written by Sandra Martin. We did not receive or read this book. It is suitable for girls ages 12 and up. The book was written from the perspective of the main character (Reese) and reveals her thought processes during the movie. It is a "behind the scenes" glance at the story's plot. It sound like an great resource to use after watching the movie with older preteens and teenage daughters.
Love Was Near Book

Trust Fund: Know Who to Trust $14.99 Watch the movie trailer. :)
Love Was Near $12.99
Motion Picture Soundtrack $9.99

Note: All prices are subject to change without notice. 

Trust Fund weaves fantastic performances and a meaningful message with carefully selected music and beautiful cinematography together in one magnificent film. I highly recommend this family friendly movie for Christian families with preteen and teenage girls in their household. I suggest sitting with them so that you can address the societal issues, life lessons, and Biblical truths revealed in the movie. This is a clean movie with a profoundly positive message that we could all benefit from hearing. It sparked a conversation with my daughter about forgiveness and unconditional love. We enjoyed the movie and will watch it again in the future. It is a wonderful addition to our faith-based movie collection and has surpassed my expectations.
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Visit the Homeschool Review Crew blog to read other reviews from my colleagues about the Trust Fund movie and the book titled, Love Was Near.
Trust Fund Movie {Mapelle Films Reviews}
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