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Friday, October 29, 2010

Week in Review--Week 11

Where is the time going?

We had a pretty good week this week.  Did it look exactly how I thought it should?  Oh no.  But I am okay with that!  We learned all sorts of things.  We finally have a house cleaning routine.  (What's that?  Angels singing?)  Hub was off a couple days this week so we chucked the schedule in order to spend time with him.

On the topic of schedules, I have been reading Managers of their Homes.  It's been quite convicting, along with a few other messages I am getting about being proactive with my time, as well as getting up early in the morning.  Have I fully embraced these ideas?  Nope.  Will I?  I hope so.  We shall see.  The good thing about the schedule is it will give me direction when I need it.  I think the kids would absolutely love it.  They've been begging for a schedule.  I have been writing down what we're doing each day, but I think a blow-by-blow list with times would really excite them.  Is that normal?

Also, I've been thinking about workboxes.  I wanted to do them at the beginning of the year but the scrapbooking carts I had my eye on were so pricey.  They're all on sale now at Joann's online.  So I might just bite the bullet and do it.  I've discussed it with Hub and he likes it.  I'll keep you posted on that one.

Oh yes, now onto what we did this week.  That was my point, wasn't it?

It was mostly a nice week, weather-wise, so there was lots of time for playing outside before we're all forced to huddle up inside.

Funny raked all the leaves and then built a fort.
She's standing at the entrance.

For Social Studies, we wrapped up a study of the Byzantine empire with a mosaic.  We talked about the Hagia Sofia, which is elaborately decorated with golden mosaics.  You can see some examples here.  We were fresh out of gold, and so used glass stones (I'm pretending that makes sense) from the dollar store.
Pattern for our mosaic.

Everyone made things out of the extra stones.

Completed mosaic.

Clearly, we're focusing on some important skills this week.
Everyone is reading.  Oh happy day!
Some books read:  From Seed to Pumpkin (Welcome Books, Level 12)Shoo, Fly Guy!Chicka Chicka 123... and More Counting Fun (Scholastic Storybook Treasures)Fantastic Frogs! (level 2) (Hello Reader)Spooky Riddles (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition) (Kids Can Read!: Level 3 Read Alone)

Some foods cooked:  roasted pumpkin seeds, spaghetti

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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Flour Children Get Shrinky

We participate in Halloween at our house.  I know some people feel convicted that it isn't for them.  I respect that.  We like to carve pumpkins, dress up and decorate the house for Halloween.  Today we made a Shrinky Dink Halloween tree from a kit.  We had a GREAT time.  I know the kids loved it, but I think Hub was most excited.  He is 34 and it was his first Shrinky Dink experience.

Note Hub's intense coloring concentration.

Ooooooh!  They're shrinking!

Before:  please note giant size of scary green vampire guy in middle.

After:  See that tiny green blob?  Yeah, that's vampire guy.

We tried to guess at how they work.  The kids knew it had to do with heat, but weren't sure what was going on otherwise (I was with them).  Hub thought it may have been 2 types of plastic.  We researched it and found out it is just polystyrene (like a meat tray) stretched thin that shrinks and thickens with heat.  We also learned, much to our excitement, that you can use things like a take-out container from the salad bar to make your own Shrinky Dinks!  Just color with a marker and bake.  How exciting!
Goofy just sat and admired it for some time afterward.

Close up of the tree after we were done.
I colored that cool red spider all by myself.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Week in Review--Weeks 9 & 10

I was sick last week and so have little to report about it.  Scrappy learned to start the washer.  Funny really has had a helpful attitude.  There was a lot of cooking and dishwashing.  Everyone's been helping to take care of the house.  And so, I feel some of my goals are still met, even though I have no worksheets or similar to show for the week.  Character and life-skill development is what it's all about anyway, right?

This week definitely was more "normal," whatever that really means.  Lots of math, reading, science, etc. was done.  This is the first week I really pushed their AWANA verses and they really responded by reciting many of them at the meeting on Wednesday.  We spend a lot of time talking about what they actually mean, rather than just memorizing them.  That's important for us.

I spent a lot of time at home this week, but managed to entertain a few days and still get things accomplished.  This was a pretty balanced week for us.  Let me tell you, I'm normally quite unbalanced!

Some books read:  Football (Blastoff! Readers: My First Sports)Fly Guy Meets Fly Girl (3 times, by a former reluctant reader; I think it's her "gateway book."), Anglerfish (Underwater World)The Saturdays (Melendy Quartet) -- We really loved The Saturdays.  It's about 4 kids who pool their allowances in order to each spend one day doing the one thing they really want to do.  I definitely recommend it!

Some foods cooked (by the Flour Children, with my help):  garlic bread, cream cheese icing, chicken & veggies with pasta

Some academics covered:  telling time, doubles plus one addition, PA geography, the letter C, parts of speech, multi-digit addition, the difference between true seals and sea lions, rugby vs. football

Goofy tells time to the hour.

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This week's Weekly Wrap Up is hosted here.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Cleaning out the trash

Challenge #3 for making my home a haven is about clearing out the clutter.  Uh oh.

As it turns out, Hub asked me, nicely, if I would mind paying a little extra attention to the housework this week in anticipation of his hosting a poker game.  Being the nice wife I usually am, I said, "sure."  As the week went on, though, I admit that I started to grow a little resentment over the task.  I mean, it's definitely sad that he has to ask me to do it.  That just shows you how much I've been excelling at housework lately.  But it started to bother me that he doesn't have the expectations for every day.  I'm not saying that I want him breathing down my neck. But I was all, "why doesn't he want it nice for US!?"

You might be laughing at me right now.  Because, of course, I figured out that (as usual) I'm the problem here.  I'm the one who doesn't think we're worth it.  I can pretend I'm too busy but really, I'm justifying myself.  Not in a good way, mind you.  I am pretty sure I could give up a day of Facebook and magically find the time to clean a whole lot of stuff!  I waste a lot of time.  I know that.  I promise that I'm working on it.

So as Courtney writes in her challenge, we're asked to clean out some physical clutter.  We should contain a mess, perhaps with a nice basket.  Or get rid of it.  I am of the getting-rid-of variety.  And so, really, Hub's request has come at the perfect time.  I've spent the last week decluttering.  And, honestly, it's been great.  I am big fan of less stuff!  My home looks nicer and I like being here more.

The second part of the challenge is decluttering our spiritual lives.  Oh dear.  That's a big one, isn't it?  So after reading this, I suppose one thing I have to confess is my bad attitude (as ever) and laziness.  Again, as always.  Oh, laziness.  That's a whole post in itself.

I'm looking forward to the last challenge.  I'm noticing a big difference in my attitude, and have definitely found myself praying over our home more than ever before.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Breakfast of Champions, Ya'll

Best picture I could get.  I'm a horrible photographer.

I was refilling my flour container and my sorghum jar was suddenly right in front of my face.  I love sorghum.

Are you wondering what I'm talking about?  I don't really ever see it around here, as I live in yankee territory. I think it's more of a southern food.  Sorghum is a tasty syrup that's similar to molasses.  Here's the wikipedia article.  My jar came from Missouri, but was made in Iowa.

I haven't tried subbing regular blackstrap molasses for the sorghum in this recipe, but feel free to try it.  Maybe maple syrup would work, too.  If you can get sorghum, this is a good recipe.  Would I lie to you?

Carrot Muffins
adapted from Maasdam Sorghum Mills recipe

1 1/2 c. flour
1/4 c. packed brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. shredded carrots
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 c. plus 2 tbsp. sorghum, separated
1/3 c. melted butter

Preheat oven to 350.  In bowl, sift together dry ingredients.  Stir in carrots.  In separate bowl, combine beaten eggs, 1/2 c. sorghum, and butter.  Stir wet mixture into dry ingredients just until combined.  Don't over mix!  Grease muffin tin and fill 3/4 full.  Drizzle remaining 2 tbsp. sorghum over tops.  Bake 18-20 minutes.  Cool 5 minutes, then pop out of pan.

The Flour Children LOVED these.  So did their mom.  Hub is still at work, so his are set aside.  Though Funny keeps threatening to eat them.

I'm a saucy girl

I've been making my own spaghetti sauce for a few years now.  I'm not talking about chopping and saucing tomatoes, as I feel that's way too much work and I like my tomatoes to be turned into salsa.  This recipe is SUPER easy.  Really, it's kind of lazy.  It's very good and also cheap.

Easy Pasta Sauce

2 giant cans of crushed tomatoes (I mean the Costco/Sam's size, here.  Mine are 105 oz. each)
whole head of garlic (yes, all the cloves from a whole head.  I guess if you hate garlic, you have bigger problems.)
pepper, to taste
salt, to taste
oregano (I used dried, about a tbsp)
basil (Again, I only had dried, about a tbsp)
1 tbsp. sugar

if you like them, and if you have them:
chopped onion (at least one whole onion, or more)
chopped peppers

I usually don't saute the veggies, as that seems like work with this recipe.

Combine it all in a giant crock pot.  I think mine is 6 qt, so obviously (I hope), you may want to halve this recipe for your crock pot.

Turn it on low and put the lid on so it gets hot.  Once it's hot (about 20-30 minutes), fix the lid so it's ajar in order to let steam evaporate.  I cook mine overnight for about 8-10 hours.  Once it cools, freeze in ziploc bags.  They'll stack nicely in your freezer.

By the way, these cans of tomatoes cost $2.69 each at Costco.  We'll say I've used $2 worth of other ingredients.  Maybe.  (I didn't have peppers this time.)  For less than $5 you can have something much better than you can buy at the store, and in greater quantity.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Make Your Home a Haven Week 2

I'm wrapping up week 2 of the challenge to make my home a haven.  Week 2 was all about gentleness.  We were to continue praying for peace, which I did, only I quit using the candle.  Yes, I'm just that cheap.  Would Courtney, our fearless leader, frown at that?  I don't know.

This week we were asked to play quiet music in our homes, and work on the way that we speak to our family.  I play music almost every day, anyway, so that part was so easy.  I used Pandora, and just played a couple of stations that I have made.  One of them was classical and the other was Christian, with artists like J.J. Heller, Sara Groves, and Chris Rice.

As for the gentleness aspect of the challenge...  I see that some people in my home are not talking to one another in a nice way.  I promise that I tried to speak in a gentle manner.  And I tried to encourage the kids to be gentle as well.  This one is really a challenge for me, in particular.  I have nothing to do but keep working at it.

The next challenge has to do with cleaning out clutter.  Uh oh.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Peace like a river

 I'm a little late following up with this.  Week one of the challenge was to light a candle and then every time I saw it, I was to pray for peace in my home.  I am a big believer in prayer, but I admit to thinking the candle thing was super hokey.  I have candles.  But they are for when the power goes out.  I don't normally just burn them to burn them.  They aren't cheap.  (I hold out for expensive non-toxic candles.)  But, I had agreed to do the challenge, so I did it.

I was shocked to learn that it actually made a huge difference in the tone of my home.  Go figure!

On Monday, I lit a candle and put it in the kitchen, because I'm in and out of there all day long.  Every time I saw it, I prayed, "Lord, give us peace."  Or, "Lord, fill our home with peace."  Something like that.  I noticed that as the day progressed, my prayer became, "Thank you for Your peace."  It seems that focusing all day on peace, and on being proactive, rather than reactive, had quite an impact.  The only day I didn't do this was Wednesday.  And Wednesday was horrible.  Instead of focusing on peace, I focused on myself.  That didn't work out too well.

There have been times in my life when I have pretended that I am just the mom, the cook, the chauffeur, the jailer, the teacher, the maid, etc.  The real fact of the matter is that Mom is the heart of the home.  I help create a peaceful atmosphere in my home.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Week in Review--Week 8, in which we are in the vicinity of the track

Actually snapped a shot of a butterfly before it fluttered away!

I have really learned a lot about myself and homeschooling over the past 4 or 5 years.  More than anything, I'm learning to relax.  It is one of the first things I tell a new homeschooling mom.  RELAX.  And yes, sometimes I still need someone to say it to me.  But overall, I can see myself letting go of my over-controlling ways.  You know, those ways where if it isn't done according to The Plan, then it must be wrong.

I planned out my entire school year this year for the first time.  I'm not really following it.  I am so glad that I did the plan though!  I know what is in the books and I have a general idea of the flow for the year.  I would like to be back on track, but I'm not.  Not this week.  But I am getting closer.

In prior years, I may have just thrown up my hands and said, "That's it!" and given up.  For a time, anyway.  I would've calmed down and gathered myself and started again.  This year, when I am off track, I still make sure we do something--field trip, reading, just...something.  We don't get to just blow it off entirely.  And so even though it might be a baby step, it is in the right direction.  I'm learning to let go of what I think school looks like (clean, attentive kids at the table (or desks) listening to mom discuss fractions while they all smile).  I am moving into being comfortable with how school really works and looks.  It looks like life.  And it's good.

We covered some math, science and social studies.  We went on a cool field trip to a military history museum.  We went on a hike and looked at our gorgeous world.  We practiced some Spanish vocabulary.  We read and read and read.  We did laundry.  We cooked.  And we enjoyed being together.  So I am going to call it a good week.

Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall.

Funny and Silly with an example of a modern desert uniform.
Scrappy with Civil War-era cannon.

Goofy's been treed.
Looking up.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Beets can't be beat!

Okay, maybe beets can be beat.  I don't know.  Some people just really hate beets.  Which is sad.  Me, I'm actually not a lover nor a hater of the beet.  I'm open to beets.  Though, I fully admit that I ate way too many pickled beets as a child, and I no longer like those.

I saw this recipe in a Taste of Home magazine at a friend's house.  I've been collecting beet recipes to go with my collection of beets I've acquired through my CSA.  I already make bread, and it looked pretty simple, just with beets added.  Easy, peasy.

I employed the girls to help me make this.  They LOVE to make bread and I love that they help.  I definitely want them to be comfortable making homemade bread when they leave to start their own homes.  In fact, Funny said, "Mommy, I need to get good at this so I can teach my own kids."  This is something I just adore about cooking, how it's been passed down.  I know my grandma taught my mom to cook, and she taught me and my sister, and now I am teaching my kids.  I find great pleasure in knowing I am connected to my family through cooking.

Honey Beet Bread
adapted from Taste of Home

1 tbsp. regular or quick rise yeast (I used regular)
1 1/2 c. warm water (110-115 degrees)
2 tbsp. honey
1 1/2 c. peeled, grated fresh beets, squeezed dry (really squeeze them!)
1 c. warm milk (110-115 degrees)
2 tbsp. butter, softened
2 1/2 tsp. salt
6 1/2 - 7 c. all-purpose flour
1 egg white or a bit of milk, for brushing on the top
toasted sesame seeds (dry toast them quickly on the stove top)

In large bowl, dissolve yeast in water.  Add honey and let rest for 5 minutes.  Add beets (seriously, squeeze them dry), milk, butter, salt and 3 cups flour.  Beat until smooth.  Stir in enough remaining flour to form soft dough.  Knead by hand or by machine with dough hook for 6-8 minutes until smooth and elastic.  Place in greased bowl and flip to grease both sides.  Cover and let rise in a warm spot until doubled, about 50 minutes.

Punch down dough.  Turn onto lightly floured surface and divide dough in half.  Shape into two loaves.  Place in two greased 9x5x3 loaf pans.  Cover and let rise until doubled, about 40 minutes.

Brush with egg whites or milk.  Sprinkle with seeds.  Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes or until top begins to brown.  Remove from pans to cool.
Inside of the bread.  From my busted up loaf.  Pretty!!

I immediately popped loaf #1 from the pan, and it stuck.  I let loaf #2 rest (like a quick bread) for about 5 minutes, then removed it with no problems.  I also forgot about the egg wash and so used milk during the last 5 minutes to just help with browning, and tossed the toasted seeds on top then, as well.
Also, the dough wasn't as dry as I am used to.  It was firmer than a quick bread, but not quite like a regular loaf of bread.  I suspect if I had squeezed the beets a second time, it may have helped with that.  But I did increase the flour as a result, and this recipe reflects that.  You may want to start with a quarter cup less.

I will make this again!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

That's hot! Cauliflower gets Spicy

I found this recipe about a year ago on Not So Humble Pie's blog.  In the past couple of years I have grown to adore cauliflower.  As much as a cruciferious veggie can be adored, I guess.  I also like a meat-free meal now and again.  This one was just perfect!

I got a cauliflower in the CSA box yesterday, and immediately thought of this recipe.  I did not, however, think to locate it and review it in order to purchase any missing ingredients.  The recipe calls for three kinds of flour!  So I had to alter the recipe, and everyone here still thought it was delicious.  One day I would like to make it according to the recipe, if only to feel my tongue burst into flames.

Mine were good, but I wonder if they would've been crispier with the right flours.  It wasn't mushy though.  I would make this again, even with the substitutions I have made.

A gathering of ingredients.  Look at that gorgeous cauliflower.  *sigh*
Gobi Manchurian
Based on Not so Humble Gobi Manchurian

 1 head cauliflower, cut into medium florets
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. blended corn meal (I was supposed to use corn flour, but didn't have any.  So I blended my corn meal for a little while to grind it further.)
2 tbsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. grated ginger
1 tsp. grated garlic
1 tsp. finely chopped jalapeño
warm water

vegetable oil

1 tbsp. sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 c. finely chopped sweet onion
1 inch ginger, minced
1 jalapeño, finely chopped (minus the bit for coating the cauliflower)
1/3 c. soy sauce
1 tbsp. sriracha sauce ("rooster" sauce)
3 tbsp. ketchup

couple sprinkles hot chili sesame oil
chopped cilantro

Core and cut cauliflower into medium florets.  Bring water with a pinch of salt to boil and add the florets.  Boil about 10 minutes or until tender.  Drain.

In large pan (I used a frying pan), heat a few inches of vegetable oil to 350 degrees.  For batter, combine flours, garlic, ginger, and jalapeños; add enough water to make it smooth.  Toss the cooked florets in the batter to coat, then sprinkle with about 2-3 tbsp. all-purpose flour and toss gently.  Fry florets in small batches until deep golden brown and crispy.  I had to turn a couple of mine.  Drain on paper towels.

Sauté garlic in sesame oil over medium-high heat for 30 seconds.  Add onion, garlic, ginger, and jalapeños and sauté another minute.  Add soy sauce and ketchup and cook until thickened and bubbly (just a minute or two).

Put the hot, fried cauliflower in a large bowl.  Pour sauce over and toss to coat.  Garnish with cilantro and a couple sprinkles of hot chili sesame oil.

The finished product.  Yum!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Week in Review--Weeks 6 & 7, in which we get unschooly

These past two weeks have been really unschooly.  I tried to make plans.  Sometimes I even did make plans. But stuff kept happening.  You know, life.  Some days we were rained out.  Some days we were sick.  We also have been getting our bathroom remodeled.  And, best of all, Hub had two days off these past two weeks!

We did very little bookwork.  We did a little spelling, some science, art (blending colors), and read a few books.  Scrappy and Funny had some handwriting practice.  The kids finally finished their whales for their ocean boxes.  I don't know why that was such a project.  Funny, of course, took about 30 minutes to do her's, but the boys only needed about 5 minutes!  I read Capyboppy to the kids.  Now we all want a capybara for a pet.  But we know it wouldn't be a good idea.  Scrappy read The Cat in the Hat on his own.  I was so very proud of him.  He didn't complain or act like it was too hard.  And he laughed and laughed.  It was a wonderful mom/teacher/librarian moment for me!  (I used to be a librarian.)

Funny works on her weaving.  Yes, we do school in our pajamas.  Some stereotypes need perpetuating.

Silly coloring.  She thinks she's doing school.  That's fine with me.

Boys doing a puzzle.  So many puzzles and games these last two weeks.

We tried a new way to memorize verses for AWANA.  Puzzle verses!

For language arts, I read the kids the story "The Lion and the Fox" from Primary Language Lessons.  I asked them to act it out.
Scrappy acting the part of the lion.

Scrappy the lion tells Funny the fox to come into his den.  She knows better.

Funny built an elaborate den, then guarded it fiercely.
We went on a field trip to Phipps Conservatory.  It was free for RAD Days.  Taxes aren't all bad!  We were lucky enough to be joined by Hub for this trip.  He rarely gets a day off, and this was a fun outing.

Gorgeous glass sculpture.

My favorite photo from our trip.

Flour children grow in trees.

3/4 of the Flour Children next to a giant cactus.
Silly conducts a giant train (made of chairs) for some stuffed animals, Goofy, and Funny.  Funny looks to be working while commuting.

Make your own pizza night!

Silly and pizza.  Zucchini, mushroom & cheese.

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