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Saturday, December 31, 2011


I almost never bother to make candy.  My kids get way too much of it from AWANA, and I'm pretty happy with the occasional bit of dark chocolate.  Every time I've made fudge, it hasn't turned out.  And so, maybe I'm a little afraid of candy.  But that never stops me from trying again.  It's handy to be stubborn.

This is from one of my all-time favorite cookbooks, How to Be a Domestic Goddess, by Nigella Lawson.  I adore the way she writes about food.  She likes food.  A lot.  Plus, the book is very pretty to look at.

Cinder Toffee (aka honeycomb)
from How to Be a Domestic Goddess

3/4 c. sugar
4 tbsp. light corn syrup
1 tbsp. baking soda
8 inch square pan, well-greased

Grease that pan.  Seriously.  With some butter, in fact.

Mix the sugar and syrup in a heavy-bottomed pot.  THEN turn the burner on, to medium heat.  Let it heat up and you can stir it a bit to make sure it doesn't burn and that the sugar is dissolving.  It will begin to bubble and just start to change to a yellowish-brown.  (Mine took about 5-6 minutes, Nigella says 3-4)  You are not looking to caramelize this to a dark color.

Remove from the heat and quickly whisk in the baking soda.  This part is exciting, and next time I am going to let the kids do this.  It fills the candy with air and the whole thing puffs up.  Fun!  Quickly pour into the dish and let it harden for a few hours.

I used my meat mallet to break this right in the middle and the whole thing split into 4 big pieces that I could then pull out of the dish.  Then I broke them further (with the mallet) into bite-sized pieces.

Our friend Nigella suggests we dip them in chocolate, if we feel so inclined.  I like the way she thinks.  I'm going to do that next time too.  All the little bits you can save for an ice cream topping.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Home is where the school is

I haven't posted too much about school this year.  We are still homeschooling, and we've been having a bit of a difficult year.  This is largely due to personality conflicts, which exist in families.  No amount of sending them away to school will change that.  I don't need "a break" from my kids, as if they are some horrible burden in my life.  They are my life (along with the ever-supportive Hub).

This year Scrappy is in 4th grade, Funny is in 3rd, Goofy is in 2nd, and Silly is in K, but mostly doing 1st grade work.  Here's the summary up to this point:

We tried Wordly Wise with Scrappy, and it turned out to be the thing we fought about most often.  It was pure misery.  I would become exasperated, he would become frustrated, and we always ended up screaming.  So we chucked it.  I'm back to my old methods of teaching vocabulary, which pretty much means I stop and ask if they understand a word, or I define as we go.  Who wants to do vocab flash cards?  Well, I do, but I'm not like other people.

We have lots of traditional homeschooling materials again this year.  The kids have an assortment of workbooks for language arts and math.  Scrappy is about done with MUS Gamma, we're almost finished with Apologia's Swimming Creatures book (we can't ever seem to get to this).  Story of the World is still the favorite for history.

The kids are still using games to learn a lot of different things.  We've started playing Bananagrams, and we use that for spelling and vocab practice.  The kids love to play Scrabble, Settlers of Catan, chess, Uno, Stratego, and even some math games on the iPad.  I think if all their practice/drill can be done through game playing, then that's good.  And even better, a lot of the games they like require strategy and critical thinking.  Yeah, I am okay with that.

We've already gone on 15 field trips this year!  My goal is 20, and I think we should manage to make that.  We have one or two more scheduled for this month, and I know come February, it's all I will want to do.  Gosh, I hate February for homeschooling.  Only you other homeschoolers understand that.  Alas, no worrying about it now!  Here are some highlights from our most recent trip to the Heinz History Center:

Flour Children and friends.  The museum is currently hosting an exhibit on the history of the flag.

Goofy makes pickles.

Funny preps her tent.

Silly and her friend taking a turn at packing pickles.

Flour Children and friends with statue of Franco Harris.

So, in the end, I suppose we had a rocky start.  Each year I find it easier to embrace our less traditional version of education, but every year I still fight myself on it.  We do a lot of reading, playing, and exploring.  We even do worksheets and book work.  Everyone here would rather read a book about homophones (which we did, Dear Deer) versus filling in a worksheet on homophones.  That's just how we roll.  It might not be your way, but it's our way, and it works for us.