Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Truly Not Enough Hours in the Day

I could just post this title and then sign off. Many of you would understand. It seems lately that I just can't even find the time to sign on lately. Homeschool has started along with charter school classes. It's high school varsity football season with its booster club responsibilities and playing injuries. There are an additional three to four hours of work I now do for the care of the ten horses next door at the training barn. It's truly a case of dropping into bed exhausted.

It seems that in order for me to take the time to get on here, I had to have a two-hour window while our son had a Lisfranc fracture surgery due to a football injury during the first game of the season and the luck of having wi-fi at the hospital.

So...I haven't forgotten my little blog here. I promise to be back as random as ever. I didn't think I would miss my time here as much as I have. Perhaps giving myself another week to help rehab my 16yo who will not be able to bear weight on his foot for six-plus weeks, and perhaps another week to see what's left in the garden to eat/take care of if the rains dissipate for the fall, and perhaps yet another week for whatever life throws at us, and then I'll be back to posting with gusto.

Until then, enjoy whatever free time you have to be online. You never know when life will throw you a few good curves.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Morning Chores

Want to get a taste of what it's like raising livestock and the morning chores that go with it, or at least what one's daughters do when they're home? Check out my post from this morning at Obviously, I'm missing my girls who take care of it all for us normally. But they'll be back soon...then it'll be back to easy street for me.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Loose Ends and Unfinished Business

Sometimes there is just no way to get off the roller coaster of life. There are no eject or pause buttons available to us. And when that happens, what happens to the projects that get started or suddenly arise out of necessity? They become loose ends and unfinished business.

So in case you wonder what keeps me up at night worrying, here's my current list...

I need to order fall and winter garden seeds; research food stuffs I can grow through the winter.

Want to incorporate working my way through my 15-minutes-a-day plan to purge and clean every drawer and shelf in the house; so desperately needed but just can't seem to surface to the top of the priority list.

Deep clean the barn and pitch old and broken items; yes, the girls could do this, but it just might not be as thorough as is needed.

Pick date for a garage sale. We're finally getting to the point we can sell off anything that relates anyone younger than eight.

Consolidate and purge my goat resource notebook; the loose and duplicate papers are driving me mad.

Sort through three years of digital photos and create hard copy photo albums with them through Shutterfly; perish the thought, but if they were lost due to an inability to restore them from backups, it would be a true disaster. This should get some priority I guess.

Along the same line, organize the keepsake and memorabilia and unfinished baby books of our four children. This was supposed to be done for my oldest once she turned eighteen. Now she's twenty.

Finish homeschool school planning for our eight-year-old and thirteen-year-old; this really needs to get wrapped up!

Make notes about this summer's garden so that I don't duplicate the same mistakes year after year.

Work outside including substantial weeding and mulching, researching how to prune our fruit trees, how to boost the performance of our blueberry bushes, how to improve our pastures, and in general just time to get things done.

My mother needs new flooring in her house; since my dad passed away several years ago, those type projects have fallen with our family to help orchestrate and supervise. As she would like the job done before fall starts, it is looming overhead as well.

I could list improving or monetizing my validate the time I do spend online.

Create an on-the-fly menu plan and grocery list so that on panic weeks, I can just grab the list and send it with DH and or one of the older kids to save my sanity.

Get to some of the kid-friendly projects we collected supplies for in early spring just for the reason of doing them during 'down time' in the summer; the concept of 'down time' just makes me laugh right about now.

Our sixteen-year-old son will be needing college-level recruiting cover letters and resumes along with videos to promote his coming fall. Need to educate myself on how to promote athletic prospects I guess.

Of mounting importance would be helping our eight-year-old figure out what she would like to take to our county fair for 4H Clover Buds so that we can get them tagged and ready to exhibit; fair is only a few weeks away, so this is going to become VERY important REAL soon.

We have two horses; I grew up obsessed with horses; do I ride these said horses? So obviously that is another to-do item that is important to take advantage of what we have never know when life circumstances change and an opportunity of a lifetime might be lost forever.

Now if I sat here much longer while listening to two of my daughters help record a scripture song CD for our church, I'm sure I could add to this list. But by now I've probably lost your interest, and you might be wondering, "Lady, get your act together!" So I will leave this topic...get back to the business of life...and continue to chip away at this list albeit slower than I would prefer.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Summer Pool Fun

This post is linked up at Wordless Wednesday at Five Minutes for Mom.

Summer Pool Fun, July 2010

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Household Organization Notebook

To be honest, I really didn't know what to call the notebook I have been keeping household information in until I started looking around to see how others have organized their household information. A Swagbucks search of "household organization notebook" came back with enough information that I decided that that title should work just fine.

A household organization notebook should be just that...a notebook that helps keep your household organized.  And I know we all could use help with that. Ideally it would have all the important information that you might need in an emergency or just refer to make daily life simpler, all located in one place. It makes it easy to pick it up and go if you need to leave the house with it quickly. I usually go through it every summer once I hopefully have a little more time and update the information.

My notebook is pretty simple: three-ring binder with page dividers labeled with a Dymo labeler. A few plastic pocket folder and sheet protectors add a little more functionality to some sections, but it's just pretty basic and gets the job done. Currently I use these sections:

Household Maintenance - My running list of where in the house I have deep cleaned and purged; a back-up copy of my Remember the Milk regular chore lists for household cleaning; information relating to cleaning zones.

Animals - Because we are responsible for so many animals, this section also has my hard-copy of the appropriate Remember the Milk (RTM) tasks for our animals; list of horse vaccines and worming schedule; puppy health information.

Garden - This is a pretty broad category but includes the pool maintenance check sheet; hard-copy RTM for watering schedules and timing for various garden-related tasks.

Books - My list of magazines to reserve the library is stored here; a listing of magazine subscriptions and their actual expirations dates (so I don't renew them as early as the publishers would like).

Health - The children's immunization cards; list per family member of dates of various medical procedures and appointments, as I can never remember how long ago someone went in for a strep throat check, physical, you name it; address list of physician/dentist/orthodontist and insurance policy names and contact information. I had a gift list stuck in here, perhaps to keep wandering eyes from seeing it, but I think it deserves its own section now.

Notes - This would be a better home for that gift list; an excellent article on prayer; verses and quotes I want to remember; and most importantly to me, a single sheet with very large type, "Excellence is achievable; perfection is God's business".

Addresses - Pretty self explanatory but a copy of our emergency contact information that is posted in the kitchen cabinet by the phone; a second copy of my Yahoo contact list (my current location of my address list).

Beaver Lake Stables - I no longer have enough activity over there to maintain its own notebook, but I do keep my receipts and statements for the work I do as well as the boarder and trainer contact information.

School - With one child in public high school, there needs to be a place to keep school progress reports, accounting receipts, and school phone numbers. This is where they go. There is also a list to record outside activities for future reference (volunteer work, awards, athletic camps, etc.); school calendar; class schedule.

Mom - No, not a section for me, but for my mother's affairs that I assist her with. There's always a need to refer back to my notes for some transaction that took place or person she contacted and cannot find the paperwork herself.

Your notebook would most likely have completely different sections although some are pretty basic to most situations. I found some other excellent notebook ideas at Blissfully Domestic, Tipnut (which has some cool printable sheets), and Flylady. Along with your own inspiration and creativity, you can pull together a notebook that meets your household's needs and frees up a little more space in your already crowded cranium. Knowing where to go for specific information is definitely worth an hour or two now to get yourself organized.

Have fun, pull together a notebook, and let me know how it went.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Iron Chef Kitchen and a Full Pantry

I suppose there is a chance that you have never heard of the Iron Chef food contest on Food Network. If so the short explanation of this program is the specialty ingredient that is revealed at the beginning of each contest to three chefs who then have to create several courses using this item and a fully stocked pantry.  They come up with some pretty stunning pieces I tell you.  And to be sure, many of them I would never touch, much less my family.  So what's the parallel here?

Our kitchen doesn't usually feature a stunning surprise ingredient too regularly, but it usually does offer up extras of several ingredients or containers of leftovers that don't seem to appeal to anyone the second time around. So my own personal Iron Chef dilemma is to simply turn those items into our next meal or face the fact that they need to go to the chickens before they spoil.  I do keep a pretty well-stocked pantry which might rival those of the TV studios. It's just one of my priorities to be sure I have on hand what I might possibly need just so I can run my own personal Iron Chef dinner any night of the week.

So here's an example of how it went this evening:

There were bowls full of spring greens from the garden needing to be used up...romaine, kale, radicchio, mache, endive, spinach. Good healthy stuff. So a main course salad was where I was headed. I mixed up some of my Honey Mustard Vinaigrette, grabbed some frozen chicken breasts out of the freezer (a branch of my well-stocked pantry) and threw them on the Foreman grill, still frozen, with a little seasoning salt.  There were snap peas from the garden and a red onion as well. In they went.  Main course was finished after the chicken slightly cooled and was sliced to top the salad.

I had some smokey paprika goat cheese that I had made, but then of course needed something to go with it. So using my recipe for Parmesan Flaxseed Crackers, I popped them into the oven...once again thanks to my pantry and my lovely Parmesan producing goats.  Since we were fresh out of croutons, the crackers would also double as 'crunch' in the salad for those who just had to have a crouton substitute. As far as goat cheese goes, some of the plain chevre would have been pretty good in the salad too, but that would have been too exotic for probably everyone.

The mystery ingredient of the week would have to be strawberries from our patch.  I had just finished reading Blue Jeans and Cotton Tees's recipe for Strawberry Pie, so I put that together as well with only a few modifications based on what I had on hand.

Another dinner down the hatch thanks to inspiration from the Iron Chef and my pantry. But in reality the majority of a lot of our work in the kitchen is probably Iron Chef based. What was on sale this week at the grocery store? What do we have too much of that we'd like to use up? What produce is overly abundant thanks to our gardens? It's a tough job sometimes, creating something from the situation we're currently handed versus what we otherwise might plan out in advance. But that's the beauty of a culinary challenge...keeps us on our toes, keeps a little extra change in the pocketbook, and keeps the dining interesting. Bon appetit!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Strawberries

This post is linked up at Wordless Wednesday at Five Minutes for Mom.

Rainier Strawberries from our Garden, June 2010

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Sourdough Starter Waffles

I have kept a sourdough starter on hand off and on for most of my married life. Sometimes I have totally forgotten it for way to resuscitate it. Another time I left it setting in the oven to brew a bit overnight and inadvertently turned on the oven in the morning...created a really nice piece of plastic bowl art dripping through the wire racks and an awful mess. But lately I've tried to do a good job and keeping it going. But why? Why bother? A connection to our past when starter might have been the only way to produce leavened goods? I thought I would go do some research and see what fascinates people about sourdough starters.

For starters, Wild Yeast Blog gives a pretty consolidated list of health benefits...lower glycemic index, more available minerals, better for gluten sensitive people. Kitchen Stewardship focuses on the benefits of having starches predigested by the sourdough starter yeasts. Nutrition Data Blog has links to scientific studies backing up the health benefits of sourdough. And Ranprieur has an entire tutorial on the whys and wherefores of sourdough starters.

All of these sites offer a lot of good food for thought, but when it comes right down to it, sourdough products just taste good. Take these sourdough waffles for instance. Something about the yeast in the batter makes the crispiest waffles ever, couples it with a bit of flavor that compliments the sweet toppings we usually pile on them, and you can't beat their light interior.

Sourdough Waffles

1 1/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 egg
1 cup sourdough starter
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup milk

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar; set aside. In another bowl whisk together egg, starter, oil, and milk. Stir wet ingredients into dry until just moistened. Preheat waffle iron. Ladle the appropriate amount of batter for your waffle iron and bake away. Waffles are done when golden and crispy. Enjoy with your favorite toppings. Mine...sliced bananas with a tiny bit of syrup. Delicious!

Have you made or purchased a sourdough starter? Do you use it frequently? Perhaps you have a link to your favorite sourdough recipe. I'd love to hear from you.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Some of my Favorite Podcasts

Do you have an mp3 player? Perhaps an iPod or iPhone? Well I do now. I've worked up through my kids' hand-me downs until I now have an iPod Classic with a ton of space. Still haven't worked my way up to an iPod Touch, but I can still dream.

Anyway back to the post. Yes I love music, but my main reason for having an mp3 player is to listen to podcasts. Driving here and there. Stuck somewhere waiting for kids. Sometimes plugged into an external speaker while doing housework. It has become my link to the outside world and a little mommy culture.

I have all genres put on there, and now that the Classic has video capabilities, I am able to broaden my categories even more with those that support video podcasts. The pocasts that I subscribe to are exclusively through iTunes just because it is a one-stop spot to subscribe and synch. I'd love to go beyond their offerings and track down others but haven't figured out where to go yet. Until then here are a few of my favorites:

Best of YouTube
Brain Stuff
Cooks Illustrated
Dirty Jobs
The Dog Trainer's Quick and Dirty Tips
Earth Eats
Focus on the Family
Food Network
GardenFork TV
Grammar Girl Quick and Dirty Tips
Martha Stewart
Modern Manners Guy
One Minute How To
The Organized Woman Show
The Podchef's Gastrocast
Safari.TV Diary
Stuff from the Science Lab
Stuff Mom Never Told You
Stuff They Don't Want You to Know
Stuff You Should Know
Vegan A Go-Go
The Veggie Kitchen
Working Class Foodies

I would have loved to put links to all these but they are easily found by going to iTunes and searching their podcasts. I noticed that some do not update very frequently, and I'm pretty certain there are some listed there that haven't published in quite awhile. As I don't have a certain listening regimen but simply listen/watch as I have the time/interest, I honestly don't keep track of the dates.

What I'd love though is to here from you if you're an avid podcast listener and find some more subscriptions to join. I'm currently of the opinion that there cannot be too much on your iPod as long as you have the room. Whether watching a cooking show, learning something new on the One Minute How To, or being amazed at Stuff You Should Know, so far it's all been good. So go on...share some of your favorites by leaving me a comment. I'm still in the business of obtaining a little more mother culture.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Simple Woman's Daybook - June 2010

The Simple Woman's Daybook is such a great way to capture a moment of time in a woman's life. I recently discovered her blog and the monthly links to other women enjoying the simple things in life. Here are my thoughts and feelings which I have linked to The Simple Woman's blog for June:

Outside my window...
I see darkness, because it is only at night I usually steal time to be online.

I am thinking...
of how I will finish processing my berries in the morning.

I am thankful for...
my lovely 4H friends who were here for our club meeting tonight.

From the kitchen...
I see rows of freezer jam setting up.

I am wearing...
my usual at-home-when-it's-cold-outside uniform of t-shirt and sweats.

I am creating...
or wishing to continue creating a pair of hand knitted socks.

I am going...
to volunteer at the Gridiron Club Football fundraiser tomorrow.

I am reading...
Every Child Can Write

I am hoping...
the coyote does not return tomorrow to polish off another three of our young hens.

I am hearing...
a dog bark in the silence of the night.

Around the house...
everyone is asleep but me.

I am remembering...
that we're here because God does love us.

I'm sharing this photo...
because it reminds me that even though spring did not arrive this year, summer is sure to show up soon.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Fun Mirrors

Oaks Park Fun Mirrors, June 2010

Friday, June 11, 2010

Do You Like Radishes?

Well, do you like radishes? Some people don't. They're spicy...too hot...tough...just don't care for them. Nice garnish, but nothing to really consider eating. I never was much of a store-bought radish person either. But home-grown radishes are really tasty. We have been growing Cherry Belle for the last few years, and then added Scarlet White Tip this year. These are good!

Radishes are pretty easy to grow if even you have a small garden space. Only thing to remember is that they need to grow quickly enough to avoid being invaded by root maggots or becoming hot and tough. They also need plenty of cool, moist soil. They are a  perfect vegetable for growing in the spring or late fall. The fact that they mature in 30-something days makes for a rewarding effort in the garden when there isn't much of anything else growing. OrganicGardening gives some great tips on growing radishes too.

But what to do with these guys other than putting into a salad? Here's what I do. It's not much of a recipe; pretty much more of a procedure:

Toast a somewhat thick slice of peasant/rustic bread.
Butter it. (THIS is the key ingredient. Don't skip this step.)
Layer thinly sliced radishes over the entire slice.
Sprinkle with kosher salt. (Table salt would work but would not taste quite the same.)

Enjoy, and then find yourself making another helping.

It's the first part of June here, and the radishes are still growing strong. So I've kept up my succession planting. We've had an extremely damp, cool spring which has probably helped. I know that once our temperatures start climbing, the radishes will just be a memory until fall.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Homeschooling With Work Boxes - Writing/Grammar - 8yo

Part six in my series on homeschooling with workboxes in our family.

I'll have to admit that this work box has been empty quite a lot this year. We just have not done a lot of formal writing. But as an 8yo, this child is not ready for anything too programmed.

What we do find ourselves doing is narrating back what has been read in other subject areas or our nightly read aloud. Impromptu books are put together by the 8yo on her own. We will pull out our Storybook Weaver Deluxe CD for the computer. And I also count the work that we do in history and science putting together notebook pages as composition. Sonlight does have a weekly composition assignment at the first grade level where she is reading, but it hasn't been a great fit with us this year. Thank you notes and a nightly journal in which she dictates a short note to different family members for them to respond back to her rounds out this box.

As far as grammar goes, the alternate day from the copywork assignment in Sonlight is a worksheet page to go along with the copywork pointing out grammar letters, punctuation, rhyming words, etc. This is plenty enough for this year. I did break down and print out a scope and sequence for first and second grades just to see how we were doing. Once in awhile I will pick a topic from that list that hasn't been covered such as alphabetizing or pointing out the parts of a children's dictionary and use that as the lesson for the day. We have always overkilled grammar at the older ages, so she has plenty of time down the road.

I want to develop a person who enjoys writing, and so at this age, it needs to come naturally and mainly in the oral form. What philosophy do you follow? Do you adapt for each child as they pass through the same grade level? I admit that I still would love to pick up some new creative ideas.

Also in this series:

Homeschooling with Workboxes - Copywork/Dictation - 8yo
Homeschooling with Workboxes - Math - 8yo
Homeschooling with Workboxes - Phonics - 8yo
Homeschooling with Workboxes - Reading - 8yo
Homeschooling with Workboxes - Bible - 8yo
Homeschooling with the Workbox System

Friday, June 4, 2010

Homeschooling With Work Boxes - Copywork/Dictation - 8yo

Part five in my series on homeschooling with workboxes.

Everyone approaches language arts differently. We tend to follow Charlotte Mason's approach and use copywork and dictation as the basis for early composition which provides for so much flexibility in this area.

With this in mind, as long as my child is working through readers at their level in Sonlight, then I use the corresponding copywork/dictation assignments outlined from them. Makes zero planning on my part. My 8yo is still in the copywork stage though she may be ready for dictation some time soon. So here's how I organize this box:

On Mondays I put in her copybook with the selection for her to copy from her Sonlight reader.

On Tuesdays I have a sheet of lined paper with her Sunday school curriculum memory verse on it to copy as there is only Sonlight copywork two days per week.

On Wednesdays we are back to the copybook and her next Sonlight passage to copy.

On Thursdays and Fridays as there is no Sonlight copywork, I put in a page from her Reason for Handwriting lesson book. By next year sometime, we will need to focus perhaps a little more as we will be approaching learning cursive, but for now this is just enough concentrated practice.

Some families might find this too much work while others not enough. Most passages are only a short sentence or two. If we are focused on a history or science topic, I might forgo our regularly scheduled copywork in favor of something in conjunction with our current project. Another nice change is to use a passage from Draw Write Now which she can add her art work to later. Sometimes I will substitute something from her science reading or most anything that has come up in real life. Lots of possibilities for copywork and handwriting practice.

Do you use a handwriting program? Do you find copywork enough handwriting practice as it is?

Also in this series:

Homeschooling with Workboxes - Writing/Grammar - 8yo
Homeschooling with Workboxes - Math - 8yo
Homeschooling with Workboxes - Phonics - 8yo
Homeschooling with Workboxes - Reading - 8yo
Homeschooling with Workboxes - Bible - 8yo
Homeschooling with the Workbox System

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Demerara Sugar and French Press Iced Coffee

It seems most everyone has a food vice of one sort or another. least since I've entered that 40-something age bracket...happens to be of the caffeinated kind. Unfortunately, I don't guzzle straight black coffee though. It has to be dolled and dressed up with sweetener and milk.

So what's so bad about caffeine? Now that it has redeemed itself with its discovered antioxidants, I'm not worried in the least about it. And milk? Full of calcium. Besides I tend to use our lovely rich goat milk when I have it on hand. So what's the vice? Well, it's the sweetener I find myself stirring in twice a day. High fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors, and the like. Those additive things that aren't really good for us. But what's one to do?

Enter organic Demerara sugar. I just so happened to stumble across it in the bulk food bins while looking for something else. It looked interesting. It looked like something you would find sprinkled on the top of baked goods at a high end pastry shop. It looked intriguing enough to buy. So buy some I did.

I decided that I needed to figure out what this Demerara sugar was. Wikipedia says that Demerara sugar is, "...unrefined, granulated brown sugar made from sugar cane extract...It takes its name from the Demerara colony in Guyana, the original source of this type of sugar..." The rest of the article goes on to show how Demerara, Turbinado, and Muscovado sugar are all relatively unprocessed varieties of sugar. Good news to me, not to mention the fact that this particular Demerara sugar was organic as well.

Next up was to try out my new sweetener. I decided to stir a teaspoon of it into my coffee before splashing in my milk. To my surprise, it was more than just sweet. It had hints of caramel and a tinge of molasses, much more depth than plain white sugar or corn syrup would ever have. I then found out that I happened to be behind the trends of culinary experts of the world, not that I would expect anything different. Billingtons, an unrefined cane sugar producer, reports that "with its distinctive aroma and crunchy texture, Demerara is the traditional accompaniment to coffee." And here I thought I had discovered something new.

So here's my favorite way to enjoy this natural sugar:

Iced Coffee

1/4 cup Coffee beans, coarsely ground
1 cup Water, cold
1 cup Water, cold
2 teaspoon Demerara sugar
Ice cubes
splash Whole milk

The evening before, place 1/4 cup coarse ground coffee and 1 cup of cold water in a French coffee press. (Alternatively you could mix together the coffee and water in a glass container and use a fine mesh strainer the following morning.)

In morning add the additional 1 cup cold water and use the plunger to press down the grounds.

Divide the coffee between two glasses; stir 1 teaspoon demerara sugar into each glass. Fill to top with ice cubes or crushed ice. Pour a splash of milk over the top if desired.

Serve immediately.

So I say, go ahead and have your food vice. But just see if you can't tweak it to make it a tad healthier. You might find as I did that the healthier version is actually much tastier!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Homeschooling With Work Boxes - Phonics - 8yo

Part four in my series on homeschooling with workboxes. For our 8yo, phonics instruction goes right along with her basic readers to complete her beginning literature program.

Phonics for us is another not so straight-forward work box. We do our two-page spread daily in Explode the Code but that gets rather monotonous. I have picked up a lot of practical ideas from Peggy Kaye's Games for Reading which can be subbed out in the workbox instead. After some on-line poking around, I also found a lot of printable resources that I plan to stick in now and then. We have some language arts games that were above my 8yo's abilities, but I think I will start trying some out shortly. I usually work through the Explode the Code series with the kids through all six books, and since we are just about through with book four, we have some time before I will think about spelling.

When spelling does roll around, I almost always go with Spelling Power for my children. Another no-frills but short and sweet spelling program.

My guess is that there are some pretty creative ways to make this work box fun. I'd love to hear from you how you tweak your box so that it keeps up interest on a subject such as phonics or spelling that can get tedious at times.

Also in this series:

Homeschooling with Workboxes - Writing/Grammar - 8yo
Homeschooling with Workboxes - Copywork/Dictation - 8yo
Homeschooling with Workboxes - Math - 8yo
Homeschooling with Workboxes - Reading - 8yo
Homeschooling with Workboxes - Bible - 8yo
Homeschooling with the Workbox System

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Pioneer Lady's Country Kitchen

It's book review time again...sort of. More like becoming reacquainted with a favorite cookbook of mine, The Pioneer Lady's Country Kitchen by Jane Watson Hopping.

I selected this cookbook a long time ago when joining a cookbook book club. Back when I seemed to have time to keep track of membership cards, book returns, and the like. I recall returning the book to the publisher and asking for a new one because the page edges were ragged. They did send out another one, just like the first. I apparently wasn't able to pick up that it was to be part of the book's charm and character from yesteryear.

But the real character of this book comes from inside. Jane Watson Hopping grew up during the Depression years in a farming community. They learned to cook with what they could obtain locally and with what was in season. The book is arranged by season which makes it all the more valuable when looking for new ways to prepare seasonal foods. Of course there are almost no commercially prepared ingredients which makes things healthy. And perhaps the selling point for me is that the cookbook is full of stories from a simpler time. Stories that remind me of the ones my grandmother and my mother told me from that era.

So in my renewed interest to aspire to eat healthier, cook seasonally, and use as few commercially prepared ingredients as possible, I plan on referring to The Pioneer Lady's Country Kitchen quite often. I leave you with Mrs. Hopping's final comments from the cookbook's introduction:

"Could it be that my tugging at the heart strings plays upon a universal need to touch base with our past, to feel our continuity with those who have gone before, to be reminded of our roots, of home, family, and the simplicity of a not-too-distant time?

If so, I do hope that the fruit of this book will bring warmth and pleasure into your life, good food, and a sense of strength and comfort."

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Homeschooling with Work Boxes - Math - 8yo

Part three in my series on homeschooling with workboxes. Today's post relates to our math workbox.

This is a work box that I have scads of resources for. I often need discipline on my part to keep away from the easy-to-do worksheet rut. We generally will cover math in two different workboxes. My 8yo is a strong hands-on learner and relies heavily on manipulatives at this time.

The first box is for our curriculum. We were marching through Saxon 2 quite nicely but then seemed to hit a wall. Some concept that we crossed earlier apparently did not stick and math became a horrendous part of our day. As much as I love Saxon, it was not working for my 8yo. So back we went to an older version of Math-U-See I had from my son who learned similarly to my 8yo. We are going to do hands-on exclusively until she's conquered her stumbling block and then will transition back into where she was in Saxon. I do love the way Saxon spirals through all the concepts so that are continually refreshed.

With our structured program out of the way, the second box is helpful for reinforcing concepts difficult for her...mainly money values and math facts. I do love Family Math or Peggy Kaye's Games for Math. At this age, there are not too many extra math activities with real learning that I've come across that she can do alone. Math worksheets are not the answer for this child. I have a list of online math resources that I do like. Some require a monthly or yearly subscription but a trial subscription will get you some free time on the site. Here they are: although this is for higher grades

A sheet of paper in a sheet protector with a visual clue as to which site to go to (with my help of course) works as the work box item for these online sites.

We also have a MathShark which I will sometimes slip into the box for fun.

Again, math is one of those core areas that just needs to be and cannot always be accomplished by making it all fun and games, but we do our best to try.

How do you wake up your early grade math program? Do you find certain activities work better with certain learning styles? What have you found that works best for struggling learners?

Also in this series:

Homeschooling with Workboxes - Writing/Grammar - 8yo
Homeschooling with Workboxes - Copywork/Dictation - 8yo
Homeschooling with Workboxes - Phonics - 8yo
Homeschooling with Workboxes - Reading - 8yo
Homeschooling with Workboxes - Bible - 8yo
Homeschooling with the Workbox System

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Pulled Pork on the Traeger Grill

Are you intimidated by preparing a big ol'hunk of meat? Well I am. Ever since that fateful Christmas when I ordered a spendy piece of beef for Christmas dinner which totally flopped...of course I had just had our third child several days before, was entertaining our in-laws, had said baby with a severe case of jaundice, our oldest was coming down with chicken pox, and an ice storm was brewing I guess I can claim an excuse or two. But regardless that beautiful chunk of meat was overcooked and tough. I think I decided then and there to just stick with the elk and venison that came home from my husband's hunting trips.

Truth is we do mainly eat game meat, and it is rare that I purchase beef anymore. But the meat that has fascinated me most lately is a pork roast. The kind that fall apart, get pulled apart, and slathered with sauce and served on a bun...pulled pork some call it. So I bit the bullet and bought a 7 pound or so pork shoulder roast and decided to go for it.

Now to be fair, I must say that my hubby purchased a Traeger wood pellet grill last year. This machine is capable of cooking most any meat without drying it out and giving it the most wonderful smoky flavor, so I did have some help on my side.

But here's what I did. Took the pork, rubbed it with Traegger Pork and Poultry seasoning, and let it sit overnight in the refrigerator. The next morning I fired up the grill with hickory pellets in it and kept it at the smoke setting. The roast was put on the grill about nine o'clock and forgotten about until ten or so when I brought out the vinegar mop sauce that I found in the Traeger cookbook. It is nothing more than a sliced onion bathing in a 2:1 ratio of vinegar to water along with a few tablespoons of brown sugar, some kosher salt, and pepper.

Every hour I brushed the roast with the sauce. Why do this? I'm not a grill king to know the scientific reason, but I do know that when the meat was done, the outside crust was beautifully crispy with a wonderful tangy kind of bite to it. About nine hours later, the meat had reached its target temperature of 170 degrees. I let it set as long as the mob at home would allow it and then began to shred it up and serve it on buns with some coleslaw.

It was incredibly moist and tasty and salty and smoky and just plain good. I was pretty impressed. Served up plain on the bun it was good, but with just a little bit of sauce added to it to zip up the flavor, it was incredible. The down side was that there was just one container of meat left over and here I had big plans on how to use the remaining meat. Guess that's a good thing though.

While writing this post I thought I would check to see if I could gather any other tips that would would help produce fantastic pulled pork and came across this YouTube video by I was rather excited to see that my pork shoulder looked liked theirs so I guess I was on the right track. I didn't let the internal temperature get as high as theirs and did not wrap the meat in foil to let it rest for 45 minutes. I have a feeling both of those items together would have made my pork-pulling a little easier, but I don't think you could have improved on the taste at all. Nope. It was still pretty tasty.

Next chunk of meat for the grill? I'm not sure yet. Any suggestions? I think I'm getting the hang of it.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Homeschooling with Work Boxes - Reading - 8yo

Part two in my series on homeschooling with workboxes. This time around, reading workbox with our 8yo.

I don't know about you, but this has to be the easiest box of all if you are following a prescribed phonics/reading program. Pop in the current reader, and off you go. Reading has slowly come to my 8yo, so we don't do anything fancy. The Sonlight series of beginning readers had type difficult for her to follow, so I picked up some used Abeka readers for Grade 1 after she had some basic phonics instruction. Even when those seemed difficult, some days I would have her dictate a story to me which I would in turn use as a reader for her. It worked remarkable well and took a lot of frustration out of those early decoding-phonics days.

Currently, we are working through the Abeka level 1.4 reader at one point during the day and then come back to reading later on in the day. We have just again picked up Sonlight at Grade 1 and are reading through the Beginner's Bible according to their schedule. I find that the extra reading time is helping cement her reading which came to her slower than my other children.

I also have a stack of her previous readers plus very easy beginner books including some of the easier Seuss titles which ideally she picks from to read to her dad in the evening. Note the comment...ideally.

How do you spice up your reading work box? Or do you feel the need to? At this early reading stage, we're happy with working through the readers and getting a good foundation for later down the road.

Also in this series:

Homeschooling with Workboxes - Writing/Grammar - 8yo
Homeschooling with Workboxes - Copywork/Dictation - 8yo
Homeschooling with Workboxes - Phonics - 8yo
Homeschooling with Workboxes - Math - 8yo
Homeschooling with Workboxes - Bible - 8yo
Homeschooling with the Workbox System

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Homeschooling with Workboxes - Bible - 8yo

Last April I posted about using Sue Patrick's Workbox System. We having been following her guidelines since then and have been loving it with our 8yo and 13yo.

As this homeschool year starts to slow down, I thought I would share my thoughts on our past year of using the workboxes with our 8yo, and specifically for this post, the contents of our Bible work box. Each consecutive post will feature another one of our boxes.

We are fortunate to have a wonderful Sunday School curriculum. It happens to be available to download online if anyone is interested in checking it out. The lesson sheet usually shows up in the boxes Monday and Tuesday as it is read and the activities done over those two days. The included memory verse is worked on all week. As my 8yo's writing abilities increase, I plan on using the verse as additional copy work on Tuesday so that the verse can be put in the box Wednesday through Friday for continued memorization.

As I loosely follow Sonlight Curriculum, we always read through their suggested Bible curriculum for the approximate age group. This year we are working through The Awesome Book of Bible Facts, so it is put into the box for Wednesday.

Thursday's box hopefully contains a related storybook to what we read in the Awesome Book of Bible Facts. Most often it is from the Golden Children's Bible. Love their classic illustrations, and of course it is the children's Bible I remember growing up and reading myself.

Friday's box is supposed to contain access to my Betty Luken's felt characters from the Bible which had originally been purchased when I was teaching Sunday school. However...I sometimes don't muster up the courage to get them out as no 8yo ever spends just "a little time" with them or makes just "a little mess". Something we both need to work on. Alternatively I will read a character building story from my Goodwill volume of Uncle Arthur's Bedtime Stories. Classic goodness.

What I would really like to do would be to find some more hands-on resources to put into her Bible box. seems to be a great supplemental resource for those kids who like to illustrate Bible stories. I plan on adding that in this summer perhaps.

Even though school may be officially over soon, Bible study is never over so it will be ongoing.

With my 8yo and 13yo being the only ones schooled at home at this time, it is difficult to find topics that are applicable to both girls so we tend to do our Bible studies individually. Another goal would be to incorporate at least one day a week working together on their Bible boxes together.

How do you handle your Bible curriculum? If you school multiple ages together, what works for you? Do you continue Bible study throughout the summer?

Also in this series:

Homeschooling with Workboxes - Writing/Grammar - 8yo
Homeschooling with Workboxes - Copywork/Dictation - 8yo
Homeschooling with Workboxes - Phonics - 8yo
Homeschooling with Workboxes - Math - 8yo
Homeschooling with Workboxes - Reading - 8yo
Homeschooling with the Workbox System

This post is also linked up with Confessions of a Homeschooler through her What's in the Box Wednesday linkup. Be sure to head over there for some incredible ideas from other homeschoolers using workboxes.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Mexican Hot Chocolate

Do you have a little food indulgence that you hoard to yourself? Something that just makes your day? Well I used to...Ibarra Mexican Chocolate. Chocolate that makes the best mochas on the face of the planet. Oh, I still love it, but since my 8yo has discovered it, it's just that it is no long just mine to enjoy.

I was first introduced to Mexican chocolate years and years ago, even before I had my latte habit. I was offered some at my husband's Christmas party hosted at his employer's home. They were all enjoying their lattes but of course, the time...didn't like coffee, so the hostess offered me a mug of steamed Mexican hot chocolate. It was the best thing I had ever tasted. Topped with whipped cream as I remember, it was a dessert in itself. Now my favorite way to enjoy it is with a shot of espresso to tame down the sweetness and usually sans whipped cream, not that I wouldn't want it that way.

There are powdered commercial mixes out there but my favorite Mexican chocolate brand is Ibarra. It comes in a box which contains circular disks of the chocolate which is no more than chocolate, sugar, and cinnamon. But the taste combo is fantastic. I happen to have a micro plane zester, so I simply grate a serving of chocolate and pour it straight into my steamed milk. It dissolves almost instantly. Alternatively, your milk can be heated with the serving of chocolate in it. About the time the milk is warm, the chocolate has softened and then it can be whisked thoroughly to incorporate it.

No matter how you prepare it, nothing can beat it as a perfect hot chocolate or a mocha drink. But if you ask my 8yo, she enjoys it just as much chomping it down straight.

Do you have a favorite food treat? Has it caught on with your family and friends? It will be interesting to see what we all come up with.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

My Virtual Garden Planner -

Head on over to Abernathy Creek Farm to read my recent post about my new where I have been tracking our garden. Enjoy!

Monday, May 17, 2010

A Typical Day Around Here

This just seems like it’s going to be one of those days. So just for kicks and giggles, I’m going to keep track of what goes on in a somewhat typical day around here. Just a good exercise to keep life in perspective at times. So here goes:

Heard son wake up early to get off to AP exam. Already had breakfast burrito in fridge ready for him to heat up so decided not to get up. But then worried that he wouldn’t make it in time since he really should have been out the door by then. Rolled over and tried to go back to sleep. This would be a good case of reality discipline if he were late.

Woke up with back killing me for some reason. Decided it was because 8yo plus a puppy were in bed with me.

Realization that my two oldest girls are out of town, and I’m in charge of all animals today. Let out puppies and fed them. Slapped in contacts and headed to barn. Fed buck and his companions. Filled water bucket. Fed horses. Gave grain to milking does and babies. Checked their water buckets. Fed their hay. Sprinkled chicken food here, there, and everywhere so everyone would get a fair chance to eat. Took hay out to other goat pen. Opened greenhouse and felt an oven blast at me. Already 70 degrees outside. Wonder of wonders. Will not allow anyone to complain about ‘heat’ today. We’ve lived in the 40s, 50s, and 60s for way too long this year. But of course there won’t be anyone to complain. 16yo at school and 8yo won’t be too hot. She’ll have her swim suit on all day.

Made my morning latte. Today’s flavor…hazelnut. Thoroughly enjoyed the goat's milk in it. Richness to die for. Ate an overly dry homemade high-fiber muffin. Might not repeat that recipe again. Put two forgotten pounds of fresh picked asparagus into refrigerator. Rinsed out batch of sprouts. Picked up forgotten dishes throughout the house. Unloaded and reloaded dishwasher.

Headed upstairs to the ‘fast’ computer to check email that has largely been forgotten for a week except for anything that screamed ‘read me now’. Gathered up loose stacks of papers, notes, and resulting printed emails into a pile to tackle later. Checked my Twitter feed. My daily fix reminding that I really do have a good life and I should be thankful for my own situation.

Phone call from DH that they made it to their hunting spot. He was whispering, as they were watching a flock of wild turkeys. Burst his bubble by telling him 13yo already had sent me a text at 1 a.m. or so that simply read “SERVICE!” Deciphered that would mean they were there and there was cell service at the house. Her biggest fear didn’t materialize I guess.

Headed out to weed the peppermint and spearmint bed by the back deck that hasn’t been touched all year. Being the real gardener that I’m not, I hauled off the weeds in a Little Tykes wagon to compost around one of the fruit trees. Headed back outside with camera to snap shot of mint for my 365 Project.

Short break to attempt to annihilate extra large black fly that made it into the house. Battery operated fly zapper is one of our summer staples I tell you. Guzzled glass of water and downed some Advil. Instant headache from the bright sun outside I’m guessing.

Once again attempted to wake up 8yo. Went to bed late since daddy was gone and of course is tired this morning. Watered hanging front porch plants that I received for Mother’s Day. They went with plastic pots this time instead of peat. Should make a world of difference with the western exposure they get.

Vacuumed downstairs floor. Folded load of laundry. Bagged and took out kitchen garbage. Workers were absent today.

Looked up Alton Brown recipe for monkey bread. Episode we watched last night must have stuck in 8yo’s head, because the first thing she said once she did wake up, “Let’s make that monkey bread.” Sounds good to me. Put together dough and put into dough machine. Used up buttermilk, so I used last remaining cup or so to start a new batch inoculating on the windowsill.

It is now straight-up noon. Should probably see to it that 8yo eats something. Her monkey bread isn’t going to be ready for quite some time.

Hauled two giant bags of potting soil to garden shed to start potting up plants. Took over new hose to swap out for one that has no end connector which will go to chicken/goat house as that hose have 5,009 leaks in it. Let’s hope they all will be long enough for what I want. Tied shut front gate and let mini horse out to graze the grass around the fruit trees.

Call from 20yo hunting. Needed her work scheduled checked. Hasn’t been able to get anyone to pick up her Saturday shift. Not a good thing. 16yo tried to call on cell while I’m on land line. Told him to text me. Now he says never mind. So of course I want to know why he called in the first place. A text back is in order.

New hose too short but found another short one I didn’t know existed by fire pit. Perfect connectors too. Hooked up spray head and watered garden beds. So nice when your equipment is in working order.

Picked full bowl of greens from greenhouse…spinach, romaine, arugula, and mesclun mix. Going to pick new dressing recipe to try on these. No way I want to smother them with something commercial. While in kitchen, gave 8yo directions on how to make her raw apple pie. The one she eats most of the apples before she gets the dough finished so it gets eaten raw as well.

8yo asked if she could let out horses. Wants to help since older girls are gone. “Of course, sweetie you can. But please don’t get trampled.”

Honey mustard vinaigrette was so good on the garden greens with some of the preserved feta I had made last year and a few toasted walnuts that I could have just about licked the plate clean. Belly full, it’s now time to head out to pot up the pepper, tomatoes and squash plants. Got to keep those roots growing.

Potted up a zillion tomato and squash starts. Think I could sell the extra starts on Craig's List maybe. No way I can wear gloves to pot stuff up. Can’t feel what I’m doing. I have fingernails to die for now. 8yo interrupted potting session to announce her yearling goat was stuck. Extricated her from behind their shed. Decided to let all yearlings out in pasture for awhile. Then decided she wanted to mix up both herds. Told her yes to all to keep her busy. Goat herd needs new separation anyway so helped me out besides.

Request for strawberry lemonade as 8yo running through wiggly worm type sprinkler with puppies. The smell of wet dog is a little overpowering on a day like today. They are staying outside. As for me, I’m making up my iced coffee that cold-brewed overnight.

Debriefed with 16yo on his AP exam. Checked on his evening plans. Made him a strawberry lemonade. 8yo really hungry now so heating up some canned tomato soup.
Totally forgot about monkey bread dough in bread machine. Caught it just in time. It was beginning to billow over the top of the bread pan. Yikes! That would have been one of those monster messes had it run over.

Finished shaping and setting up monkey bread. Ate rest of canned soup 8yo didn’t eat. Topped mine with croutons though. Makes a world of taste difference. 8yo brought me her favorite young hen to visit me on the deck which then reminded me to go get my bowl of kitchen scraps to chuck over the fence for the other awaiting hens. Dessert for them. Now off to change and head down to our local fruit and veggie market to replenish and those warm climate food items that cannot be grown here. Realize that is just exactly what a locavore’s speak against. I’d have to have a serious support group and recipe base to just live off what would be available locally here in the NW at this time of year. Also realized that it is five o’clock…dinner time. 16yo’s dinner will have to wait until I get home.

Impromptu detour to try on swimsuits for 8yo turned into disaster. This hypersensitive child of mine has a hard time wearing any clothes at all and tight banded swimsuits above drove her off the deep end. Not sure how we ever found one for her last year. Trip to fruit market yielded a plantain to fry up tonight as well as the usual fare. Near death experience on the highway as well.

Returned home and sorted out goats into current feeding plan. Noticed that scur on a yearling had been knocked off. Actually a good thing. Now it just needs some antibiotic cream attention.

16yo spending night at friends before going out to youth football referee training in the morning. Got him set up with GPS as training site is 45 minutes on other side of town where he has never driven before. Came to realization that monkey bread –which had risen way, way up and almost over top of its pan- will have to all be consumed by 8yo and myself. No one else home to share it with. That is not a good thing.

Unloaded grain and horse vitamins out of back of van. Fed all animals. Started some clean up of barn while has been sorely neglected as of late.

Seven pm. Thoroughly hungry. Thoroughly sweaty. I guess that happens when the sun comes out. Now time for some leftovers which unlike the rest of the family, I thoroughly enjoy. Haven’t even cleaned kitchen as I went today or put away fruit, so no point in cooking for just myself and 8yo. Besides, monkey bread will go in the oven tonight.

Oops. Guess I need to feed the pups too. They still had breakfast in their bowls at lunch so they’re pretty ravenous now having missed their lunch meal.

Loaded up dishes that could go in the dishwasher. Had tour by 8yo of her latest animal scene creation, for lack of words to describe them. Grabbed leashes to take puppies for a stroll through the woods with plan to lock up horses when done down there, feed cats, and milk my one doe. Took along peppermint essential oil and almond carrier oil as I fear she might have a congested udder on one side. Also hauled down California Mastitis Test, just in case.

After lengthy walk –discovered some sort of animal bone- and lengthy session on wooden play structure down there, finished up animal chores. Did a little more pick up in the barn. Checked on pullet hens. They were in hen house as they were supposed to be.

Turned on oven to back monkey bread. Checked in on 16yo who was now home with friends, so obviously there has been a change in plans. What next? Why I’m not sure. After all, the night is still young…it’s only 8:30 p.m.

Now I find myself making nachos, preempting the oven for the monkey bread. 16yo has three friend over, and they’re ravenous. Guess I’ll concentrate on getting the hand-washed dishes done and picking up the dining room table. Doesn’t every one use theirs as a dumping ground? Just too easy at our place as we have a common kitchen/dining area.

Just about lost the entire tray of nachos under the broiler. Par for me. Wandered out to outside refrigerator to look for 16yo’s treasured bottle of Tabasco sauce. Clean forgot about what was going on in the kitchen. Teens fed and presently occupied with the hot tub. 8yo bathed. Three days worth of 365 Project photos edited and uploaded. Double cup of Stash White Christmas tea in my hand. And sliver removed from 8yo’s foot. Now time for my shower.

Now that it’s approaching midnight, I’m going to grab Walter, the Lazy Mouse and finish reading it to 8yo. Puppies look like they’re sacked out for good. And my legs are plain tired from standing. And then it will be time to pull up the covers and call it a night.

And so, that was a day in our household. The observant reader will notice that there was no homeschooling done that day. When the older kids are gone, it's a vacation day for the 8yo and me. Not that today was a vacation by anymeans however. Have you posted about a typical day in your household? I'd love for you to leave a comment and link to it.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Growing Your Own Sprouts

They say that if you can remember wearing a certain fashion growing up, you shouldn't repeat it as an adult when it recirculates again...a sign you're a bit too old to pull it off perhaps. What happens though when you remember certain food items coming into vogue...things like granola, bagels, and sprouts. Granola and bagels are pretty mainstream nowadays, but how about sprouts? And what if you're not only still eating them, but now growing them yourself?

Tidbits like that I usually don't make a fuss over with my kids. I usually get the, "Mom! What next!" look. I have always loved adding sprouts to salads and sandwiches, but you get out of the habit of purchasing them, they don't last long in the refrigerator, and the somewhat recent contamination scare tends to keep you from buying them.  So it has always been in the back of my mind to look into growing them myself.

I had accumulated enough Swagbucks at to go on a small online shopping trip, so I ordered the SproutHouse Easy Sprout Sprouter and a bag of seeds. They are a mixture of clover, alfalfa, radish, and broccoli. Doesn't that just sound healthy? They say that as seeds are the energy storehouse for the plant to come, sprouting them unleashes many, many times more nutrients and antioxidants than you could ever get by eating the equivalent sized serving. One mouthful of sprouts could have maybe 30 or 40 sprouted seeds. Try eating that many broccoli or radish plants.

After doing my research online I see that a lot of people sprout in a glass jar, but I needed something foolproof so I opted for a plastic growing container with an insert making for easy rinsing of the seeds.  The whole process was really simple.  Soak the seeds overnight then put them into the growing container. Wait 24 hours then rinse again morning and night for four or five days.  Watching the seeds begin to fuzz up and then sprout was half the fun. Instant gardening of a sort. The usual sprout time can be somewhere around six days, but I cheated and started munching on them before they were full sized. They are so very addictive, you could just eat and eat them straight out of the container. The radish seeds in this mixture had just the right amount of bite to make them over-the-top tasty. With the next batch I will be a little more patient perhaps.

If you're interested yourself, there were some great videos on YouTube put out by SproutPeople and resources abound online.   Once this batch of seeds is done, I'd like to venture out and try some other varieties. I had no idea that you were able to sprout so many different seeds.  Do you sprout seeds, and if so, what are your favorite types?  I'd love to get some suggestions.  And now the timer has gone off, so I need to head downstairs.  My granola has finished baking. But, shh! Don't tell the kids.

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